September 2020

Wattlebank Lass’s Win Special

Bruce Stewart

3rd September 2020

A raising of the whip when Wattlebank Lass won at Ascot Park today acknowledged the recent sad passing of Barbara Fahy, wife of well-known Southland breeder and owner Brendan Fahy.

“She was a loyal supporter of the Barrons, Milnes and Hunters and I’ve trained for her and Brendan for twenty odd years. She and Brendan were our first clients and it was just something pretty special for us. She was a lovely lady,” said Wattlebank Lass’s trainer driver Peter Hunter.

The Fahys provided Hunter with his first winner Only The One – a Holmes Hanover gelding out of Rakamobile. The win was at the 2003 Tuapeka meeting at Forbury Park.

Wattlebank Lass has been one of the most consistent mares in commission this winter, running placings behind some smart types in Avana, Sweet Lizzie and Braeview Kelly.

“She’s hardened up a bit from when she first started. Time has been her friend. She’s probably got better as the weeks have gone by.”

Hunter says the Art Major mare is slowing starting to grow up.

“She’s always been a bit of a hard case, from the time we broke her in. She just goofed around.”

From barrier five the Ryal Bush reinsman took Wattlebank Lass straight to the front and there she stayed, holding out favourite Endless Dream by an impressive three and a half lengths.

“She was pretty happy out there, casual, but it worked out good. She has been striking nice horses but I think she’s probably ready for the next step because she’s race hardened. We’ll give her a spell now as she’s been racing all winter.”

Peter Hunter, Wattlebank Lass, Jo Hunter and Pauline and Bill Bain – Photo Bruce Stewart.

Wattlebank Lass is owned by Roxburgh couple Bill and Pauline Bain, their grandson and Peter and Jo Hunter.

Win Cheers Up Owner

Bruce Stewart

3rd September 2020

“There’s no such thing as a certainty but he was quite close to it,” Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gary said after quality three year old The High Ruler won on debut at Ascot Park today.

The Bettor’s Delight gelding was sent out as favourite, paying  $1.60 in the McCallum’s Group Ltd Mobile Pace and was taken straight to the lead by stable driver Brent Barclay.

Although he knocked off at the end he won by a length and a quarter from Lynryd Skynryd which sat outside of him for most of the trip.

The High Ruler winning on debut – Photo Bruce Stewart

“He was a wee bit goofy in front today but he did the job. He’s one of those horses that gets you out of bed in the morning.”

High stepping back to the birdcage – Photo Bruce Stewart

The High Ruler was broken in by Kirk and Tristan Larsen.

“He’s done everything perfect. Not real flash. It wasn’t until we took him off the place that we thought ………… we’ve got something here.”

The High Ruler is owned by long time stable client Ross Ludermann who’s currently recovering from surgery.

“It’s been great for Ross. Ross and Bev have been great for us. They’ve had a few horses in our stable and it’s great to see him having a nice one. Hopefully that’ll cheer him up a bit.”

The High Ruler has impressed at trials and workouts and Gray expected a big showing today.

“He’s a typical Bettor’s Delight. But he’s got very high speed particularly off the back of a horse.”

And there’s been buyer interest in the three year old.

“He’s a keeper so Brent and I are lucky that we get to play with a nice one.”

Gray said he normally turns horses out after they qualify but he felt that taking the horse to the races would act as a good tonic for Ludermann. So now with the win under his belt, a nice spring paddock awaits.

“He’s going out to ‘horse heaven’ at Diane Cournane’s even though I haven’t told her yet. He’ll have two to three weeks off then we’ll get him back racing round Christmas.”

And Gray thinks The High Ruler can progress through the grades.

“He’s just a lovely relaxed horse. If I manage him well I think I can.”

The Ludermanns gave Gray the dam of The High Ruler (The Highlight) and he has a yearling colt out of her by He’s Watching. She’s due to foal to Fear The Dragon.

“I need to go to something a bit better now (laughter). If I go back to Bettor’s (Bettor’s Delight) I just need to find the $25,000.”

Ludermann as a junior driver drove his father’s horse Radiation to win at the Vincent Jockey Club meeting in January 1967. He held a trainers licence for sixteen years between 1988 and 2004 and geared up seven winners with his first being Careful Guest at Forbury Park in March 1988. Careful Guest is The High Ruler’s fourth dam.

I’m Watching You Tom

Bruce Stewart

4th September 2020

In the tightest finish of the day eighteen year old junior reinsman Tom Nally drove his first winner at Ascot Park yesterday when I’m Watching You just got up to beat Matrika by a nose with another nose back to Bunter’s Dream.

I’m Watching You giving Tom Nally his first win – Photo Monica Toretto

“I thought KB (Kirstin Barclay) had got there but it was the other way round,” Nally said.

I’m Watching You, after drawing barrier one, ended up four back on the inside and his winning chances didn’t look great.

“I thought I was only going to be battling away in mid-field.”

At the 400 I’m Watching You was shuffled back to third last but Nally managed to get on the back of an improving Dallas Grimes. He still had a handful of horses straightening for the run home. With 200 metres to run and still five lengths from the leader, he pulled the ear plug and the four year old let down nicely to win in a very tight finish.

“When you give him a bit of free air he goes. It was a real thrill. There was a shiver down my back.”

Nally was elated with the win and when asked whether he’d sorted out a fancy salute, his reply was “No. It was only my fifth drive so I’m still figuring out how to drive the bloody things.”

Winning salute – Photo Monica Toretto

I’m Watching You is trained at Ryal Bush by Nally’s employer Hamish Hunter.

“He was very happy and he owned half the horse.”

Tom’s been working for the Hunter stable since he left school when he turned sixteen.

“I didn’t drive him at work this week but I drove him at the workouts last week, and he ran second. I was relatively confident by I didn’t realise I’d get that far back on the fence.”

Hamish Hunter drove as a junior back in the early 1970s and his first win came after one and a half seasons of driving.

Nally commented “I thought I’d take half a season before I clicked into it. It was very unexpected.”

Kirstin Barclay and Peter Hunter were the first two drivers to congratulate him, and his proud grandparents Vin and Jan Nally were in the stand to see the win.

“Nana and Da were there and were very happy and proud of me.”

Jan, Tom and Vin Nally – Photo Monica Toretto

Vin Nally is a well known breeder and owner and provided Tom with three of his first four drives at the races on Schnitzel Von Krum. Tom helped his grandad break in Schnitzel Von Krum as well as a number of other young horses and says there’s always been a bit of free advice from Nally senior.

“He does, (give advise) but I just about know more than him. That’ll get him going (laughter).”

Nally says he’s indebted to senior driver Matty Williamson for his advice and guidance.

“On race day he’s always good to talk to about horses and how they’re going. In the fillies and mares race Matty and I were having a good yarn the whole way round. We talked about the two horses we were driving and He’s Watching You and Foreforefiddle later on.”

Covid restrictions prevented Tom’s parents Anton and Racheal from being on-course but that didn’t stop the celebrations.

“I had a few beers at home with my parents and Vin. I’ve watched the race again about 1500 times.”

It was I’m Watching You’s second win from seventeen starts.

“He’s a nice wee horse and he’ll improve on the run.”

Nally says one horse to watch out for is an unqualified four year old called Heritage. He’s also by He’s Watching out of Remembrance and is owned by Graham and Jill Cooney.

Maria Wins First Race

Bruce Stewart

10th September 2020.

Rookie trainer Maria Murrell comes from a thoroughbred racing and equestrian background but today at Winton she trained her first Standardbred winner when Bardot won a fillies and mares race.

Bardot warming up for driver Brent Barclay

Murrell worked for the late Kelly Thompson for a number of years and had a few race day rides.

She was also the original owner and operator of the popular Make N Bake bakery in partnership with her sister Angela.

She took on another venture when last season she became a licensed trainer, after Bardot was sent south by Canterbury trained Brendon ‘Bennie’ Hill.

“She’s had problems with ulcers, was a bit nervy and lost a lot of condition so Bennie thought the Southland grass would be good for her,” Murrell said.

Bardot winning comfortably at Winton today – Photo Bruce Stewart

Back to the birdcage as it starts to rain – Photo Bruce Stewart

Bardot looked really promising when winning her first start as a three year old in the Listed Harness 5000 in February 2018 at Addington.

Murrell, who lives at Mona Bush, has used both Young Quinn Raceway and Ascot Park to train Bardot.

“She’s been a bit nervous but is settling down. It’s been a bit of a learning curve and a bit different for me. There’s a lot more gear. Gordon Lee, who had less horses to work, showed me how to put on the hopples and things. He’s been really good.”

Andrew Patterson, Maria Murrell, Bardot and Brent Barclay – Photo Bruce Stewart.

Bardot is owned by Murrell, her ‘stable foreman’ Andrew Patterson, Bruce Martin and John Higgins. Higgins raced her dam Hemisphere which won three races, two as a two year old including the Group Three Nevele R Stakes at the Cheviot meeting.

“We tried to get her (Hemisphere) in foal to Christian Cullen but she wouldn’t take so we sent her to Stunin Cullen.”

Unfortunately Higgins hasn’t had much luck in breeding from the daughter of Badlands Hanover. Two of her foals have died, while in 2019 she didn’t get in foal to Sweet Lou.

Her only other foal Hepburn – a five year old Bettor’s Delight mare qualified recently and has had one start for Murrell.

Playboy Looking At Hannon

Bruce Stewart

10th September 2020.

Pembrook Playboys win today has cemented trainer Nathan Williamson’s desire to race in the time honoured Hannon Memorial at Oamaru in ten days times.

Pembrook Playboy entering the birdcage prior to his win today – Photo Bruce Stewart

The Bettor’s Delight colt began well and settled four back on the inside as Canterbury visitor Memphis Tennessee made the early pace. With 1000 metres to run Williamson came off the inside to sit parked. Once balanced, Pembrook Playboy let down nicely with a powerful sprint to win easing down. Williamson had time to look over his shoulder to see that the opposition was well and truly covered. The winning margin was a length and three quarters with Pembrook Play running the 2400 metres post to post in 3-03.8 with the last 800 metres in 56.5.

“He felt comfortable all the way,” said his trainer driver.

Nice powerful stride – Photo Bruce Stewart

Back to the birdcage – Photo Bruce Stewart

Owned by Chris Alcock of Invercargill Pembrook Playboy last raced at Wyndham in March and came into today’s pacing feature with a trial and a workout under his belt.

“We’re rapt with that first up. He only had two soft trials but I’ve been pretty happy with the way he went and has trained on since.”

It was Pembrook Playboys fifth win from just ten starts. Williamson realised his potential early and looked after him last season knowing he’d develop into a nice four year old.

“I just wanted to be sure he had a good break and he’s developed in that time.”

Of the beaten runners, Memphis Tennessee was brave, running second. He’s been away from racing for nearly seven months, while third place getter Spirit Of St Louis lost lengths at the start and didn’t appear to quicken on the slushy track as well as he probably can.

U May Cullect finished last, eight lengths from the winner, but he should be better for the run.

The Flying Williams

14th September 2020

Bruce Stewart

Lex and Heather Williams have built a movie theatre, run an opera house, bred champion sheep, bought a yearling that appeared twice in the sales ring then went on to win a million dollars, and owned a mare that’s left foals that have collectively won over one hundred races.

A lot of achievements in their fifty years of married life. And looking at the racing calendar both on and off the track there are more possibilities in store in the next few months.

With the Harness Awards coming up shortly, two horses bred by the Williams – Cracker Hill and Ultimate Stride, have been nominated for the Three Year Old Trotting Colt or Gelding of the Year. Whilst One Apollo, also bred by the couple, is a nomination for Four Year Old Trotting Entire or Gelding of the Year.

Ultimate Stride – Photo Bruce Stewart

The Williams have shares in both Cracker Hill and One Apollo.

One Apollo – Photo Bruce Stewart

Cornerstone to the couples breeding operation are trotting mare One Over Kenny and In The Pocket pacing matron, Fleet’s Pocket.

Between them they have left the winners of one hundred and fifty four races with Fleet’s Pocket accounting for one hundred and seven of those.

Most of their horses have the words ‘One’ or ‘Flying’ in them.

Neither Lex nor Heather came from a racing background but Lex, who was born in Lawrence, spent a bit of time at Forbury Park.

“My father (Tom) was a great gambler and a regular at Forbury Park. We used to go with him all the time. He never owned a horse but he loved his trotting.”

And keen to impress Heather, Lex choose a night at the trots as a starting point for their relationship.

“Heather and I had our first date at Forbury about fifty years ago. I remember telling her that one day I would own a horse.”

In those days pacers like Intrepid, Garcon Roux, Stella Frost, Chequer Board and Manaroa were racing at Forbury. The trotters included Johnny Fling, Philemon, Precocious and Tony Bear.

Tony Bear

Married in 1970 Lex and Heather initially farmed at Lawrence before moving to Waimate where they spent thirty seven years running a stud sheep and beef farm.

Originally 600 acres, the farm was reduced down to 140 acres when the Williams sold to an expanding dairy industry.

“The lot that was left had a lot of hills on it and I think it was a great thing for developing yearlings. We bred South Suffolk and Texel sheep and won the National Lamb Competition in 1992 with three cross bred lambs from our own stud. Conformation was my thing. I did a lot of eye muscle measuring. The yield that they gave, blew the others out of the water. The meat to bone ratio was way higher they anyone else. That’s what helped me when I was buying horses. I was a great one on the muscling.”

In 2002 they went to the yearling sales and bought Fleet’s Pocket and Galleons Memory (Albert Albert – Galleons Beauty). Galleons Memory qualified for Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson but never raced. She was from the same family as Chokin while Fleet’s Pocket trained by Tim Butt raced four times for a best placing of fifth at Greymouth.

“We mated her as a three year old.”

Of her first fifteen foals two year old and older, twelve have qualified with eleven winning races.

Her first foal by Badlands Hanover ran four seconds in New Zealand before winning four races in Australia and that started her stunning career as a broodmare, in which she’s left the winners of 107 races.

Her biggest winner has been Mighty Flying Thomas which won twenty four races. Her first twelve foals have qualified and nine have won races. Other mares that I can recall to leave winners of over one hundred races are: Loyal Trick (128), Belladonna (115), and Significant (104).

The following year Lex and Heather went back to the sales and bought One Over Kenny under interesting circumstances.

“We wanted to buy a trotter that year. Phil Williamson sorted One Over Kenny out – $20,000 was our budget. We got to twenty and the auctioneer said he’d take a half ($500) but he took a $1,000 from the next bidder. When the sales staff went to get the buyer’s signature he said oh no it was only twenty and a half.”

The auctioneer then decided to bring the yearling back into the ring three lots later.

“Heather said ‘why you don’t put in another bid.’ The other guy went to twenty and half and I went to twenty one. He said bugger you and pulled out and they knocked her down to me. We’ve spoken to the guy a few times since. It was his trainer that was more gutted about it.”

One Over Kenny had a brilliant career as a race horse.

Not only did she win thirty two races and won over a million dollars she was also named New Zealand Three Year Old Trotting Filly of the Year in the 2004/2005 season and Five Year Old and Older Trotting Mare of the Year in 2006/2007 and again in 2008/2009.

She won seventeen Group or Listed races. In New Zealand she won nineteen races for Phil Williamson and seven for Tony Herlihy. Fifteen of her twenty six wins were at Alexandra Park. She won the Rowe Cup twice – in 2007 and 2009. One Over Kenny also won the six races in Australia winning just shy of a quarter of a million dollars there.

One Over Kenny in action – Photo Race Images

Her biggest win was in the Group One Australasian Trotters Championship but Williams has a special spot for the VHRC The Holmfield which she won as a three year old in 2005. Her son One Over Da Moon won the same race in 2014.

“I’d love to go back for The Holmfield with another one from the family. Timing hasn’t worked out at this stage,” Lex says.

In recent years the Williams have bought into some of the best New Zealand trotting lines in purchasing Petite Sunset, Anna Castleton, Leithe Ellen and Landora’s Pearl.

“I love my trotting so I said I’d like a mare out of the best families in the country. The trotters have a natural gait which appeals to me more than the pacer.”

Petite Sunset which died in 2013 was a Sundon daughter of thirty five race winning mare Pride of Petite who won $811,816. Her dam was globetrotting mare Petite Evander. She won twenty one races in New Zealand and twenty six in America where she won $713,923. She also raced successfully in Europe. Lex and Heather bred two foals out of Petite Sunset including Petite One which won seven races for Greg and Nina Hope. She was bought by Taffy Limited in 2018.

Petite One winning at Addington – Photo Race Images

Anna Castleton bred by the late Lachie Marshall is also from one of the best trotting families. Her third dam Castleton’s Queen left Sir Castleton (44 wins) and 1975 Interdominion Trotting Champion Castleton’s Pride (11 wins).  The Williams bred eight foals out of the mare before she died in 2018. Her best foal was her last, One Apollo.

One Apollo on Jewels Day at Addington – Photo Bruce Stewart

Leithe Ellen by Muscle Yankee, is a half-sister to twenty eight race winner The Fiery Ginga. The Williams bred a number of foals out of Leithe Ellen without too much success before selling her two years ago. Leithe Ellen’s three year old daughter Light Of Da Moon has had one start for Robbie Holmes.

Landora’s Pearl by Earl was another well bred mare the Williams bought and bred from. She’s a granddaughter of Landora’s Pride the winner of thirty four races including the 1987 Rowe Cup and 1988 Dominion Handicap. Landora’s Pearl’s best winner in New Zealand so far has been Da Moon’s Mission which has won two races for Otago trainer Graeme Anderson. Landora’s Pearl is now owned by the estate of CJ Roberts.

The Williams started taking yearlings to the sales in 2005 and as a breeder Lex is particularly interested in the dam side of pedigrees.

“Most stallions are well bred. The maternal lines of the stallion and your own mare are important. When you look at the Angus Hall breed and his dam Amour Angus it’s absolutely staggering. She must have been the greatest mare ever.”

As a yearling Cracker Hill went through the sales ring in 2018 but failed to reach his reserve.

“We ended by syndicating him and we got Gary Preston to look after the group because I was looking after six other syndicates at that stage.”

Trained by Brad Williamson he’s been one of the rising stars in the trotting gait and he has a couple of big assignments coming up next month in Auckland – the $85,000 Listed PGG Wrightson New Zealand Yearling Sales Three Year Old Trot on the 9th October and the $50,000 Group Two Haras des Trotteurs Sires Stakes Three Year Old Championship on the 23rd October.

Cracker Hill – Photo Bruce Stewart

Outside of Cracker Hill the couple have some other promising types.

They bred One Apollo and also retained a share in the talented trotter. He’s one of the first foals by their stallion One Over Da Moon (Majestic Son – One Over Kenny). One Apollo has won seven races from just twenty eight starts including the Group Three Four and Five Year Old Trotting Championship at Addington last season. He’s trained by Brent White.

“Being by our own stallion there’s a special attraction to him. Brent’s always had a very high opinion of him. He’s tried to look after him because he’s aiming at the Dominion this year.”

Another trotter with White is Samanthas Moon. She’s also by One Over Da Moon out of Eyrewell Pegasus.

“Brent’s very upbeat about her. We borrowed the mare. He’s excited about her but he said he’ll just have to take his time and that we won’t see her until Christmas.”

Although they have sold Juneamy Castleton the dam of Cracker Hill, they’ve retained one of her daughters in Oneamy Vici who is due to have her first foal. By Orlando Vici, she qualified at Rangiora for trainer Robbie Holmes but never raced.

“She was going to be a nice racehorse but got injured. She’s having her first foal to One Over Da Moon. They’re closely related because Juneamy Castleton is by Majestic Son and so is One Over Da Moon. I used to do that type of breeding when I was breeding sheep dogs. We called it two by two. It’s going to be interesting. It’s as close as you want to get.”

At stud One Over Da Moon has left seventeen foals. Four have qualified with One Apollo (7) and Da Moon’s Mission (2) being his first two winners.

Although initially hesitant around horses particularly young stock, Heather soon found a way of managing the youngsters that works for her.

“She’s a good stock lady. She was a good trainer of dogs and became very very good at handling the foals. In the last few years we never had to break them because they were so quiet. She said there’s got to be an easier way than tying them up and having flank ropes on them so she read the Horse Whispers books. You have to start on them (the foals) when they’re very young. It became a trust thing between her and the foals. We got a lot of accolades from the trainers who said our horses were so easy to break in.”

Outside of racing the couple were also in the entertainment game for sixteen years.

“We ran a movie theatre for the Waimate community for five years and leased the Opera House in Oamaru for ten years before building a three cinema complex in Oamaru which we managed for two to three years.”

Lex said it was a big part of the couple’s life and provided them with some entertaining moments.

“We managed all the live shows that travelled through, acts like Charlie Pride and Kevin ‘Bloody’ Wilson. I got a licence when he (Wilson) was there and I sold 800 cans of Speights. There were 400 people at the concert. Kevin liked it when they were enjoying themselves. It took us all day to clean up the next day.”

On the racing administration front Lex was President for the Waimate Trotting Club for ten years and filled in as Chairman of Forbury Park for a short period. He plans to get back into racing administration in the future.

The couple have three sons; Stacey and Nigel who reside in Western Australia and Bradley who farms at Milburn just north of Milton.

All three have a share in the One Over Da Skye’s (Majestic Son – One Over Kenny) yet to be born foal by Love You. One Over The Skye won four races for Greg and Nina Hope.

“When we sell that at the sales they’ll be there to get their share (laughter).”

These days the William’s mares are spread around stud farms in the south and their yearlings are prepared at Winton by Julie Baynes.

She’s currently preparing a half-brother to Ultimate Stride by Majestic Son and an Art Major colt out of Fleet’s Pocket.

With a new house that’s just weeks away from being lived in overlooking Ocean View Beach I suspect there’s already space allocated for the many racing photos the couple have collected over the years and extra room for those that are still to come. Reminiscing over racing photos and watching the sea roll in has got to be the prefect mix.

The Williams mares and racing team

Mares:

  • One Over Kenny (Sundon – Frances Jay Bee) – in foal to En Solitaire
  • Fleet’s Pocket (In the Pocket – Fleet Vance) – in foal to Sweet Lou
    One Over Da Stars (Love You – One Over Kenny) – Andover Hall
  • One Over Da Skye (Majestic Son – One Over Kenny) – Love You
  • Muscle Girl (Muscle Hill – Anreca Hest) – One Over Da Moon
  • Oneamy Vici (Orlando Vici – Juneamy Castleton) – One Over Da Moon
  • A Glass Of Tanqueray (Raffaello Ambrosia – Springfield Tiz) – One Over Da Moon

Racing Team:

  • One Apollo (Five Year Old Gelding by One Over Da Moon out of Anna Castleton)
  • Cracker Hill (Four Year Old Gelding by Muscle Hill out of Juneamy Castleton)
  • One Over Da Son (Five Year Old Gelding by Muscle Hill out of One Over Kenny)
  • Da Moons Mission (Five Year Old Gelding by One Over Da Moon out of Landora’s Pride)
  • Samantha’s Moon (Three Year Old Filly by One Over Da Moon out of Eyrewell Pegasus)
  • Bev K’s One (Four Year Old mare by Love You out of Petite One)
  • Flying Heathers One (Three Year Old Bettor’s Delight Filly out of Fleet’s Pocket)
  • One Over All (Three Year Old Angus Hall gelding out of One Over Kenny)
  • Light Of Da Moon (Three Year Old Filly by One Over Da Moon out of Leithe Ellen)
  • You Fly With Me (Three Year Old Somebeachsomewhere colt out of Flying With Mrs Williams)
  • Gotta Elect Bill (Two Year old Auckland Reactor colt out of Gotta Elect Neil)

Southerners to the fore in WA.

Bruce Stewart

13th September 2020

Four horses with Southern connections had a good night at the office at Gloucester Park in Perth on Friday night.

Eloquent Mac – One of four winners with Southland connections in WA on Friday

The southern winning streak started in the first race when Rakasinc won for trainer Nathan Turvey.

The Changeover gelding, bred by Brendan Fahy has won eight races this season. He started his racing career in New South Wales, winning two races for John McCarthy before transferring  to Western Australian in December 2019.

Rakasinc is a half –brother to Rakarazor the winner of twelve races and Rakarebel which won twenty five races. Rakarebel was trained initially by Peter Hunter at Ryal Bush before heading to WA where he won his first eight races for Gary Hall.

Rakarazor a half-sister to Rakasinc

Fahy of Rakauhauka still has a share in Rakasinc.

In the very next race Mach Three gelding Eloquent Mac won his eleventh race. He was bred by former Southlander Michael Turner and was developed next door to the Fahy property by Clark Barron.

He had two starts as a two year old for Barron before being sold to clients of Gary Hall.

He’s out of Letatalk which was bred by Tuapeka Lodge.

Washington VC gelding Sir Galahad won the next race. He’s also trained by Gary Hall.

The six year old was bred by Vin Nally and has had limited starts because of injuries.

Friday night’s race was only his fifteenth. He’s won eight times and has been placed in four other starts.

Three races later the night of success was completed for southern breeders when The Buckeye Bullet bred by former Southland trainer Tony Barron won for trainer Nathan Turvey.

By Well Said out of Titan Bloss, The Buckeye Bullet won his first race at Addington before running third at his next start.

He has now won ten races in Australia.

The night would have been capped off if either Chicago Bull bred in Winton, or Galactic Star bred by Tuapeka Lodge had won the feature pacing race. Chicago Bull ran second beaten by a half a head while Galactic Star ran fifth.

Chicago Bull is fast closing in on two million dollars in stakes  money. The Bettor’s Delight gelding has won $1,898,531. to date.

Kenny In The House

Bruce Stewart

17th September 2020

It’s been a long time between wins but Southland owned Jody Direen chalked up her third win and her first for twenty one months when she won in the slush at Ascot Park yesterday.

Masked man – Kenny Barnes keeping his distance

Originally trained for Eastern Southland dairy farmer Kenny Baynes by Tony Stratford, the Mach Three mare is now in Michael House’s barn. Her last win was at Addington in February 2019.

“She’s been up country with Micky and gone okay. She dropped down a grade or two today,” Baynes said.

Driver Kirstin Barclay positioned Jody Direen four back on the outside and approaching the 400 got onto the back of stablemate Changearound. When that horse started to battle Barclay hooked her drive out four wide and Jody Direen came down the middle of the track to beat another stablemate Opawa Mach by a length and a half.

“That was social distancing,” Baynes quipped to Barclay.

In the last few seasons Baynes has supported House and says he’s been essential to Southern racing during Covid times.

“We need him. He can bring fifteen horses per race meeting. They’re not all stars but it makes a meeting. They’re trained on the track so they walk out of the barn and they’re here. He’s a big part of the industry.”

House who’s had a team of fifteen horses at Ascot Park since the end of May wasn’t on course yesterday.

“He’ll be watching it on tele. He broke his wrist about a week ago. It was in the float, a horse pulled back when he tied it up.”

Baynes says Jody Direen will go to stud in the next few weeks.

House won later in the day with Zoned Scarlett.

Last season Michael House trained his 500th winner.

Beginning his training in 1988, his first winner was Talk About Swift at Forbury Park in January 1992.

Last season was his best, training 98 winners.

His best winning tracks have been Manawatu 145 followed by Addington 142.

Blair Orange has driven 165 winners for House, the first being Andrel’s Fancy at Marlborough in June 1998.

Dexter Dunn (71) Colin DeFillipi (52) and Clark Barron (35) have also been successful drivers for House.

Michael House’s biggest wins:

  • 1995 Group One 1995 Easter Cup – Matthew Lee
  • 1993 New Zealand Yearling Sales Fillies Final – Vee Mee
  • 2000 New Zealand Sires Stakes Two Year Old Trotting Championship – Castleton’s Mission
  • 1997 Group Two New Zealand Trotting Championship – Holdonmyheart
  • 2008 Listed PPG Wrightson New Zealand Yearling Sales Series Trotting Final – De Gaulle
  • 2005 Listed Firestone FFA – Bella’s Boy
  • 2003 Listed PPG Wrightson New Zealand Yearling Sales Trot – Just Incredible
  • 2010 Group Two Southland Oaks – Royal Cee Cee
  • 2002 Group Two New Zealand Trotting Stakes – Just Incredible
  • 2008 Group One Nevele R Stud Caduceus Club Classic – Rona Lorraine
  • 2016 Listed PGG Wrightson New Zealand Yearling Sales All Age Pace – Moonrock
  • 2017 Group Three Popular Alm FFA – Moonrock

Super Duper Cooper

Bruce Stewart

17th September 2020

In his debut run, Jaccka Cooper provided a change of luck for owners Charlie and Alisa Smaill.

The Smaills have had a string of placings recently with horses they own and yesterday’s win was welcomed by the couple who were on course to see the win.

Jaccka Cooper is out of Art Major mare Comeon Jaccka which won a race for Ascot Park trainer Wayne Adams.

“She had a bit of speed but didn’t carry on with it,” Charlie said.

Comeon Jaccka is out of Comeon Franco which the Smaills purchased at a Wayne Francis sale in the mid 2000s. Comeon Jaccka was by Holmes Hanover out of Cherubic.

Jaccka Cooper has taken a bit of time to organise but appears to be getting the hang of the racing game.

“He looked quite nice as a three year old and I sent him down to Brett’s but his head didn’t grow with his body. He got upset with grit so we brought him home and turned him out.”

In yesterday’s maiden race Jaccka Copper lead and had to withstand constant pressure throughout the run but he had enough resolve to hang on to win by a neck from Sentry which came up the passing lane.

The A Rocknroll Dance gelding has been to the fore at trials and workouts.

“He’s had four preparation runs and he’s won the lot.”

Smaill who’s held a trainers licence off and on over the years, still like to be hands on at his Riversdale property.

“Usually I do about a month with them before they go to Brett’s. I have a lady who’s worked for me for years. We get them up and running and reasonably fit.”

Smaill mainly breeds trotters these days and particularly likes Janine Jaccka’s three year old colt Jaccka John.

“I quite like him. I also have a Father Patrick that’s a brother to Jasmine Jaccka. He’s a bit headstrong but I quite like him too.”

Meanwhile Paul Andrews trained his first winner when Tad Lincoln won his maiden race at Ascot Park.

The six year old Sir Lincoln gelding out of Lady Writer was bred by John Earl and Tom Kilkelly. Earl trained him initially, then Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis had him for a number of starts. He also had a short stint for Adrian Wohlers before Andrews took him on in June of this year.

He’s had fifteen starts for Andrews and at times has looked as though he could win another race. Andrews has held a license since 1993 and prior to this win has taken horses to the races 147 times.

From gate four driver Mark Hurrell pushed Tad Lincoln forward but was left parked for the first lap before Marika gave him cover. At the 300 Hurrell pulled the gelding out and he came down the middle of the track to win by two lengths from Man I’m Good.

Tad Lincoln was at odds of 28 to 1.

Kite Flying

Bruce Stewart

19th September 2020

Junior driver Ollie Kite is on a bit of a roll.

Having driven his first winner at Winton last week he backed it up with his second at Invercargill on Wednesday when he drove I’m Trouble to win for trainer Owen Lawrence.

From the second line Kite pushed the Changeover gelding through to sit in the one one. As Targaryen improved at the 400 Kite moved out three wide and got on the back of Freddiesam. At that point I’m Trouble was hard on the bit. As Freddiesam began to feel the pinch Kite hooked I’m Trouble out four wide. The horse let down nicely in the middle of the track to win by two and a half lengths from Mr Clooney.

“I’d watched all his replays and he’s been going well. He travelled well and I decided not to be unlucky. I managed to get on the three wide train. I got out at the quarter and he felt good and he got up to them nice and easy and after that we were home and hosed really. It was a big drop in grade and he got a lovely draw- two on the second line,” Kite said, having understandably watched re-runs of the race a few times. “Thirty plus” he told me.

I’m Trouble winning for Ollie Kite – Photo Monica Toretto

Kite works for Branxholme trainer Nathan Williamson who provided him with his first winning drive – Barika, which is owned by Williamson’s wife Katie.

“It was good to get one for them because they’ve looked after me over the years. She’s a nice mare to drive who’s got plenty of gate speed. She got into the right spot and I was lucky enough to get up the lane. Nathan has kept her for me because she’s one I can learn off.”

Kite doesn’t have any family connections with the harness industry.

“Mum always said when Grandad watched the races my eyes were glued to the screen but I don’t have any racing background whatsoever.”

He became interested in racing when living in Makarewa close to Tony Barron’s track.

“When I was nine I watched Tony’s jog frame go round the track. I found it quite interesting. Julie McEwan and my Mum are quite close friends and Julie got me the job there. Once you get the bug it’s with you forever. I loved it but once Tony moved up the road (Canterbury) I went to Nathan’s while I was still at school.”

Ollie attended James Hargest High School in Invercargill but school was never going to hold his attention once he caught the horse bug.

“Mum reckons I would have been alright actually. I got my Level One real easy with about thirty credits up my sleeve but I just wanted to be with the horses really bad so I left.”

Kite is over 2 metres tall and played volleyball  at Hargest.

“With my height I managed to make the Southland team a couple of times. I also played a bit of basketball. Once I left school I played a bit of rugby but it was on a Saturday, the same day as the races so I went the horses way.”

He soon had his trials and workouts licence and graduated to the junior ranks this season.

“I love raceday driving because all the enjoyment comes when you get success. The more you’re out there the more confidence you get. You start to get a feel of how the horses are going.”

Max Hill Wins First Race

Bruce Stewart

19th September 2020

First season junior driver Max Hill drove his first winner at Ascot Park on Wednesday.

Driving Watch Me Now for his bosses Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis, Hill pulled all the right reins to get the mare up to win by three quarters of a length from Burnham Boy.

“She was such a nice horse to drive. It gives you confidence. I was pretty happy to drive my first winner,” Hill said.

Watch Me Now was the leading Southland three year old filly last season and is the top qualifier for next month’s rescheduled Southland Oaks Final.

“She’s a pretty nice mare. She’s won four from six. She did it pretty easy because she only does what she has to do. We weren’t sure if she’d come off the gate. We were thinking of looking after her. She flew off the gate then led up, and because she’s so good she can do that.”

Max Hill winning his first race with Watch Me Now – Photo Monica Toretto

The win was well received throughout the harness racing community.

“Dad gave me a text that said ‘call me when you can’ because he knew I’d be busy afterwards. I’ve talked to him and he was stoked. Ricky (May) text me and a few other trainers, which means a lot.”

Max’s father Brendon Hill is a multiple Group One winning trainer in Canterbury and was a good junior driver himself back in the day. In the 1998 season he drove twenty winners and was fourth on the National Junior Drivers Championship won by Jo Herbert with thirty nine winners. Second was Mark Jones with thirty five and Blair Orange was next with twenty one winners.

Max has been round horses all his life. The first horse he was allowed to drive was Real Desire gelding Cruzy Dude which won three races for his Dad. Cruzy Dude went on to win another ten races in Australia.

“He was injured and spent some time on the hills. He wasn’t a bad horse and real nice to drive.”

He also enjoyed working with Power Of Tara.

Max left school when he was fifteen.

“I went into the school holidays working for Dad and I didn’t really want to go back to school. Dad and I had talked about it. Mum understood and she was all good about it and Dad was keen.”

After working for his father and Mark Jones, he gravitated south.

“Dad and Tank have been pretty good mates for a while. When Tank comes up he goes to Dad’s place. Dad sent a few horse down south which went to Tank and Kirstin’s. I came down with the horses and worked for them while I was down here. Tank offered me a job. I went back for Covid and came back, and it’s been all go since then.”

Initially he stayed with Murray Little at Otatara to be close to the Barclay – Ellis stables at Oreti Beach.

“There was always plenty of chat with Murray and when Malcolm (Little) came down.”

Hill is enjoying his time in the south.

“I don’t see why I wouldn’t stay down here longer. There’s better opportunities. There’s too many top dogs in Canterbury and you have to prove yourself before you get drives up there.”

He’s been well mentored by a small group of senior drivers who’ve offered advice and analysis of his drives.

“I talk to Kirstin and Matty Williamson, Brent Barclay, Nathan (Williamson) and Ricky (May). I always ring Ricky because he’s quite close to me.”

And he says there’s still plenty to learn.

“More aggression. On a couple of drives I’ve let a few drivers run over me a bit. Tank and I have talked about it but it’s all about learning.”

Hill drove in Kidz Kartz and ran third in the New Zealand Kidz Kartz Cup. He’s also progressing through his harness racing cadetship and says he enjoys the wide open spaces of Oreti Beach.

“Training on the beach is new for me. I just love the driving though. It’s the best go for me at the moment.”

Despite being down south, his mates in Canterbury follow him closely.

“All my mates in Canterbury follow the racing, Carter Dalgety has got a bit of a friends group. They don’t have anything to do with horses but they just like following me and watching it back in Christchurch. Carter is a trials driver and still at school. He’s quite smart and does quite well at school.”

One horse Hill’s tagged to keep an eye on is Cab Calloway.

“He didn’t go that good at his last start but he was a bit crook. He’s one of my favourite horses there.”

He’s also enjoyed playing rugby for Drummond Limehills Star this season.

“I played Div Two and I didn’t go too badly because I hadn’t played rugby since I was young.”

Max Hill is on his way, joining Ollie Kite and Tom Nally who’ve also driven their first winners this season.

Southland Harness Awards (1)

Bruce Stewart

20th September 2020

This year’s Southland harness award winners will be announced this Saturday.

The Awards evening which was scheduled to be held at Ascot Park had to be cancelled due to the implications of COVID-19 but it will be live streamed on the Southland Harness Facebook page from 6pm.

Vintage Cheddar, Robyns Playboy, Pembrook Playboy, See Ya Write and Franco Santino are all finalists for the Southland Horse of the Year Awards.

From a limited season Vintage Cheddar won once and was placed twice in only five starts. He broke a track and Southland record when he won the Wairio Cup, and his placings included a third in both the Group Three Summer Cup and the Group Three Northern Southland Cup. He won $16,400 for the season.

Vintage Cheddar

Robyns Playboy started fifteen times, recording three wins and two minor placings. He won the Tuapeka Cup and was third in the Riverton Cup. His seasons earnings were $27,745.

Robyns Playboy

Pembrook Playboy was the province’s leading three year old colt or gelding, winning four of his seven starts for owner Chris Alcock. His season’s earnings were $32,100.

Pembrook Playboy

See Ya Write started ten times, recording four wins and four placings. He earned $25,745.

See Ya Write

Franco Santino was the province’s leading stakes winner with $32,930. He won three races and his three placings included a second in the Group Three Invercargill Cup.

Franco Santino

The Southland Broodmare of the Year finalists are: Holmezy, Delcola, Arden’s Darlin and Their Excuse.

Bettor’s Delight mare Arden’s Darlin is the dam of Arden Voyager, who last season won eight of his seventeen starts in Australia. She’s also the dam of Celestial Arden, he had eleven starts in North America last season, winning two races and pacing a mile in 1-51.2.

Arden Voyager as a yearling

Holmes Hanover mare Holmezy is the dam of Our Alfie Romeo. In the season under review she won six of her twenty one starts. Her wins included the Group Three Christmas Belle at Gloucester Park and she ran second in the Group One Westral Mares Classic on the same course.

Their Excuse is the dam of Bettor Enforce. She won nine of her twenty starts in Australia last season and her wins include the Group Three Success Stud Ladyship, The Group Three Prydes Stamina, and the Group Two Red Ochre Mares Classic. She also ran second in the Group One Ladyship Cup, second in the Group One Ladyship Mile and Third in the Group Three Sibelia Stakes. Her fastest mile this season was 1-48.9.

Bettor Enforce

Delcola is the dam of Splash Cola. She won three races last season from seven starts with one of her wins the Group Three Summer Trotting FFA. Another one of Delcola’s progeny Delson won twice in eight starts while her latest race winner Andy Hall, also won twice from just four starts.

Splash Cola

In the Achievement of the Year category the finalists are Shard Farm, Ellie Barron and Nathan Williamson.

Mark and Debbie Smith of Shard Farm presented and sold the top lot at this year’s National Yearling Sale – Moet Shard.

The outstanding colt by Bettor’s Delight out of eleven win Christian Cullen mare Pemberton Shard was knocked down to first time buyer Graham McClintock for $280,000.

Debbie and Mark Smith with John Stiven

They were also top vendors at the sale with an average of $97,250 from the eight yearlings they offered.

The Smiths also bred Mach Shard which won the Group Three Allied Express Casey Classic at Melton and ran third in the Group One Platinum FFA.

Ellie Barron was the province’s leading junior driver last season. She was also Southland’s ambassador for the Teal Appeal. On January 3rd at Omakau Barron played a pivotal part in saving Ricky May’s life. May collapsed in the sulky and fell to the track when driving A. G. White Socks in the Central Otago Cup at Omakau. Ellie Barron administered CPR until the paramedics took over.

Ellie Barron

Nathan Williamson was once again Southland’s leading driver and trainer. The 2019-2020 season is the fourth time he’s won the Trainers Premiership, and the eleventh time he’s won the Drivers Premiership. Only Henry Skinner (16) beat that number.

Nathan Williamson

A Contribution to Harness Racing will be awarded to long time Southland Race caller Dave McDonald who has been in the commentary box for forty four years.

Dave McDonald

You can follow the Awards Announcements on: https://www.facebook.com/Southern-Harness-Racing-373340796086991 on Saturday 26th September from 6pm.

Pearls a Gem

Bruce Stewart

24th September 2020

“She’s a lot more relaxed now. She used to over race,” said co-trainer John Price after Pearl Harbour impressively won the Mitre 10 Winton Mobile Pace today.

Driver Brent Barclay settled the four year old mare at the tail of the field and she had eight lengths to make up as they turned for home but she stuck her ears back and stormed down the outside to beat Bridesdale Robyn by a head.

Pearl Harbour is usually driven by Nathan Williamson but he was committed to his own runner Franco Santino which sat parked and finished five and half lengths from the winner.

“Brent drove her really well today but you have to give Nathan a heap of credit. He’s been patient with her and has got her to settle. Now she’s just so much more settled even when she’s working at home. I think she’s matured a lot.”

Price who trains the mare with his wife Katrina says Pearl Harbour’s next target is a heat of the Nevele R Fillies Series at Addington on 8th October.

“We’ll see how she goes in that and the next target will be the Southland Oaks. I hope we can qualify for the final of the Nevele R on Cup Day.”

The Somebeachsomewhere mare is out of Arden Caviar and was bred by John and Katrina.

“We’ve had a couple of good offers for her after her last couple of wins, but we’ve decided she’ll be a good addition to the broodmare paddock. She has so much high speed and she’s a beautiful pacer.”

Today was her first run at the races this season. Prior to today’s success she’s been to two workouts and she won them both.

“She’s been ticking over for a while but there’s been no races for her. It’s pretty hard when you’re racing in that 60 to 85 grade. The handicap system in my opinion is not good for mares. It’s too hard. We had a talk the other day. It might be better to get the Oaks out of the way and send her to Australia so she could get a good mile time at Menangle.”

Pearl Harbour won three of her eight starts last season and today’s win was her fifth in her career.

UDR Brian

Bruce Stewart

27th September 2020

Mixing with some of the biggest players in harness racing, training a Group winner in his first season, feeling the pressures of training a champion pacer – all of these have made Southlander Brian O’Meara one of the province’s most successful trainers.

Mike DeFilippi, Lynnette and Brian O’Meara with Ray Taiaroa and Dave Edwards after Naval Officers win in the New Zealand Derby

He’s had remarkable success with colts and few if any, could match his strike rate (UDR).

Not only has he had a good handful of top horses in his stable over the thirty four years he’s held his training license but he’s had a lot of very good horses in the middle to high assessment range as well.

Christian Cullen, Tuapeka Knight and Tight Connections were the headliners, but when we add Really Honkin, Trident, Cigar, Captain Cavalla, Oscar De La Hoya, Hone Heke and Spirit Of Zeus we can see why O’Meara has won over three million dollars in stakes, with just over a thousand runners.

He was a late comer to the industry when he started training in 1985 on his farm at Spurhead, which is located between Woodlands and Edendale in Southland. But prior to his training career he’d had success as an owner, winning the 1976 Kindergarten Stakes with Arden Bay and having a share in Cup class pacer Quiet Win. Trained by Mike DeFillipi, Quiet Win won twelve races, finished second in the 1982 Pan Am Mile won by Bonnies Chance, third in the 1982 New Zealand Cup beaten by Bonnies Chance and Armalight, and third in the 1983 Pan Am Mile.

O’Meara also had moderate success with Ho Ho King and Arden Chief. Ho Ho King won the 1975 New Zealand Metropolitan Two Year Old Stakes beating Main Adios and Tarport Toby.

The Edendale district where O’Meara trained was renowned as a great nurturing area for young stock and within close proximity of his Spurhead base were two of the country’s leading trainers of juveniles in Alex Milne and Bud Baynes.

“That’s helped me get started. I watched old Alex and young Alex too as well as Henry Skinner. I’d played a lot of sport and had my own ideas about training. I was always a great fan of the way Arthur Lydiard trained. Always having a level of basic fitness and timing your races right,” he said.

At a young age O’Meara played age group rugby for Southland and was part of a record breaking team at St Kevin’s College in Oamaru.

“I played senior rugby when I was seventeen. I probably didn’t take it seriously enough when I came back from St Kevin’s. Robin Archer (Southland and All Black first five) wanted me to go and play at Edendale so I could be an understudy to him. In those days you didn’t leave your own area. No one would talk to you if you left Woodlands and went to Edendale.”

However he was tempting to make the shift, as Edendale was the home of virtually the whole South Island backline.

“Tait, Archer, Archer, Townsend, Ray Todd, Johnny Ellis and my brother-in-law Lloyd Ashby played at fullback. It would have been nice to be an understudy in that sort of team.”

From those early days, O’Meara proved he had a good eye for young bloodstock. He bought Trident at the yearling sales and also purchased open class pacer Watbro. He says that over the years he didn’t spent a lot of money on the purchasing of race horses.

“I bought Trident of nine (thousand), Naval Officer was three and a half, Captain Cavalla was four, Panky’s Pacer was seven, and Sailor’s Corner was also seven. I bought these horses pre-yearling sales out of the paddock.”

In his first season of training O’Meara trained fourteen winners from just forty eight starters; an unheard of statistic for a rookie trainer. That season he was second leading UDR trainer (10 winners or more) with a rating of 0.4005, only bettered by more established trainer Frank Cooney (48-12-9-8 0.4097).

Winners that season included Trident, Naval Officer and Really Honkin.

Really Honkin was broken in and gaited by Mike DeFillipi but before he could race he cracked a pastern bone. He was sent south to Alan Devery’s but then broke a pedal bone. Six months later under the care of Dale Cameron he reappeared at the races, winning his first two starts as a three year old.

Naval Officer was O’Meara’s first winner when he won at Addington in August 1984. Trident was Brian’s first Group winner when he took out the 1985 Group Three Kindergarten Stakes at Wyndham.

The rich Eastern Southland pastures were appreciated by O’Meara. “That was one of our greatest things. A horse could get over a race if you put him out in a nice paddock.”

In the late 1980s and ‘90s Brian fashioned a remarkable record with outstanding strike rates.

In 1988 he was the leading UDR trainer (with ten winners or more) with a rating of 0.4323 (64-23-6-4). In 1991 he was again the leading UDR trainer with 0.4212 (43-11-11-3) and in 1998 he with 0.4111 (70-20-11-8).

In his thirty four seasons in the industry to date, he’s won eight Group One races, seventeen Group Two and nine Group Three races.

Let’s take a look at some of the bloodstock Brian O’Meara trained that highlights the depth of talent he’s had in his hands.

Christian Cullen

Top of the list of course – the remarkable Christian Cullen, which he bought as a yearling.

“I used to look at horses at David Shadbolt’s. I was around at his place one day and he had about ten yearlings there. I liked this one horse. I asked him what he was by and he told me Soky’s Atom. I’d had a lot by Soky’s Atom and he didn’t look like a Soky’s Atom to me. Anyway we bought him off Paul Bielby for $15,000.”

After his initial purchase O’Meara went about syndicating Christian Cullen who turned out to be an In The Pocket colt out of Pleasant Franco.

“I offered him to Maryanne Steemer and Bernie Marlow who raced Spirit Of Zeus with me but they turned me down and that’s when I offered Ian Dobson a share.”

Christian Cullen was also put through the sale ring at the annual Southland Standardbred Sales run by Wrightson NMA. This was to make him eligible for the Sales Series. He was sent south to be looked after by Brian’s brother in-law Murray Gormack who lived next to the Dennis Brothers at Woodland. The colt was passed in for $10,000.

Initially O’Meara wasn’t too impressed with Christian Cullen.

“You’d pull him up and he’d put his head in the macrocapa hedge. You’d be flat out to get him out of it. I had everyone on the place stopping me from running off. This happened for a few weeks. Eventually he just came out of it and became a beautiful mannered horse. I don’t think many trainers would have left him as a colt. It would have been a hell of a loss to the industry if he was gelded.”

As Christian Cullen began to get his head around training O’Meara began to prepare for his race debut and put a call through to Ashburton reinsman John Hay.

“John drove Trident, Naval Officer and Really Honkin for me. I thought Christian Cullen was going to be pretty smart so I rang him. I always said I’d give him first choice of driving a nice young horse. I said I had this nice young horse coming through. He said ‘Oh yeah, what’s it by?’ I told him In The Pocket which was a first season sire and he said ‘We’ll see. He said what’s it out of?’ I said Pleasant Franco and he went off his head. ‘He said you’re mad, you bastard. I drove her twice and she brought the field down.”

Christian Cullen made his first public appearance at the Addington trials in October 1996 in the hands of Mark Jones and he won by five lengths. His race day debut came a month later, also at Addington where he won again by five lengths, this time in the hands of Peter Jones.

Christian Cullen’s season as a two year old was cut short by injury, but he won all of his five starts including the Welcome Stakes and Sales Series Pace.

The following season as a three year old he won five of his ten starts and earned $302,460.

The wins included the New Zealand Sires Stakes 3yo Final and the $100,000 Round Up 1950 in which he beat the older horses, running the 1950 metres in a 1.58.1 mile rate.

On the back of that performance he received an invitation to the Miracle Mile in Sydney but was a late scratching due to a pre-race testing irregularity. The control fluid was later found to be contaminated.

“That blew me away. I took it pretty hard.”

Court action followed, the charges were thrown out and compensation paid.

Back home Christian Cullen finished his three year old season with an unlucky third to Holmes D G in the Great Northern Derby and he won the Sales Series Pace before an injury ended his season.

As a four year old Christian Cullen’s early season wins included the Ashburton Flying Stakes where he beat Iraklis. That win elevated him to favourite for the New Zealand Trotting Cup where he went on to win beating Iraklis in 4:00.4, equalling the race record. He was privately timed to run the final mile of the race in 1:53.5.

Christian Cullen winning the 1998 New Zealand Cup – Photo Race Images

Winning connections – Photo Race Images

Three days later he won the New Zealand Free for All, defeating Holmes D G.

He was invited back to Sydney for the Miracle Mile which he won by twenty metres in the hands of Danny Campbell from Tailamade Lombo and Our Sir Vancelot.

He then displayed courage to win the Treuer Memorial at Bankstown in track record time and back home cruised home in 3:59.7 to win the Auckland Cup.

He had two wins at Cambridge before winning a heat on the opening night of the Inter Dominion. This was to be his last win. He was undefeated as a four year old winning all of his twelve starts.

He did come back as a five year old, starting once in New Zealand and three times in Australia, before he was retired.

During his racing career Danny Campbell drove Christian Cullen to win fifteen times, Ricky May five and Peter Jones twice.

At one point during his career some thought was given to racing him in America and Anthony Butt who’d experienced mile racing in the States, thought he would have been more than competitive there.

“Anthony used to do a lot of driving for me and he said to me that the only horse in his lifetime that should have gone to America was Christian Cullen.

O’Meara says like all good horses Christian Cullen had high speed.

“He was timed three times to break 12 seconds for his first furlong. That came from champion trainers. I’ve never used a watch in my whole life.”

Many remember Christian Cullen for his proud gait but his action did cause a few foot problems.

“I trained him in the paddock which quietened him and was a cushion on his feet. He had a very fluent action and I know many Australians thought he was the best gaited pacer they’d ever seen.”

Christian Cullen’s racing record was 31-22-2-2 for $1,249,150.

As a stallion Christian Cullen’s career is another story in itself. Initially O’Meara began breeding from him while he was still racing, with semen collected from the property.

“I stood him for that first season and there wouldn’t have been many stallions that could have done what he did in that first season. He was a special horse alright.”

He left Born Again Christian (1:51.2), Likmesiah ($427,965), Roman Gladiator ($318,022) and Chris Riley ($306,732) as well as a host of other good winners.

He stood for $6,000 which was a high price for a first season stallion in those days.

O’Meara says his breeding career didn’t get off to the best of starts as none of the mares he was bred to in the North Island got in foal.

Despite the slow start Christian Cullen helped revolutionise the New Zealand breeding industry. In all, he left the starters of 22,855 races for 2,767 winners of $35,900,229.

Christian Cullen was New Zealand Stallion of the Year in 2005/2006, 2007/2008 and 2008/2009.

His biggest stakes winner was Stunin Cullen which earned $1,015,257 while his biggest race winner was Christian Me with twenty six wins.

Tight Connection

By Soky’s Atom, Tight Connection was purchased for $19,000 at the inaugural 1987 International Year Sale by the Mercenary Syndicate.

He won nine of his ten starts as a two year old including the Group Three Needham Heatley Juvenile Stakes, the Group Two Thames Juvenile Stakes and the Group One New Zealand Juvenile Stakes.

Tight Connection won $283,240 as a two year old.

“Bob Cameron rated him the best horse he drove.”

Tight Connection – Photo Race Images

Tuapeka Knight

Dunedin trainer Kevin Court bought Tuapeka Knight for $25,000 at the 1986 National Yearling Sales.

After he won his first start at Invercargill for Court and driver Earl Swain, O’Meara bought the colt on behalf of the Horseplayers Syndicate for $175,000.

The syndicate had earlier tried to buy Starship, however he was sold to the West Coast based Starship Syndicate for $200,000 two weeks before Tuapeka Knight debuted.

After Tuapeka Knight won every one of his first nine starts and broke three New Zealand records, he was syndicated again, this time to the Knight Syndicate for two million dollars with a stud career in mind.

The Smooth Fella colt’s wins as a two year old included the Group Three Timaru Nursery Stakes, New Zealand Sires Stakes Final and the New Zealand Sapling Stakes, beating Starship in all three races.

His final outing of the season was in the Two Year Olds Championship at Alexandra Park.

“Tuapeka Knight was the first horse to win nine straight two year old races. He got his tongue over the bit in his tenth race and we had to pull him up. That cost us $350,000 because he was chasing a $250,000 bonus.”

The race was won Godfrey which was owned by Southlander Bud Baynes and his daughter Bronwyn Ludke.

“The thing that stands out is that from the eighteen wins those two horses (Tuapeka Knight and Tight Connection) had, they broke thirteen track, race or New Zealand records between them.”

Tuapeka Knight – Photo Race Images

Really Honkin

Although Really Honkin wasn’t Brian’s first winner he was the horse that convinced him to take up training.

“He arrived home broken down after having a couple of trainers. Alan Devery also sent Naval Officer home saying he was cheating. I thought ‘well bugger it, I might as well have a go myself’ so that’s how I got started.”

Dale Cameron was credited with Really Honkin’s first two wins as O’Meara was unable to obtain his training licence in time.

“Stipe Peter McKenzie was caught up sorting something else out at the Trotting Conference and forgot about giving me my licence.”

Really Honkin made an immediate impression when he won at Invercargill. He then won at Wyndham, and after that win, the drama with the training licence was shared very publicly by farrier Charlie Franks in front of everyone in the stand and birdcage that day.

“Charlie used to do the shoeing for me. I’d be the last place he called into on the way back to Mataura so he knew I had Really Honkin at my place. When he won at Wyndham with Dale, Charlie got up on the balcony in the stand and yelled out to Peter McKenzie ‘who the hell do you think trains that horse?”

The comment caused a ripple of laughter and McKenzie took it in good spirits.

Next, Really Honkin was down to start in the inaugural running of the Southern Stakes Final but was scratched. Most of Southland was talking about his clash with rising star Crafty Kooba but it wasn’t to be. Crafty Kooba went out as odds on favourite and won the three year old feature.

Really Honkin reappeared seven months later, winning at Banks Peninsula by half a neck and then nine days later he won a C3-C4 mile at Addington by six and quarter lengths in 1-58.8.

On New Zealand Cup Day in 1984 he showed his class by winning over 2600 metres in a class record of 3-19.6.

Really Honkin winning on Cup Day – Photo Race Images

He was then taken to Australia and in only this seventh lifetime start at Harold Park in the first heat of the Australian Pacing Championships he paced the 2350 metres in 2-56.7 winning by eight metres and breaking the track record.

“Steel Jaw held the record and he took a full second off it. In the final he was only paying $1.50 to win. It was a tremendous field.”

In the final he was involved in an early skirmish before surrendering the lead. He then began to pace roughly and driver John Hay eased him out of the race, to find later he’d broken another pedal bone.

He did return to racing, but unfortunately never reached his full potential. He won eight races from twenty two starts.

Naval Officer

Naval Officer was bought by O’Meara for $3,500 from Grant Sim and was raced by Brian, Ray Taiaroa and Dave Edwards. He was originally trained by Gavin Hampton.

“I couldn’t get him going for a start. It took me a few weeks and I was a bit fitter in those days as I was coaching the Woodland Rugby thirds. I figured out that I had to do everything first with him. First in the box, and feed him first because otherwise he’d kick the boxes.”

Naval Officer’s biggest win was the 1984 New Zealand Derby when he was trained by Mike DeFilippi. It’s a race best remembered for its major crash in which nine horses either fell, were pulled up or lost their driver. Only five runners finished the race.

Naval Officer after his New Zealand Derby win

Trident

Trident won his first start in 1985 at Invercargill as a two year old. He went on that season to win the New Zealand Kindergarten Stakes, New Zealand Welcome Stakes and the $100,000 New Zealand Sires Stakes in Auckland. He won seven of his seventeen two year old starts and was named New Zealand Two Year Old of the Year.

“As a three year old both he and Captain Cavalla won heats of the Sires Stakes. In those days the Sires Stakes Final was held over a mile and it started on the bend at Addington. They drew seven and eight and finished fourth and sixth. I remember Peter Wolfenden (who drove Trident) saying that if we’d had better draws we would have quinellaed the race.”

Trident also ran second to Alba’s Reign in the New Zealand Derby beaten by half a head.

“He was a wee solid horse. Peter Wolfenden thought he was the best two year old he’d driven and compared him with Black Watch. Brian Hancock rated him as the biggest certainty beat in the Miracle Mile at Harold Park (1986).”

In all he won fourteen races including the 1986 New Zealand Messenger where he beat stablemate Captain Cavalla.

“He was a hard horse to get right. He was a bugger to pick up viruses. On his day he was very good.”

Trident and John Hay – Photo Race Images

Spirit Of Zeus

Spirit Of Zeus’s major win was in the 1995 New Zealand Sires Stakes Final for three year olds. He recorded a number of group placings including second to The Court Owl in the Great Northern Derby. From twenty one starts he won eleven races and banked $243,472. From November 1995 until February 1996 he won five races in a row.

“He was a very fast horse. He won the Sires Stakes Final in a New Zealand record.”

Spirit of Zeus winning the NZ Sires Stakes Final at Addington – Photo Race Images

Cigar

Soky’s Atom gelding Cigar was unlucky to come up against champion two and three year old Courage Under Fire but he was still good enough to win the New Zealand Kindergarten Stakes at his first start. He also won the Southern Supremacy Stakes at three.

From forty seven starts Cigar won twelve races and earned his connections $242,905.

“He was twenty seven times first or second in his forty seven starts. Most of that was in classic racing. He would have been a very good horse if he hadn’t run into Courage Under Fire. As a two year old be won the Kindergarten by ten and a half lengths and the Sapling Stakes by ten lengths.”

Bold Sharvid

Bold Sharvid was a readymade racehorse that O’Meara trained to win four races.

“I remember when I got him he was pretty uncontrollable. It took me a while to get him right. He was a pretty smart horse that should have won The Lion Red Mile Grand Final when Tony Shaw drove him. Tony froze on him and didn’t take him out at the top of the straight and he finished under a stranglehold.”

Reba Lord

Reba Lord was another renegade. A Lordship colt out of Aberfeldy he won seventeen races all up – three for O’Meara.

“He was an outlaw when I got him. I remember when he arrived in the truck. Tony Robb who was working for me at the time got carted about three hundred metres down a race.”

When he was in Auckland local horse dentist Vern Trillo looked after Brian’s horses and on one visit he was reintroduced to Reba Lord whom he’d dealt with before.

“He said, ‘I’m not doing him, he’s a killer.’ I said I’d bring him out of the box and then he could do his teeth. He stood back for a while then he came over and he couldn’t believe it. He was as quiet as. I think under my care he would have become a very good horse. I changed things around with him and he became a very kind horse. He was one horse that just clicked with me.”

Captain Cavalla

Captain Cavalla was also bought from Grant Sim. The Midshipman gelding was a model of consistency, winning eight races from fifty two starts. He was placed behind stablemate Trident in the New Zealand Messenger.

“He was a handy horse. He went huge in the Sires Stakes Final (4th)

Sir Ivanhoe

Lordship colt Sir Ivanhoe was another to show potential but he also had a nasty side like a lot of the colts produced by Lordship.

“I let Racheal my daughter train him. She won races with him. She went down to get him one day and he was worked up because he was a colt. He downed Racheal in the paddock and nearly killed her. I sent him off the property. I was going to shoot him.”

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar was bought by O’Meara as a young horse before Christian Cullen was on the scene.

“He wasn’t a Cullen, the only reason I bought him was because I knew how good Cullen was and I thought I might as well buy the brother which I don’t normally do, but I liked him enough.”

As a racehorse he finished second to Lennon in the Cardigan Bay Stakes of 2002 beaten a neck before running second to the same horse in the Sapling Stakes at Ashburton but his racing career was cut short by a paddock accident.
“He was running around in the paddock on a frosty morning. He slipped over and cracked his pelvis. That finished him.”

He went on to have moderate success at stud.

Thunder N Lightning

Thunder N Lightning was another promising young horse which O’Meara trained as a two year old. He too was unable to reach his potential.

“I had Cullen and Cigar in Auckland and left Thunder N Lightning with the boys down south. I got them to ship him up but he damaged his suspensory. I don’t know what happened. I started him in the Cardigan Bay Stakes and he won by two and three quarter lengths. He was smart horse.”

He only started once for O’Meara for a win. Three years later he had two more starts for Barry Purdon winning once and finishing second in his only other start.

Sir Nero

Brian thought a lot of of Nero’s BB cold Sir Nero when he was a youngster. He was out of Berry, a half-sister to Really Sly, the winner of five races and Sir Bret which won six.

Bred by Southlanders Irene and Jim Holland Sir Nero’s pedigree was well known to O’Meara as he’d raced Ho Ho King which was out of Eden’s Pride. Eden’s Pride was the third dam of Sir Nero.

“I had him the same year as Tight Connection. We secretly thought he was slightly inferior to Tight Connection. He’d won a trial by twenty lengths with Maurice McKendry. I was getting him treated by a vet and he dropped dead after been treated with iron. That broke my heart because I owned him.”

Sailor’s Corner

The O’Mearas also bought Sailor’s Corner which Brian’s wife Lynnette owned. He never raced here but won eighteen races in Australia and was beaten by a half a neck by Another Party in the 2001 Hunter Cup.

Clearly over the years Brian O’Meara geared up a lot of good horses.

Although he didn’t train many fillies, he did train Gail Devers to win a heat of the Sires Stakes at her first start before David and Catherine Butt took over her training.

“I also trained Oscar Wild for the same owner, Richard Cornelius. He ran third in a heat of the Sires Stakes at his first start. I buggered my shoulder up at one stage and I couldn’t train so I had to give the horses away.”

It was with colts that he had his most success.

“With a good colt, they try a wee bit harder if you look after them. If you knock them around, no. It’s really a patience game. The one thing you can’t buy in a horse is that will to win. You sort of have to make that. If you look after them they try for you.”

Although O’Meara started his career in Southland he spent the majority of his time in Canterbury, and for a period he trained in Auckland. During that time he saw first-hand how race horses can change some people.

“Derek Jones once said to me that most people fall out over a good horse. He said ‘you’ve had so many it’s a wonder anyone talks to you.’ I think being brought up in Southland, a handshake completed the deal. You could shake hands with every bugger in Southland and it would be their word. My word it changes when you get to Auckland and even in Canterbury.”

He noted that the stakes were a lot higher in Auckland. He said one syndicate ended up owing him $350,000 after the New Zealand share market collapsed in 1987.

“I’ve seen a lot of people change after success too, and the value of the horse all of a sudden is inflated. That side of it is sad.”

These days O’Meara has stepped out of the fast lane, training a handful of horses with the stable star at the moment being Di Caprio. The Shadow Play entire has won six races for just twenty starts and is nominated for the New Zealand Cup.

“He’s a very underrated horse. He’s a tremendous stayer. I think he’ll just get better. He broke a sesamoid bone and has only had a few starts in the last eighteen months.

Last season he won the Hororata Cup, Kawatiri Cup (Westport) and Waimate Cup.

“He should have won the Grey Valley Cup but was knocked over. After that he was out for a year and was boxed for eight months. He didn’t have a trial or a workout and went into the Waimate Cup and broke the track record.”

Di Caprio has been in outstanding form this season, running a close second to Classie Brigade in the New Brighton Cup, beaten by half a head.

“When you look at the tape he was half a length in front just after the line. He’s come through the race in tremendous order and I think he’ll improve quite a bit.”

O’Meara’s also developing a couple of young horses including Somebeachsomewhere pacer Mandalay Bay which is out of five win Bettor’s Delight mare On The Town.

“Very powerful horse; lovely pacer. Kerry O’Reilly broke him in and he rated him.”

O’Meara’s daughter Racheal bought Mandalay Bay at last year’s sale for $30,000. He’s closely related to Roman Gladiator.

The other two year old O’Meara is currently training is Princess Meritaten which is by A Rocknroll Dance out of The Princess.

Brian now lives in Rangiora and trains from his stable at Fernside.

Lynnette and Brian’s family have been supportive of his career. Daughter Lisa is a fashion designer based in London, son Paul manages the Nelson and Blenheim branches of Fulton Hogan, and Rachael manages a Freight Solution Company.

All three are interested in harness racing with Paul and Rachael having shares in a number of horses.

The numbers (see below) say it all. Brian O’Meara has had incredible success, not only because he has an eye for good stock, but also because he has a way of encouraging and nurturing horses that brings out the best in them.

Not only has he trained a great champion in Christian Cullen, he’s also trained a host of other very good horses. It’s no surprise his strike rate in the harness racing industry is exceptional.

Naturally the racing has provided it’s share of downs as well as ups for Brian and his family, but that’s the nature of the sport. We hope there’ll be another high this November, when Di Caprio lines up in the New Zealand Cup.

Brian’s Top Sixteen:

  • Christian Cullen (31-22-2-2 $1,249,150)
  • Trident (47-14-8-3 $235,045)
  • Spirit Of Zeus 21-11-2-2 $243,472
  • Tight Connection (11/18 wins for O’Meara)
  • Tuapeka Knight (11 of 12)
  • Cigar (10 of his 12 wins)
  • Captain Cavalla (8 of 8)
  • Oscar De La Hoya (7 wins)
  • Hone Heke (6 wins from 8 starts)
  • Really Honkin (5/8)
  • Holmes Boy (5 wins)
  • Bold Sharvid (4 of 13)
  • Sir Ivanhoe (4 of 6)
  • Hey Jude ( 4 from 18 starts)
  • Reba Lord (3 of 17 wins)
  • Naval Officer (2/6)

Winning Drivers:

John Hay (50), Danny Campbell (37), Anthony Butt (24), Ricky May (16), Robert Cameron (10) and Alan Scobie (9).

Horse Awards:

  • 1984/1985 New Zealand Two Year Old of the Year – Trident
  • 1987/1988 Two Year Old of the Year – Tight Connection
  • 1986/1987 Two Year Old of the Year – Tuapeka Knight
  • 1998/1999 Four Year Old of the Year – Christian Cullen
  • 1998/1999 Horse of the Year – Christian Cullen.

Brian O’Meara’s Bottom line:

  • Lifetime: 1001-213-1309-98 $3,080,340 UDR .3176
  • His biggest season as a trainer: 1999 – 61-22-7-3 $603,543 UDR .4408. The success was led by two horses; Christian Cullen and Cigar.

 

 

SBSR On A Roll

Bruce Stewart

27th September 2020.

Mach Shard played the lead role in a hot twenty four hours of success for Southern Bred Southern Reared horses on both sides of the Tasman.

Jimmy Mack – Photo Bruce Stewart

The Mach Three gelding bred by Debbie and Mark Smith capitalised on the perfect trip to get up and win Friday night’s Spring Cup at Alexandra Park with favourite Copy That a head back in second.

Trained by Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan it was the six year old’s ninth win and he has now won $353,594.

Earlier in the night Christianshavtime bred by Murray Little impressively won R59-R78 pace. Trained by Logan Hollis and Scott Robertson the American Ideal gelding sat in the one out line for most of the trip. Just before straightening driver Maurice McKendry hooked the four year old wide and be came down the middle of the track to win by a length and a quarter. His time was an impressive 2-39.7.

Christianshavtime’s second dam Dream Angel is a full sister to multiple group winning mare One Dream.

Further south at Addington southern bred horses quinellaed the Sire Stakes Three Year Old Trotters Prelude.

Leaf Stride bred by Michelle Caig of Winton won the 1950 metre feature by half a head from Son Of Patrick which was bred by Nathan Williamson.

It was Leaf Stride’s second win in as many starts and both trainer Phil Williamson and driver Matty Williamson have a good opinion of the Love You gelding.

Later on the card the royally bred Arden’s Ace got up to nab pacemaker Under Wraps by a head. Arden’s Ace is by Art Major out the sixteen win race mare Venus Serena. The win was the three year old’s second win in as many starts. He was bred at Arden Lodge in Tapanui by John Stiven.

Arden’s Ace – Photo Bruce Stewart

Across the Tasman two Southland bred mares quinellaed the Group Three Ladyship Pace at Menangle last night.

Bettor Enforce bred by Ben and Karen Calder won her sixteenth race when she beat another Southland mare Havtime running the mile in 1-49.8. Bettor Enforce has now won over a quarter of a million dollars.

Meanwhile at Gloucester Park in Western Australia on Friday night Jimmy Mack, Rakasinc and Talkerup all bred in the south, won their respective races.