Beckie Gets 800 (Wednesday 3rd January 2018)


Bruce Stewart


Popular Southland horseman Allan Beck reached a milestone at Winton on Sunday when he drove his 800th winner - Gotta Minute.


He said he was aware he was getting close to the mark and that it was possible he'd achieve it on his home track. 


“I thought I would (go close) because my own team was starting to go good. Then Des (Des Baynes) was on a roll, winning with his three and that helped the tally a bit. I thought Alfie Romeo would be my best chance (on Sunday) with the way it’d been trialling. But it was that wee fella (Gotta Minute) that won the last. He went a good race when he won three weeks ago but he wasn’t impressive. He jumped up in grade quite a bit. I thought it might have been out of his league but he got the good run and it worked out good,” he said.

Beck began his career under the guidance of his father Bob who was training at Winton at the time. Allan's  first win came in February 1984 when he guided the classy filly Josephine Bret home to win by two lengths at Gore.


He drove eleven winners in his first season as a Junior - all for his father. They included Josephine Bret (3), My Girl (2), Free Bret (2), Beaudiene Scott (2), Awakite and Paleface Bret. 


Also in his first season of driving, he won four races in one day. It was at Winton in March 1984 when he reined home Josephine Bret to win the Southland Oaks Final, and Awakite, My Girl and Beaudiene Scott to win their respective races.


His second, and what was to be his last season as a Junior, produced nine winners. In 1986 he joined the Open Drivers ranks and also started his career as a trainer after his father relocated to Ashburton.


"I was up there too and we worked together. He had a job at the works in Ashburton. I was going to get one as well but couldn’t. I still had my job at the Freezing Works down here so I came back and leased land off Roddy McFarlane right beside where I’m living now. I ended up with a few horses so decided to stay and train them. I had Beaudiene Byrd in that first season and she won five of her seven starts. That got me going. I stayed at the works for a few years and did the horses. When I applied for my Trainers Licence they took my Junior Drivers Licence off me so that’s why I was only a Junior for two seasons.”


In the early days Beck also had a Jockeys Licence. 

“I had an amateurs licence for one year. When I left school Hunter McHugh had a jumper and he talked me into getting an amateurs licence so I could ride it.”


Alongside driving has own horses, he started to drive for Ray Faithful in the early 1990s, with his first winner for Faithful being Oberoni at Forbury Park October 1991.


It was a partnership that was to win many provincial cups and Tartan Lady was to provide Beck and Faithful with a Group One winner in Tartan Lady which won the New Zealand Breeders Stakes in 1999.


“I drove all his horses when he was at Lochiel. Tartan Lady ran out of her class down here and went to Cran Dalgetys. Then he got Feverish and she won about six.”


Of all of the 800 winners, Josephine Bret his first winner stands out. 


“Your first one is always special. I think the most precious one was with Shortys Girl when she won the Breeders the second time. She hadn’t raced for quite a while and went into the race fresh. She won and broke the track record.”

Beck has also had a good association with a handful of good trotters over the years and he developed multiple group winner Diamond Field. He also trained handy intermediate square gaiter Prince Whiz which won the Forbury Park Trotting Cup.


“That was always a good race and he was only a three win horse. Eastburn Grant was in it and he’d come back from winning the Rowe Cup.”

Tact Tar was one horse Beck trained and drove that he says never reached it's potential. The Boyden Hanover gelding raced for one season as a six year old, winning three of his twelve starts including a double at Ashburton in June 1988.

“He had a lot of issues but was unsound. He would have gone a lot further.”

As Beck looks back at his long career in the race cart, he reflects on the many changes. He says one positive change has been the number of younger drivers that are involved in the industry. 


"When I started there weren't the same amount of young fella’s in the game. Now they’re all younger."



Another change has been the way races are run. He says an uncontested lead for a horse is very much a thing of the past.


“Those days are gone.”


He also says the standardbreds are more durable now.


“The horses seem to be able to work a bit more and they don’t seem to stop. Once upon a time if you worked a horse too hard it would only run home in 30 seconds. Now they can work and still run home in 28. The Standardbreds have improved so much. When you go back forty years in the galloping side they used to go 1-08 to win the Telegraph Handicap at Trentham. They still only go 1-08. Forty years ago in the Standardbreds they were flat in going 1-55 (for a mile). Now they’re going 1-50. We can get the best artificial semen in the world for our mares but all the gallopers are served naturally, so if you want the best you have to send your mare over to England to get them served. The race carts have improved, so that’s made a difference.”


He says the country now has a very good depth of young driving talent. 


“When I started off Henry (Skinner) was the best. Southland’s probably blessed with a lot of good drivers like the Williamson boys and Brent Barclay. You wouldn’t be disappointed to have any of them driving for you. Dexter’s just another dimension. He’s just a freak and we’ll probably not see another one like him again. He’s just like the Chris Johnson of the racing world. Dexter’s just got a gift and they seem to run for him.”

Beck freely admits that he's not an overly aggressive driver, something that was instilled in him early on.


"It was something I was brought up with. If you burnt them out you couldn’t back up with them the next week.”


And like many drivers in those earlier years he was pretty much self taught. 


“You just picked it up yourself. Dad hardly ever drove. You’d sit down after a race and talk about the drive with him but you’d know yourself what you'd done wrong.”


In thirty four seasons of driving he says he's been lucky to have escaped any major injuries.


In January 1988, in a heat of the Forbury Park Four Year Old Series, seven horses went down or were pulled up including his drive Black Print. He walked away injury free from that smash but wasn’t quite so lucky when Franco Cuisine, in a heat of the Sires Stakes at Invercargill in October 1994, fell. Beck was away from driving for six weeks after that accident.


He rates Josephine Bret and Shortys Girl as the best female pacers he’s driven, Bee Bee Cee as the best male pacer and Diamond Field as the best trotter.

Shortys Girl was the horse he drove to win the most races (11), followed by Bee Bee Cee and Tartan Lady (10).


Other trainers he drove successfully for were Graham Bond (23), Des Baynes (22), Ian Wilson (16), Peter Davis (11), John Keenan (10) and Derek Dynes (10). 


“Graham had a good team when he was at Drummond and I did all his driving. In the last ten years I haven’t been chasing the drives - now that I’m a bit older.”


Beck has won the Southland Drivers Premiership five times; 1989,1992,1993,1997 and 1999. His best season as a driver was in 1999 when he drove 42 winners for a UDR of .2348.




First winner: Josephine Bret at Gore February 18th 1984.


800th winner: Gotta Minute at Winton December 31st 2017. 


Beck driving stats:

  • Trained by Allan Beck  295

  • Ray Faithful 70

  • Graham Bond  23

  • Des Baynes  22

  • Bob Beck (father) 16

  • Ian Wilson  16

  • Peter Davis  (EJP) 11

  • John Keenan 10

  • Derek Dynes 10

 Biggest winners (by wins)

  • Shortys Girl 11

  • Bee Bee Cee 10

  • Tartan Lady 10

  • Tact Halsey 8

  • Amiable Popular 6

  • Diamond Field 6

  • Preiswert 6

  • Prince Whizz 6

  • Feverish 6

  • Imperiora 6

  • Cordon Hops 5

  • Black Print 5

  • Mavora Boy 5

  • Glen Atom 5


    Southland Drivers Premierships: 1989 (35), 1992 (34), 1993 (29), 1997 (28) and 1999 (42).


    Beck has won most Provincial Cups and Finals in Southland and Central Otago including:


    Southland Oaks: Josephine Bret (1984), Adrenalin (1989), Tartan Lady (1998) and Shortys Girl (2001).


    Wyndham Cup: Tact Halsey (1996), Feverish (2000), Franco Novella (2003) and Flamin Tact (2006)


    Central Otago Cup: Horatius (1990), Admiral Smooth (1992), Preiswert (1996) and Tartan Lady (1999)


    Roxburgh Cup: Imperiora (1997), Brydone (2004) and Seelster Blue Jeans (2005).


    Group One wins: New Zealand Standardbred Breeders Stakes: Tartan Lady (1999), Shortys Girl (2002 and 2003) 


    Group Two wins: Southland Oaks Final - Shortys Girl (2001), Law Courts Hotel Trotting Cup at Forbury Park - Prince Whiz (1998), Southland Oaks Final - Tartan Lady (1998) and Forbury Park Four Year Old Championship Final - Bee Bee Cee (1994).


    Group Three wins: Southland Oaks Final - Adrenalin (1989) 


    Pacing winners: 728/800


    Trotting winners: 72/800


    Total stakes won: $4,846,019 



  Ardtoo Upsets In Final (Wednesday 3rd January 2018)


Bruce Stewart


The Wyndham trained Ardtoo upset some more fancied runners in the Fairbairn Plumbing Limited Nuggets Final at Winton on Sunday.


He was the rank outsider in the small field at $62.60 to win on the tote.


Driver Craig Ferguson got the Auckland Reactor gelding through from the second line draw but was left parked for the first 1400 metres of the races. When Born To Run came around Ardtoo finally got cover. At the top of the straight he came out four wide and ran home resolutely down the middle of the track to win easily by two and a half lengths from favourite Shebang. His time of 2-59.1 was good on the slushy Central Southland Raceway. 


The three year old is owned by his trainer Russell Ferguson and his wife Susan. Sunday's win was his second in a row, having had a win earlier in the month at Invercargill.


"I knew it was a strong field but I was half confident because he's got this sheer amount of ability. People didn't share my confidence." Russell said he was surprised at how much the gelding paid.


As part of the horse's training regime Ferguson has been taking him into Invercargill for some fast work.


"I brought him to Invercargill on Thursday and he fast worked against one of Steve Lock's galloping pacemakers. He worked super." 


Ferguson says he's now considering taking the horse for a road trip to Addington.


"Yes, we'll look at that because he'll need to be ready for what we're targeting. We'll look at some age group racing so we can watch our rating points. We don't want to be racing older seasoned horses. Craig has backed me on that and has said to aim him at some decent races." 


In the meantime Ardtoo has been turned out for a bit of a mid season break. 


"He's in the paddock for ten days to a fortnight. Then we'll come back for the super final of the Nuggets. We'll support that Series all the way through because its a good concept. That'll lead us to the Supremacy Stakes."  


Ardtoo is named after Wyndham Rural Delivery (RD2).


"We own the RD run at Wyndham which Susan does so that's how he got his name." 


Ferguson says he had some interest in the horse as a two year old but he declined it, and says he's not surprised he hasn't been approached this season.


"It doesn't surprise me. I turned them all down last season and told them I was keen to keep him. We'll carry on racing him at the moment because we're having a bit of fun." 






Two for Todd (Wednesday 3rd January 2018)


Bruce Stewart


It was the 'old firm' at work on Sunday when the Regan Todd trained Spirit Of Delight and driver Brendon 'Snow' McLellan won the AON Insurance Southern Belle Equine Stakes at Winton.


Todd began his harness career with McLellan before heading north to work for Davey and Catherine Butt and then later for Mark Jones. 


"He drove my first winner (Del Sur - Gore September 2010) and my fiftieth winner. He's got a pretty good strike rate for me old Snowy," said Todd. 


In Sunday's race, McLellan took Spirit O Delight straight to the front from barrier one and despite been tapped up inside the last 400 metres she came away to beat Kiwi On Show by three quarters of a length.


Todd says this race had been on the stable radar for some time. 


"When we turned her out at the end of last season Charlotte Mooney was in charge of the Syndicate and we thought this race would be a good one for her. Winning the race also qualifies her of the Southern Belle Speed Series Final. It's worked out perfectly and it's pretty pleasing when it pays off."  


Spirit Of Delight has been with Todd since June last year after starting her career with Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick at Papakura. Her three wins to date have been from the Todd barn.


"She raced in some good races up north but they decided to send her down for some beach training so we're pretty lucky to get her really. I think she used to feel her knees a bit but we've had no issues that way with her. Being on the soft surface all the time has helped her." 


She's owned by the Woodlands Partnership Syndicate who are All Black captain Kieran Reed, former All Black halfback Andy Ellis, Dave Hewitt new Southland Stags coach, and RJ (Dick)Taylor. The same partnership owns trotter Speeding Spur.


"I haven't met them yet but it'll be good to bump into them one day. I'm still a Stags fan."


Todd says although Spirit Of Delight has started over shorter sprint distances for the majority of her career he feels she'll be even better over longer distances.


"When she races in those mares races, (for example the) 2600 metre mobile you'll probably see the best of her then. She doesn't worry about things too much and she's pretty laidback and relaxed. It looked like she was going to get beat on Sunday, then at the end she kicked away."    


Her dam Spirit Of Eros has been a great broodmare leaving Crown Law, the winner of 18 races in Australia and another 10 in America, Bettor Spirits the winner of 14 races, Spirit And Desire 14 wins and Spirit Of Art 6 wins.

Spirit Of Eros has a Sweet Lou colt in next month's Australasian Classic Yearling Sale in Auckland.


"There's some good mares races (for Spirit Of Delight) at Addington at the start of February so I'll target them now to see if she can measure up to those better ones. I think she can, but you don't know until you try. I know she lead up the other day but she's probably better driven off them."  


Todd had further success yesterday when first starter Hicori won at the Central Otago meeting at Omakau. 


The three year old was initially trained by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen but was transferred to Todd's barn after having one workout as a two year old for the pair.


"He's just needed time and it was good of the owners to send him out to me at the beach. He's probably another three months away from being at his best. He's still a bit weak in his gait."  


Prior to yesterday's win he'd been to two workouts, won his qualifying trial at Banks Peninsula in October and finished third in another trial in North Canterbury in the middle of last month. 


Hicori's winning time of 3-20.9 for the 2600 metre stand was a new track record for three year old colts and geldings. The old mark of 3-21.1 was set by Guru in 2004.


"I've still got a bit of ironing out to do with him. He seems untapped really and every time he's gone off the place he's stepped up. He's going to have to keep improving but I don't think it's going to phase him going up in the grades. Dexter's (driver Dexter Dunn) of the opinion that he's still pretty green and he's going to take a lot of improvement out of it. It's good to hear that from a fella like him." 


Hicori is out of the five win Christian Cullen mare Paddy Brown and was bred by the Braeside Lodge in Palmerston North which is run by the Whitelocks.


"There's a Nuggets Final at Northern Southland next week but I've sent him home as it's probably going to be too much for him. It was stinking hot yesterday and you could tell he'd had a run after. We might come back in two or three weeks to see if he can measure up and be a Supremacy horse later in the season."  


Todd has had a training license for eight years and says he has twenty horses in work at the moment at Woodend Beach. At one point he was also looking after a good number of horses for Burnham trainer Mark Jones whom he used to work for fulltime.


"He just keeps two or three at the beach now. Not the numbers we used to. He's concentrating on the young ones now."  


Meanwhile quality gelding Swamp Major, who was knocked over and injured his hind fetlock at Winton last month is on the road to recovery. He had to be boxed after the injury and has been looked after by local vets Brendon Bell and Heather Cottle.


"The vets (Canterbury) are going to see him today and hopefully we can get him out into a paddock and get a bit of weight on him because he's lightened up heaps. Brendon and Heather did a great job in looking after him down south. He was boxed for four days before he was floated home. He should be alright. It's just a matter of letting that wound heal up. It's pretty disappointing because the owners have waited eighteen months to get him back to the races."  





Somejoy Supreme (Friday 12th January 2018)


Bruce Stewart


On paper it may have looked as if Somejoy was slightly disappointing at her last start when she ran seventh at Winton (at the end of last month), but trainer Clark Barron says after reviewing the mare's performance he was prepared to just walk away from the result.


"It was a very biased track at Winton the other day so I decided to come away from that run and forget about it. If it's wet, it's a different track. On the day anything that did work stopped, and all the favourites got beaten," he said. 


That all changed yesterday when Somejoy easily won a heat of the Southern Belle Speed Series at the Northern Southland Trotting Club's meeting at Ascot Park.


Barron took the Somebeachsomewhere mare forward from gate seven and ensured the race was run at a very fast pace. Her winning margin at the end of the 1700 metres mobile event was two lengths. Goodlookin Chick was second and there was another length and a quarter back to Hopes And Dreams in third place. The fourth runner was a further seven and a quarter lengths back.  


The winning time of 2-01.5 was only 0.1 of a second outside of the All Comers Track, Mares and Southland record of 2-01.4 jointly held by Betta Go Fernco (2017) and another trained Barron mare Raksdeal (2014). The final 800 metres was run in 56.9 seconds with the last 400 timed in a smart 26.8.



Somejoy beating Goodlookin Chick and Hopes And Dreams - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Returning - Photo Bruce Stewart. 


Barron says Somejoy has got stronger this season and is better equipped to stand up to the rigours of hard racing.


"Last season as a three year old they were running 57 mile rates for 2700 metres and she was running fifth or sixth. She's got a high cruising speed."  


Barron said after yesterday's run that he doesn't have any long term plans for the four year old mare other than the Southern Belle Speed Series Final. There are a couple of Group events at Addington for mares at the beginning of next month.   


"The main target is the series down here. The Robin Dundee Crown ($14,000 over 1700 metres) on Invercargill Cup Day is another race we'll look at. We'll see how we go in that and then we might look a bit higher. I don't know."


Yesterday's win was Somejoy's fifth in just fourteen starts and it continues the remarkable run of wins Barron has had with mares from this family. However he's reluctant to compare Somejoy with her dam and granddam at this point.  


"She's probably got a way to go yet. Her mother (Jumpforjoy) was pretty special and her mother (Joyfulbelle) was very good."


Barron also trained Giftofjoy, an Art Major filly out of Pride N Joy, to win her first race. The three year old was having her third start after finishing second and fourth respectively in her previous two races. She's out of Mach Three mare Pride N Joy who is also out of Joyfulbelle.


"Very pleasing and once again the family stepped up. It was great to get a win and a mile time. I've got a full brother in the sales." 


Giftofjoy winning in the hands of Blair Orange - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Returning after her first win - Photo Bruce Stewart. 








Aloka Wins Summer Cup (Friday 12th January 2018)


Bruce Stewart


It's great when a plan comes off - and it did yesterday when the Nigel McGrath trained three year old Aloka won the House Of Travel Lakers Summer Cup at the Northern Southland Meeting. 


"Nigel wanted the race run at tempo from the front. He was on his hands and knees at the finish but everything else was as well luckily," said driver Blair Orange.


Orange took the Bettor's Delight colt straight to the lead and made sure the race was run at even quarters. 


"He's not with the top tier of three year olds but he is with the ones in the middle. There's still a few things he does wrong but I think he'll get better and be a better horse in twelve months."


The winning margin was two and a half lengths with a game The Big Boss, which sat parked for most of the trip, finishing second. 


The overall time for the 2700 metres mobile was 3-21.0, a second outside the track and Southland record for three year olds of 3-19.1 held jointly by Highview Tommy (2009) and Eamon Maguire (2017).



Aloka and Blair Orange winning the Northern Southland Summer Cup - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Returning to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart. 


Aloka remains unbeaten at Ascot Park. In his only other start on the track last April as a two year old, he won the Diamond Creek Farm Two Year Old Classic.


The win was one of three for Orange, the country's leading reinsman. The others were with the Clark Barron trained Giftofjoy and another McGrath trained runner Gore Bay. 


Orange says it's likely Aloka will be back in late April to contest the $45,000 Group Two Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes on Diamonds Day. 


Aloka has a full-brother in next months Sale of the Stars in Christchurch.


Meanwhile Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray and stable driver Brent Barclay scored a treble at the meeting yesterday. The three winners were Bettor B Ready, Zealand Star and The Heart Rulz.



Better B Ready (11) for trainer Brett Gray, driver Brent Barclay and the MCC Syndicate - winning his third race - Photo Bruce Stewart. 



 Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart.




Brad Mowbray King of the Cups

(Saturday 6th January 2018)


Bruce Stewart



Hornby trainer Brad Mowbray was 'King Of Cups' for the Central Otago race meetings, winning all three cups on the circuit which wrapped up today at the Wyndham HRC meeting at Cromwell.


Never before has a trainer won all three cups; Central Otago, Roxburgh and Cromwell in one year. A remarkable feat spread over just five days. 


The winning spree began at Omakau on Tuesday when Tiger Thompson won the Group Three Central Otago Cup.


He's a quality son of Big Jim and from a limited career he's now won five of his eighteen starts. Last season as a three year old he was just below the best in his age group, but had some wayward tendencies and Mowbray says he was always going to get better with age.


"He starting to string a few together. We think he's maturing but I'm not going to nail my colours to the mast. All these trips away to Wyndham and Central Otago are really going to help him." 


There has been some talk about taking Tiger Thompson to Auckland to tackle some of the big four year old races but Mowbray hasn't got any set plans.


"I haven't decided with him. I think we might be able to do enough round here (South Island) and then worry about things when we get a bit older. He needs a little bit of nurturing as much as he needs toughening up. He's a pretty headstrong horse. You need the right people to handle him and you can't send the kid out to put him in the paddock. He's in charge. He starts misbehaving a bit more when he gets to the races. He's like a little kid at Christmas."


The second Cup in the prize cabinet was the Roxburgh Cup won on Thursday by quality four year old mare Delishka. She showed her toughness when under a hard drive by Matty Williamson she held out a spirited challenge to beat Royal Bengal by a head. It was the mare's first race from a standing start.  


"She's probably a bit underrated. It didn't surprise me that she won. I was really pleased she stepped because it was her first ever try."


Although there's some very good mares races like the Group Two Mares Championship and the Group One New Zealand Breeders Stakes coming up at Addington in February, Mowbray says he's looking to head across to Australia to race for some big money. 


"I think we're going to send her to Aussie. There's some pretty big mares races over there. Over a month there's about $400,000 in stakes she can run for just against the mares. Mel (Brad's wife) will go over with her. The Jewels is our main aim once she gets back."


Seven year old gelding Four Starzzz Shiraz completed the three cup wins when at odds of 57-1 he won the Cromwell Cup on the Cromwell grass track today. 


"He's an older horse who's done a few miles and he was always going to be a bit happier on something a bit softer. We just brought him down because we were bringing all the others but we thought he'd be half a show. I thought he'd go a good race today because he wasn't far away from a handy field on Tuesday (Central Otago Cup) and with the class difference I thought he won't be too far away."


The Four Starzzz Shark gelding was well handled by first season junior driver Charlotte Purvis. It was her third career win and first driving a pacer.


"She drove him one night at Addington for us and got on really well so we thought we'd give her another go."



Mowbray shares in the ownership with Christine Maynard, wife of amateur driver Mike Maynard. 


"We'll just potter way and might have another start in the Country Cups so we can get into the final. I didn't have any money on him and Mike only had five a place."


Four Starzzz Shiraz was bought by Mowbray and Maynard primarily as a horse to race in amateur driver races. He's been with the stable since July last year but had only had four starts for the stable prior to today's win. It was the gelding's ninth win in a sixty five start career.


Over the space of five days the three pacers banked the stable $33,000.  


"It'll be good if it was the Coast. We'd be getting a bit more," Mowbray said when reminded that the three race meeting circuit in Central didn't carry any bonuses unlike the one run on the West Coast.                        

Maybe this is something the Clubs could look at for next year. In the meantime Mowbray's pretty happy with his haul. 





New Race For Trotting Fillies (18th January 2018)


Bruce Stewart


A new trotting race for three year old fillies has been programmed in March - a first for Southland.


Sponsored by Haras des Trotteurs, the $20,000 Southland Trotting Oaks will be run over 2200 metres from behind the mobile at the Northern Southland Trotting Club meeting at Ascot Park on Saturday 10th March.


The race is two weeks prior to the Group Two New Zealand Trotting Oaks.


"Southland is a good fit for the race. It's a very strong standardbred nursery. Pat (Haras des Trotteurs principle Pat Driscoll) was very keen to develop and support fillies races. You also get good support as a sponsor in Southland. They appreciated your support and you tend to get that back more so than other centres. I've dealt with Bill McDonald (President of the Northern Southland TC) previously and he's very big on making sure the sponsors get values for their sponsorship," said Haras des Trotteurs General Manager Jonathan McNeil.    


The race will also be actively promoted by the New Zealand Standardbred Breeders who are keen to promote what has become the 'growing gait' in New Zealand harness. McNeil says there are other initatives which make trotting a significant part of the future of the industry here.


"The main focus of the operation is to grow the fillies races. We're involved in the trotting side of the Sires Stakes now. A part of that agreement was that the Sires Stakes Board look at developing a trotting fillies series for the Sires Stakes."  


He says that there are about 200-250 trotting fillies bred every year and if owners are presented with races like the Southland Trotting Oaks, then that will help grow the industry.


"If we can develop our trotting horses to a higher level and go forward it opens up a bit of a market. It's a long way from that at the moment but if we could produce the same world class trotters as we do pacers it would be great."


He says the Australians are also looking at ways to generate strong overseas revenue from trotting. 


"Every Monday night at Melton they make the last races trotting races. They're beamed into France lunch time Sunday. There's a million dollar turnover on those races from France. From a Haras de Trottuers point of view, once we start getting more horses with French sire lines, the French are going to recognise the pedigrees so you'll end up growing the market."


Haras des Trotteurs Principal Pat Driscoll is also keen to look at sending young trotting fillies over to New Zealand to help support the cause. 


"He's not afraid to send them over there and race them but only if it works. Right horses at the right time. You can't just go over there for one race. You need a few options if you have a bad day."


Hara des Trotteurs stand eleven trotting stallions and the one McNeil is most excited about is Used To Me the first French Group winner to stand in Australasia. He only has a small first season crop but they look very promising. 


"He had two starts here in Australia as well for two wins. Of this twenty two years old Anton's (Yabby Dam Farms trainer Anton Golino) best two year old fillies are both by Used To Me. So we're really excited about that. Potentially this horse has got a lot of up side. He stands in the flesh here and we shipped him to New Zealand just to get him up and running." 


Orlanda Vici is another French stallion McNeil is excited about.


"His oldest New Zealand progeny have just turned two. The people that've got them are really liking them. There's only a few."


So things are in place for the Southland Trotting Oaks to begin another chapter in the Southern Harness story.  


Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson is one who should be keen to support the event. He has four qualified or race winners that are eligible to start - Kenny's Dream, Majestic Galleon, South Park and Our Foxy Lady. 


And as for the day - it's added to an already mouth watering day of harness racing with other races including the three Group Three races - Southern Lights, Caduceus Club of Southland Two Year Old Fillies Mobile and Yaldhurst Hotel Northern Southland Cup. There's also the Super Nuggets Finals worth $20,000.








Ace Win (18th January 2018)


Bruce Stewart


The Brian Norman trained Ace Commander capitalised on a good trip to win the R40 R53  Trot at Wyndham this afternoon.


The four year old Monarchy gelding was trained last season by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen before being transferred south to Norman who has a share in the horse.  


"I wanted to have a crack at getting into the Jewels last season so I sent him north. Things came a bit unstuck. He actually had a hairline fracture in his back off hind leg. He was probably hanging before he left here and I think it was the reason he hung all the time. It's pinned now and he drives as straight as," said Norman.


He returned to Norman last year and made his debut for the Takakopa trainer at Gore at the end of last year.  


"I was confident in his ability (today) but it was whether he was fit enough. He's still pretty round. We raced at Gore just to try and get some weight off him and he wasn't really a winning chance that day. He had a trial at Gore on Friday, beat Golden Gate so that improved him. That run today would also improve him so hopefully we're going forward."



Ace Commander (7) beating Scarlett Lane by a neck - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Returning to the birdcage. One of two winners for Dexter Dunn - Photo Bruce Stewart 


Ace Commander is out of the Sundon mare Aceofdiamonds which won seven races for Sam Moore. She's left a number of winners, the best being Sky Commander which won three races here for Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray before he was exported to Australia. He's won a further thirteen races there and has been placed in a number of group races including second to Speeding Spur in the 2015 Group One Victoria Trotters Derby. He was initially trained by Brian Norman before being bought by Merv Butterworth and transferred to the Gray stable. 


"Sky Commander was a brilliant trotter. Whatever you asked him to do he'd do and keep going all day. This fella was a wee bit flighty but he got more speed and he's good this year."  


Norman says he's currently training twelve horses on his 540 acre farm at Tahakopa in the Catlins. He has a clay based undulating track in a paddock which he says is okay for older horses but not ideal to educate younger stock.


"I use the beach and go to Wyndham with the young ones. The horses love it down there but it's hard going. You just have to travel everywhere. I come to Wyndham once a week and just work around the track."

Meanwhile local Wyndham committee man Brendon Fahy scored a double on his home course today.


Raksbet a nicely bred Bettor's Delight filly out of Raksplace won her maiden race against the three year old fillies and older mares by a length and three quarters. She's a half sister to Raksdeal, Raksmach and Rakarolla.

Raksbet is trained by Clark Barron. Later in the day Rakarover won for Fahy and trainer Peter Hunter.



Raksbet (5) beating High Line by a length and a half - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Returning for Blair Orange - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart. 









The Machine Keeps Producing (18th January 2018)


Bruce Stewart


Since War Machine has been with Gore trainer Tony Stratford his formline has been near perfect - 2111011.


The giant four year old trotter impressively won again at Wyndham today.


In the Clark Barron Racing Stables Handicap Trot driver Dexter Dunn had the gelding nicely placed in the one off running line. At the 400 metres he moved off the back of Too Cool and finished stoutly down the outside to beat Grey Power by three quarters of a length. 



War Machine beating Grey Power. Nathan Williamson can't bare to watch - Photo Bruce Stewart



War Machine heading back to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart. 


"He's a pretty versatile trotter. The other day he did it from the top end but today he showed with a sit, that his speed is pretty wicked too. He's still learning and a bit green in his races. In that final 200 metres he can let down," said Dunn after the win.


Dunn says War Machine is doing a good job in the south but at some stage he'll need to be tested against the better quality trotters in the Canterbury region. 


"Wolfie (trainer Tony Stratford) says he'll probably have just one more start and have a freshen up. He's done a good job this prep and I guess he'll be heading up the road (Addington) at some stage."


War Machine is raced by Kenny and Jo Baynes who are having a great season with their trotters. The couple also own War Admiral which has won two of his five starts.


He's also been driven by Dunn.


"He's got a lot to learn yet. The ability is definitely there. Looking at him he looks like a four year old. He just has to learn to race in the field and come off other horses backs. It's just about more practice."    








Son Of Lana Wins For Big Group (Monday 22nd January 2018)


Bruce Stewart


Well Said gelding Son Of Lana gave a big group of owners a thrill at Ascot Park today when he easily won his first race on his home track.


The Murray Brown trained three year old is owned by the Kiwi Connection Syndicate, Fairsay Syndicate and a handful of other individual owners including regular stable clients Murray Heath, Bevan Brown and Barry Croft.


"He had a start as a two year old and broke a couple of times. In his last two starts we've got him. He was perfect last week and good again today. Scotty Ramsay (stable foreman) got the Onslow Street Squash Club involved while Arty (Arty Shirley) got together members of the Waikiwi Rugby Club," said Brown.


In today's race Son Of Lana settled back for driver Brent Barclay. He improved wide with just over a lap to run to sit parked. He took the lead just before turning in and beat a late charging Archman by a length and three quarters.  



Son Of Lana beating Archman (11) at Ascot Park today - Photo Bruce Stewart.






Returning to the birdcage with driver Brent Barclay - Photo Bruce Stewart.





Winning owners - Photo Bruce Stewart. 


He is out of the In The Pocket mare Long Live Lana which won twice for Paul Burrows. As a broodmare her first foal Delightful Lana won seven races in New Zealand and also campaigned in Australia where she had a number of group placings. Her best performance was running third in the Group One NSW Oaks won by Southland owned filly Fight For Glory which ran a World Record time of 2-50.3 for the 2400 metre mobile. Son Of Lana is Long Live Lana's third foal. 


"He seems quite sensible from the stand so a one win stand may suit him." 


Son Of Lana was purchased by Dave and Catrina Gordon for $27,000 at the 2016 Sale of the Stars sale. His name then was Marlboroman. The Gordon's have both since passed away and Catrina offered the horse for lease to the large group of owners last season.







Putting On The Fitz (Monday 22nd January 20180


Bruce Stewart


Consistent mare Annie Fitz provided Whiterig trainer Ross Wilson with his ninety seventh winner at Ascot Park today.


It was the Bettor's Delight mare's eighty eight race start and her second win but over the four seasons she has raced she's banked close to $33,000 for Wilson who also bred and owns the mare. She's run second nine times and third eight times.


"She's always been an honest race horse - just a bit small. She used to tie up badly so we've changed her diet. We've cut back on the oats and are giving her more sweet feed," said stable spokesperson Chris Wilson.  


The win also provided junior driver Charlotte Purvis with her first winning double. She'd won earlier on her employer Phil Williamson's trotter Springbank Ella. 


The pre-race plan from barrier one was to sit behind the leader and it worked perfectly with Chinook Winds taking up the pacemaking role with Purvis and Annie Fitz dropping in to get the trail. Once the field straightened, Annie Fitz sprinted up the passing lane to beat Hot Off The Press by half a length.


"Charlotte did a great job and was driven a treat. She's not a leader and has to hand up. She's starting to come up the lane better in the second half of her career than the first." 




Annie Fitz and Charlotte Purvis beating Hot Off The Press (9) - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Returning with a happy driver - Photo Bruce Stewart.




With owner - trainer Ross Wilson and son Chris Wilson - Photo Bruce Stewart.


The Wilson team have been relatively quiet over the Christmas New Year period with the team being affected by a bad virus.


"They've all had a turn in the paddock, but they're on the way up now. She's been working super this week and we weren't completely surprised that she won. It was a free win today being a junior drivers event so she's still in the same grade. With the right draw she'll be competitive in the right races." 


Ross Wilson has been a great supporter of junior drivers. Since he's been training, the majority of his winners have been driven by junior drivers including; Robin Swain, Mark Jones, Nathan Williamson, Dexter Dunn, Matthew Williamson, Jamie Campbell, Adam Sanderson, Cameron Jones and now Charlotte Purvis.  



Wilson, who is a member of the Drive With Five tipping competition on this website, selected Annie Fitz to win, placing the "Shu Bet" ($100 each way) on the mare for a return of $2,770. The highest return in the competition ever.  






Malak Cleans Up (Monday 22nd January 2018)


Bruce Stewart


Ana Malak added to the Southern Supremacy puzzle when he impressively won the seventh race at the Invercargill Harness Racing Club's meeting at Ascot Park today.


"He's qualified now and we're going to take a little step up on Saturday and line him up again, just to see where we're at against the better ones. He'll be nominated for the Derby but the Supremacy is his number one aim at this stage," said co-trainer Tony Barron.


The imposing Bettor's Delight colt sat parked for the entire journey taking over the lead when pacemaker Leah Mac broke with broken gear with 600 metres to run.


He went down to the line easily with driver Blair Orange not having to turn the stick. His winning margin was two and a quarter lengths from Mr Woodlea. The time for the 2200 metres was 2-43.3. 


"He's a very laid back colt. He's been in his box sleeping all afternoon. It was never ever going to worry him sitting out there. His work on Saturday was absolutely sensational so we expected a pretty big run. We've looked after him and he hasn't had too many starts. He just keeps developing every start and hopefully he'll continue to do so." 


Ana Malak was driven by stable driver Blair Orange.


"He's (Orange) pretty happy and left the ear plug in. He just jogged it really. It was a nice run without having a gut buster for Saturday," said Barron.






Jogging down to the line with Blair Orange Ana Malak - Photo Bruce Stewart.





Returning to scale - Photo Bruce Stewart.





Winning connectiosn with Tony Barron (centre) - Photo Bruce Stewart. 


Ana Malak is out of the Tinted Cloud mare Anna Livia which was bred by John and Karen Parsons. Anna Livia won nine races for Maghzal and is a half sister to Artiface which won ten. Anna Livia was trained by Davey and Catherine Butt. 


Barron moved to Canterbury at the start of the 2016 season after training successfully in Southland for most of his career. He's now into his second full season of training with brother Ken. 


"We're ticking over and getting wins every week. Love the move, but love getting back here and catching up with everyone." 


Horses already qualified for the $45,000 Group Two Southern Supremacy Stakes on Diamonds Day in April include The  Bus, Kilowatt Kid and Franco Santino.


Gaby Maghzal would dearly love to win the Supremacy. His horse Malak Uswaad ran second to Ohoka Texas in 2011. 






Archman Knighted
(Saturday 27th January 2018)

Bruce Stewart

Archman was a bit of a ‘talk’ horse early in the season and punters have certainly put some good money his way but in the four starts he's had prior to today he had no luck. Today the luck went his way for a change.

“With the favourite breaking, everything fell into place,” said co-trainer Jude Knight after the Somebeachsomewhere colt easily won his $10,000 maiden race.

From barrier five driver Rory Mcllwrick pushed Archman forward and when favourite Henry Hubert which ran out of barrier one broke, the lead was Mcllwrick's. From that point he dictated the pace and he held out his only challenger I'mallaboutthebase by a length and three quarters.

Archman which is owned by Judy Dillon of Ardlussa, is out of her good Camtastic mare Daisy Butler. Daisy Butler's first foal Jimbob Jac won nine races for Dillon. 

Knight says he a nice horse to train and one with personality. 


“He’s a bit of a character around home. We call him the circus horse. He knows how to open the electric fence gates, he’ll be in the paddock with someone else or munching away at the lucerne stack. He visits everyone and is really hard to keep in.”

That personality has made him a stable favourite with staff. 


“I have hardly ever driven him to be fair. When Genevieve Crawford worked here he was her favourite and when she left Rory took over and I can’t get near him.”

Mcllwrick, since relocating to Roxburgh, has become the stable's main driver and Knight says there are advantages in having last year's Junior Driver Champion helping out.


“It’s one of the benefits having Rory working for us. He helps me for a couple of hours a day so he really knows the horses. If they’ve got any little idiosyncrities, he knows.”


Rory Mcllwrick and Archman too good - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Rory Mcllwrick, Archman, Judy Dillon and Geoff and Jude Knight - Photo Bruce Stewart 


Knight believes Archman's got more wins ahead of him, but the stable will adopt a cautious approach. 


“I think there are better and bigger things ahead for him. We’re just looking after him at this stage. He’s still green. I saw him with a 1000 metres to go and his ears were flopping and he was looking at everything and he was just cruising. It’s just so easy for him. Even today Rory hasn’t turned the stick.”

It's not the first horse the Knights have trained for Dillon. Other Dillon owned horses in their stable have been Sonia Ellen and Ardlussa Express.

Two races later the Knights were in the winning way again when Franco Rebel easily won the Sheet Metalcraft Mobile Pace.

Driver Matty Williamson adopted the same tactics as Mcllwrick, taking the four year old McArdle gelding to the front. He won easily by three lengths.





Matty Williamson has time to grin when winning with Franco Rebel for the Central Courage Syndicate - Photo Bruce Stewart.



The grins still there heading back to the winners circle - Photo Bruce Stewart 





Especial Quinella (Saturday 27th January 2018)



Bruce Stewart

Kenny and Jo Baynes are having a great season with horses they own either together or in partnership -  winning a fair few races, mainly in the trotting gait.


Today at Ascot Park in the Arden Lodge Robin Dundee Crown their two runners quinellaed the race with Christian Cullen mare Especial beating Envious her half-sister.


Especial is trained by Tony Stratford at Gore while Envious is trained by Jo.


Both are out of the Falcon Seelster mare Especial Franco.  


“I’d tried to buy some of the mare's progeny but missed out so I bought the mare,” said Kenny.

Baynes says as a broodmare Especial Franco has left lots of winners including Elation Franco (8 wins), Equalizer (11 wins), Expressionist (6 New Zealand wins and numerous American wins), and her two local mares Envious (5 wins) and Especial (3 wins).


The mare was tragically lost just before Christmas when she was foaling A Rocknroll Dance colt. Both she and the foal died. 


“We’ve got a full sister at home to Envious. She’s a two year old but we’re not going to push her.”

Both Envious and Especial were having their first starts this season and Kenny was quick to hand the credit to their trainers.


“She’s (Especial) got a huge amount of talent and jogged it. It was a teriffic run from Envious too. She started from gate six and crossed and took the lead. It was a great training effort from Tony with Especial and Jo who works with him with Envious at the Gore track.”

Baynes says as both mares raced well into the winter last season, they were late in coming back into work but that strategy also had another side to it.


“We’ve kept them until later in the season so we didn’t have trouble over the summer with seasonal issues. We couldn’t be bothered with that so that’s why we’ve left them until a wee bit later.”

Baynes was unsure of where the two mares will go next but there looks to be a bit of travel and fun ahead. 


“If they’re in form you just push on. Tony rates Especial. You always know when she goes to the front and pins her ears forward that the rest of them are going to be in a power of shit. She’s just got a big motor but she just doesn’t know it. She’s only had six starts.”

For most of us looking on, Envious looked to be well above herself. The Crash Crew were unable to get one of her ear plugs in but that didn't bother Baynes.


“When Envious is doing that you just know she ready to go. She’s like Jo’s new car. She’s got a new Mustang that wants to eat track,” he said with plenty of Baynes gusto.


In today's mares feature Envious lead early before her stablemate took over with a lap to run. Especial held on to beat Envious by three quarters of a length with Tara Tutaia charging home late for third. 



Especial and Dexter Dunn winning The Robin Dundee Crown from her stablemate Envious - Photo Bruce Stewart. 




Trying to get a stable quinella photo - impossible !!! tried by Bruce Stewart.





Judy and John Stiven from Arden Lodge with Jo and Kenny Baynes and no horses to worry about - Photo Bruce Stewart.





Dexter with the trophy and Jo's new Mustang. All in matching colours - Photo Bruce Stewart. 


Baynes says both mares run together with another stablemate Jody Direen. 


“They’re Jo’s big pets. She loves them to bits and does a lot of work with them.”

The win is some compensation for Baynes whose runner Royal Bengal had to be scratched from the Invercargill Cup.


"He pulled a shoe and stood on the nail," said Jo. 






Smoked Them
(Saturday 27th January 2018)

Bruce Stewart



Quality trotter Smokey Mac took the next step when he dealt to a very good field of R66 and faster trotters at Ascot Park today.


He's been the trotting find of the Southland season so far and continues to impress his Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray. 


“I actually think he’s turned a corner. At Roxburgh he blew a bit and he just wasn’t right. He had a cut on his leg. I thought we’d just take him home and take him to the workouts. But we kept him at home to keep him settled. In the past ten days he’s gone forward and stopped blowing.”

The plan worked and after leading, then handing up to War Machine, he came up the passing lane for driver Brent Barclay to beat Alderbeck and War Machine.


“He’s better from behind. He won a nice race at Winton coming from last. He’s got speed and he’s one of those horses you’ve got to go with. It was just another genuious Brent drive.”


Smokey_Mac_winning_at_Invercargill_950_x_429.jpg Smokey Mac and Brent Barclay beating Alderbeck and Brad Williamson - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Coming back to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Winning connections and sponsors. Pam and John MacLeod far right - Photo Bruce Stewart 


The four year old gelding, which is owned by John and Pam MacLeod of Winton, is still a work in progress says Gray.


"He’s got a few tricks up his sleeve but they’re getting less.”

Smokey Mac is named after John MacLeod whose nickname is Smokey.


"Pam never told me about the name until it came through," said John.


Smokey Mac is out of the Armbro Invasion mare Uncatchable and her pedigree goes back to a breed that Doug McCormick has had plenty of success with. 


"We bought the mare with a foal at foot online in a standardbred auction. She was with Ross Hope. She had The Badger at foot. We put her in foal to Thanksgiving again and got Smokey Mac."


The MacLeods are enjoying the success Smokey Mac is having. Today's win was his fourth this season from just seven starts.


"It's absolutely amazing."


Gray says he hasn't looked too far ahead in setting out a programme for the four year old. 


“We’re just going to have to place him, be wary and pick good races for him. He’s not a week in week out racehorse," he said. 


Earlier in the day Gray also won with the Charlie and Ailsa Smaill owned Elva Jaccka, taking out the 2700 metre stand event by four and a half lengths.




Elva Jaccka cruising down to the line for Brent Barclay - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Back to her excited owners - Photo Bruce Stewart 


It was a day for doubles, with Geoff and Jude Knight winning two races and rookie trainer Brad Williamson picking up a 'pair' with Jeddy R Ya Ready, which he co-owns with Grant Grey, and Hot Off The Press which won the last race.


Jeddy R Ya Ready winning at Ascot Park 950 x 330_1.jpg 

Jeddy R Ya Ready - one of two winners for Brad Williamson - Photo Bruce Stewart.



The second - Hot Off The Press - Photo Bruce Stewart. 


The days training 'title' though, was taken out by Canterbury trainer Nigel McGrath who won three races with Karmic Way, Maverick and Sheriff







Cup To Maverick
(Saturday 27th January 2018)

Bruce Stewart

Matt Anderson, who is a regular visitor to the south as he chases the junior drivers premiership, has a bit of a following. When he returned to the stabling area with Invercargill Cup winner Maverick he received plenty of calls of ‘well done’ from those in the South Stand. 


Maverick, who started off the 20 metre mark with favourite Robbie Burn, stayed out of the early action as Hopes And Dreams and Nathan Williamson set the pace in the 3200 metre Group Three feature.


Inside the last 800 metres Anderson sped the six year old forward. By the time the horse had reached the 400 he had his head in front of a tiring Hopes And Dreams. He held on tenaciously to beat stablemate My Wee Man and Robbie Burns, who both fought bravely. The winning margin was a length and a quarter. 


“We navigated around the handicap and picked our time to move. When we did I asked plenty of him and he delivered,” said Anderson.

The winner is trained by Nigel McGrath who won the Invercargill Cup last year with Classie Brigade in a sensational time of 3-23.5. Today's winning time was 4-05.2.



 Maverick (8) and Matt Anderson winning the Group Three Ascot Park Hotel Invercargill Cup - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Heading back to pick up the cup - Photo Bruce Stewart. 


It was Anderson's second winning drive in the cup. He won with the Brent Shirley trained Costa Del Magnifico in 2016. 


"I owe Brent Shirley a big thanks. He’s worked on my relationship with Nigel McGrath. I’m really grateful.”

Maverick has now won ten races and $121,065 for his connections which include HRNZ Chairman Ken Spicer and his wife Anne- Marie who also bred the gelding. He's by Bettor's Delight out of the Auckland Cup winner Kate's First. 






Sheriff Calls All The Shots
 (Saturday 27th January 2018)

Bruce Stewart


The most impressive winner on Cup Day at Ascot Park today was the Nigel McGrath trained Sheriff which won the McKnight and Brown Mobile Pace.


Driver Ricky May drove the three year old colt like he was the best horse in the race - which he was. He blasted out from gate six, took the lead and went to the line untouched to win by four and three quarters of a length from Ana Malak which came from last to run second. The winning time on an off track was 2-40.2.


“It was a pretty easy drive really- he just went super. He was jogging all the way to be fair. He’s got a bit of a future this fella. If he keeps improving he’ll be right up with the top ones,” said May.

This was the second time May has driven the colt. He also drove him when he ran sixth in Chase Auckland's PGG Wrightson New Zealand Yearling Sales Three Year Old Final. 


“He drew bad, had no luck and he ran on really strongly.”  



Sheriff alone with Ricky May - Photo Bruce Stewart.




Heading back - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Winning connections with sponsor Bernie Brown - Photo Bruce Stewart



May says that Sheriff will make an ideal Southern Supremacy Stakes runner for McGrath later in the season.


Like Maverick, he was also bred by Ken and Anne-Marie Spicer. He's out of the Christian Cullen mare Jen Marie. The Spicers are offering a half-brother by Art Major in next month's sale in Christchurch. His name is El Dorado. 


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