Southern Trotters – The New Brigade

Southern Trotters – The New Brigade

Bruce Stewart

The southern region has always produced good trotters, but it appears the quality of trotting stock in the region has gone to another level.

I’m old enough (Bruce Stewart) to remember trotters like Airdrie, Cool Cat, Regal Flyer and Brother James, all starting off long marks in the province. Then in the nineties we produced topliners David Moss, Night Allowance and Diamond Field.

For decades Colin Baynes bred from trotting mares like Flying Maiden and now his son Kenny is adding his spin to the tried and true southern trotting breed. Flying Maiden is the fourth dam of Full Noise, a young four year old which looks to have developed this season into a nice rounded horse.

Ray Jenkins breeding stock produced high speed trotter Tobago and a host of other good winners.

Fast forward to the present, and the south in truly excited about some new comers which are putting southern trotters back on the map. Horses like Ultimate Stride, Cracker Hill, Get Lucky, Chinese Whisper and Full Noise are not only breaking track records for their age group, but are winning good races here and abroad.

Full Noise the winner of four races from thirteen starts was good enough as a two year old to run second to Lotamuscle in the Hambletonian, and second to Enhance Your Calm in the Two Year Old Ruby at Cambridge.

Full Noise – Photo Bruce Stewart

Get Lucky as a two year old ran second to Enhance Your Calm in the New Zealand Two Year Old Trotting Stakes and at three won the Listed New Zealand Sales Three Year Old Final at Addington.

Get Lucky – Photo Bruce Stewart

Ultimate Stride particularly has blazed a new path for juvenile trotters winning two of his six races in this country before going to Australia and winning all three of his starts. His wins in Australia included the $50,000 Group One Redwood Classic and the $100,000 Group One Breeders Crown for two year old colts and geldings. His lifetime earnings are already $87,224 which also reflects how far the trotting stakes structure has come in the last decade.

Ultimate Stride – Photo Bruce Stewart

Chinese Whisper is rated highly by trainer Nathan Williamson and has won two of his four starts.

Chinese Whisper – Photo Bruce Stewart

Williamson has a host of young trotters coming through the ranks and also has a high opinion of an unqualified three year old filly named Mitre Peak (Peak – Bet’s Best).

The profile of trotting has also been lifted by some of the other young Southland trainers including Alister Black, Tony Stratford, Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis. And Brett Gray is buying and developing more trotters.

Further up the road in Oamaru New Zealand’s leading trainer of trotters Phil Williamson continues to apply his craft with remarkable results and right next door son Brad is well on his way, with his star trotter Cracker Hill.

On the breeding front who would have thought (other than Michelle Caig) that a Southern trotting yearling would sell for $60,000.00 at the National Sale in Christchurch. But her persistence and belief in breeding from Group One winning mare Merinai and her daughters has finally paid a sizeable dividend with Dreamsinthe Mist (an Angus Hall colt out of Sun Mist, a daughter of Merinai) selling at the 2018 Sales for $60,000. Sun Mist’s next foal by Love You sold for $90,000 – the second highest price in the trotters section that year.

Both Cracker Hill and One Over You (renamed Ultimate Stride) also when through the sale ring that day. Cracker Hill was passed in while One Over You sold for $160,000.

Caig is also breeding from Lindy Lane mare City Lane, the dam of Renezmae and Saratoga.

Even long time SBSR breeder Dave Kennedy who’s famous for his ‘Beaudiene’ pacing breed has ventured into the trotting market purchasing Earl mare, Ugly Betty.

“I’d been looking at getting into a good trotting broodmare for a couple of years and managed to acquire Rae Galleon (in foal to Father Patrick) to take the foal out. She was at Tall Tree Stud,” said Kennedy.

Tall Tree Stud Master Kevin Williams also mentioned that Ugly Betty which has a Quaker Jet colt at foot and was in foal to Creatine, was also for sale. So after agreeing on a price Kennedy bought the Ugly Betty package.

“I really wanted a trotter from a top producing family so being out of Niamey, it ticked all the boxes.”

Consequently Kennedy has a colt by Love You’s best son Quaker Jet going to this year’s sales and in 2021 he’ll present two colts – one by Father Patrick out of Rae Galleon, and the other by Creatine out of Ugly Betty.

This family has produced Springbank Sam, the winner of twenty nine races and over $500,000 and quality trotting filly Pocaro, the winner of thirteen races.

Trotting could be viewed as having been the saviour of harness racing. Whilst unfortunately horse numbers in the pacing side of the industry fall, trotting numbers are holding their own and on some race days clubs are carding three trotting races.

Duncan McPherson from Aldebaran Park in Australia was in Southland last season and is well aware that Southland has produced some great pacing horses over the years. However he says we now have the opportunity to get fully into breeding world class trotters.

“In Australia we have very brown paddocks and are hard feeding. If we can understand where our food bowl is and where our potential outcome needs to be, I think there’s an opportunity to breed world class horses in Southland,” he said.

And he says breeders in New Zealand and Australia now have access to the best trotting genetics in the world.

“We need to understand that we’ve been behind in our breeding. I always said that it’s a twelve to fifteen year programme for us to catch up, but as long as we’ve got our Muscle Hill and Dream Vacation mares we can probably catch up a bit quicker. I think we’re between year eight and year ten at the moment. Australian and New Zealand Trotting has one of the fastest growing gene pools in the world. We can now go to studs in America and Europe and command some respect. Fifteen years ago they frowned upon us.”

And he says Australasia has the fastest growing sub two minute trotting gene pool in the world.

“We’re breeding greater number of trotters than ever before. Finland only has between 150 and 200 broodmares. Australia has a gene pool of between 800 and 1000 mares.”

Duncan McPherson (right) with HRNZ Board member Kevin McNaught – Photo Bruce Stewart

Trotting now has its own day at the National Sales and trainers who’ve bought and raced primarily pacers, are starting to stock up with more trotters. This has a lot to do with the stakes trotting races now attract.

Southern Bred Southern Reared have seven trotters in this year’s New Zealand National Standardbred Yearling Sales in Christchurch. Two colts by Creatine, and colts by Love You, Father Patrick, Quaker Jet, Peak, and a filly by Pegasus Spur.

The impact of sires like Love You and Majestic Son have resulted in producing trotting stock that are more precocious, and we shouldn’t forget the impact the mighty Sundon has had in adding pacing speed to our trotters. His mares are still doing a remarkable job in the breeding barn.

With young stock by stallions like Father Patrick and Creatine coming on stream the future looks bright.

A stallion worth a mention is Superfast Stuart which from a limited book has produced a host of good trotters. It’s just a matter of time before this son of Kadabra produces a top liner.

He’s the sire of Super Fast Pat the New Zealand Track Record Holder for 2400 metre mobile.

Super Fast Pat – Photo Bruce Stewart

On the programming front Southern Harness has recognised the need to support trotting, and has introduced the Gold Chip Series, and the Southland Trotting Oaks, with stakes of $15,000 and $18,500. respectively.

Whilst trotting may have played second fiddle to pacing for a long time, that’s changing with the introduction of faster trotting stallions, and support on the stakes front. More buyers are proving to be interested in purchasing trotters and it’s great to see trotting on the rise.

This article is sponsored by Southern Bred Southern Reared