Aloha Aloka (Monday 1st May 2017)


Bruce Stewart


Nigel McGrath has always had a handy two year old in his stable and it looks as though he has another after Aloka won the Group Three Diamond Creek Farm Two Year Old Classic at Ascot Park yesterday. 


Driver Blair Orange took Aloka straight to the top from barrier one and held on to beat Ashley Locaz by a head with another McGrath runner Star Commander a length and a quarter back in third.  


"He travelled up on the bit. He's a pretty versatile horse who doesnt have to lead. Ive been associated with him all the way through and have got to know him. Hes always been a nice horse and racing was always going to bring him on. I think his run last week was better than today, said Orange.

The race he was referring to, was a heat of the Sires Stakes at Addington when he was beaten by a neck by Spankem.


Orange says despite the relatively close margin in yesterdays two year old feature his charge still had a bit in reserve. 


He had a pole on today and handled things a bit better. He was actually going quite easy at the finish. Even when they got close I was still going good enough. Hes got the makings of being a good two and three year old.



Aloka (1) and Blair Orange hanging on to beat Ashley Locaz (7) and Matt Anderson - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Returning to the birdcage,  lead by Tracee Sherborne - Photo Bruce Stewart 



Aloka's time of 2-43.7 for the 2200 metre mobile was a new race, track and Southland record. The old record of 2-43.8 was held by Mongolian Hero. 


However Mongolian Hero trained by Paul Court returned to the record books in the last race on Sunday's programme when he won the Transport Engineering Southland Mobile Pace.


Driver Blair Orange settled the three year old back in the field from a wide draw and was carted forward three wide on the back of Royal Counsel. With 900 metres to run he took Mongolian Hero to the lead. At the 400 he was being challenged by Tim Williams and Thefixer. These two horses came away from the chasing pack and Mongolian Hero held on bravely to beat Thefixer by a head with ten and a half lengths back to It Ain't The Money in third.


The time of 2-39.6 was a new three year old colts and geldings track record, a new all comers record and Southland record. Eamon Maguire (2-39.8) was the previous record holder. It was a remarkable time for a cold early evening. The race started at 5:15pm. 





Mongolian Hero and Blair Orange - Photo Bruce Stewart 


It was Blair Orange's second winner of the day and 150th of the season. Of the 150 winners he has driven this season 43 have been in the southern region.His previous best record was last season when he had 123 winning drives.


Orange was involved in the nasty accident that caused the abandonment of the previous race but was cleared to drive Mongolian Hero in the last. 


It was very unfortunate that Louis had to be put down as a result of the crash that occurred shortly after the start of Race 10 at Ascot Park. We all wish injured driver Peter Hunter a speedy recovery. 

Meanwhile Southern Harness has decided to pay $300 to all starters in the abandoned race. The connections of Malik the only starter from outside the province, will be paid $500.







Two Ply Late Developer (Saturday 6th May 2017)


Bruce Stewart


Edendale trainer Craig Laurenson has been training for South Otago owner Ian Bennett for eighteen years with Bennett providing Laurenson with his first win; Zapp, at the Tuapeka meeting in November 1999.


The partnership produced another winner today at Gore when Two Ply won the Advance Agriculture Limited Mobile Pace. 



Laurenson went to school with Bennett's children and the relationship developed from there.


"He always came out to the farm. His father actually trained a few horses part time at one stage. I helped him get started. Zapp was the first horse I gave him. He won four races for me and went to America. I've been pretty loyal ever since," said Bennett.  


Today was start number thirty two for Two Ply. 


"He's finally starting to understand what racing is all about now. Craig always knew he had ability it's just been a long time coming out. I remember seeing him run as a two year old at the trials and he showed real speed that day. He never showed it much until he won at Winton. He showed it again about four starts ago. He's finally come to it in his last half a dozen starts." 


Driver Brad Williamson settled Two Ply five back on the inside running line. Inside the last lap he managed to get him off the inside. Then approaching the 800 metres he moved out three wide and followed up Night March. At the top of the straight he was challenging out wide and ran down Night March to win by half a length.


"In his first ten starts he was on the unruly. He finally sneaked one (a win) this time last year. The whole family are late maturing. They don't really start to race until they're late three year olds."




Two Ply and Brad Williamson beating Night March on the inside - Photo Bruce Stewart



Trainer Craig Laurenson and Brad Williamson debrief while owner Ian Bennett is congratulated by Alan McVicar in the background - Photo Bruce Stewart 



Of the seventy two winners Laurenson has now trained, thirty six have been owned by Bennett. Their best winners have been On The Double (10), Lord Patrol (5), On Sky (5) and Zapp (4)  


Bennett is still an active breeder with On The Double, her full sister Lady Patrol and Clifton Beauty still being bred from.


"The best one out of her (On The Double) has been Wick who has now won eight or nine races in America."


Wick won five races for Wyndham trainer Brendon McLellan. 


Maximan is another good horse the Bennett/Laurenson partnership developed. He was out of Clifton Beauty and won three races for Laurenson before he was bought by Jim Curtin


"When we sold him he had about eight seconds in a row. We then sold him to Jimmy and he won the Westport and Reefton Cups then he sold him on to Aussie."


He's won a further nine races in Australia and has a lifetime record of 60-18-10-7 $220,129 (1-53.0 AUS). 










Ideal Breezes In (Saturday 6th May 2017)


Bruce Stewart


Browns trainer Des Baynes has been training horses for the Eight Proof Syndicate for a while now and the partnership proved successful again when Ideal Breeze won at Gore today.


The syndicat's last winner was Ideal Breeze's dam Windproof which won her second race at Forbury Park in October 2010. She injured a leg which put an end to her racing career.  


"She (Ideal Breeze) brushes her knees a bit but I think she'll come out of that next year. She's a lovely wee thing to work with and I'm real pleased for the syndicate that owns her. We'll probably start her at Winton next week on her home track and then put her aside for next year," said Baynes who has trained 125 winners since taking up a licence in 1980.


The American Ideal filly was given a perfect trip by Brendon McLellan tucked away three back on the inside. The gaps opened halfway down the straight and Ideal Breeze shot through to beat Country Grammer and two year old Repartee.



Ideal Breeze and Brendon McLellan beating Country Grammer (4) and Repartee (orange and blue colours out wide) - Photo Bruce Stewart



Trainer Des Baynes with some of the Eight Proof syndicate members  - Photo Bruce Stewart 


It was noticeable that Ideal Breeze was on the job today with McLellan having a tight grip on the filly's reins when warming her up. 


"She's just been getting on the job a wee bit lately and I knew the false start today wouldn't help. As soon as she leaves the gate she just relaxes. I think that's just a maturity thing."  


As a broodmare Windproof has left Gabby's Delight, which has had one win for Alan Paisley.  











Vets Pet Wins At Gore (Sunday 7th May 2017)


Bruce Stewart


Yes Lynette The Vet is actually named after a vet.


The five year old mare which won at Gore yesterday for Wyndham trainers Colin and Gordon Lee is owned by Neil Manson from Little River near Christchurch and he takes up the story.


"I have a bit of land that backs on to the local vet clinic and Lynette Curry a vet who worked there, got attached to the mare and foal. She used to feed them apples. I'd got the stitch from racing and the foal was left on her mother until she was two. A mate of mine was getting a horse branded so we got the foal done at the same time. I couldn't get close to them. Lynette was the only one who could catch them," said Manson. 


So to reflect Lynette's attachment to the mare and foal Manson thought he'd better fire a few names into Harness Racing New Zealand.


"I sent away three names; Lynette, The Vet Lynette and Lynette The Vet. Lynette The Vet was the one that came back. Lynette goes everywhere to see her (namesake) race."


As a young horse Lynette The Vet was given to Murray Edmonds to train. He managed to get one win out the five year old Raffaelo Ambrosio mare from eleven starts before the Lees took over the training.  


"I was talking to a mate of mine Ginger Timms and he said Gordon was bringing a float up to get Seaswift Joy from Shinnie (Malcolm Shinn). So he took her home as well." 


Lynette The Vet has been in the Lee stable for four starts prior to yesterday's race with her best effort having been a second on her home track in February. 


After getting an absess on her shoulder she hadn't raced for nearly two months. Her return to the race track was without a trial or workout so it was a very good training effort by the Lees and as Gordon pointed out she got the perfect trip. 


"That's what counts - getting a nice trip. You don't have any excuses then. I did think that she would be a bit short today. She went out there fresh so maybe that's the key to her," he said. 



Lynette The Vet  (6) getting the perfect run behind leader Eagle Galleon (7) with a lap to run - Photo Bruce Stewart


Lynette The Vet beating Larch (15) and Wot Up (14). The winning margin was three quarters of a length - Photo Bruce Stewart



Returning back to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart 



The Lees trained Lynette The Vet's mother Accelerando Del to win at Forbury Park on September 2008.


She was a Sundon mare out of Del's Lass who was a sister to Game Nian (7 wins), Gypsy Del (7 wins) and Allegreto Del (8 wins). 


The horse has plenty of southern connections with Southlanders John Harrington, Jim Hannan and Eddie Lowe breeding Accelerando Del. 


The mare and her Monarchy foal are no longer around, but Lynette The Vet may just rejuvenate Neil Manson's enjoyment of harness racing. 






Forget The Wide Draw (Saturday 13th May 2017)


Bruce Stewart


Murray Swain has an eye for a bargain and when he spotted an American bred mare with a Tintin In America filly foal at foot being offered by Spreydon Lodge in the 2014 Christchurch Autumn Weanling and All Age Sale he liked what he saw. 


Seven hundred dollars later he had purchased High Tops Hanover and her filly foal. It was that filly, named Share The Road that won at Winton today.


High Tops Hanover is by Western Hanover out of Haps Hanover a Big Towner mare. Haps Hanover is out of Hazel Hanover the dam of Holmes Hanover, four times champion New Zealand sire.


All Holmes Hanovers cross well with Direct Scooters so thats why I liked Tintin In America. It just adds speed to the breed, said Swain who shares in the ownership of the three year old with his wife Wendy. Share The Road is trained by their son Aaron.

Tintin In America is out of Zenterfold which is by In The Pocket, a Direct Scooter stallion. 


"Craig (Craig Thornley who works at Spreydon Lodge) said she (High Tops Hanover) was a nice mare but she couldnt run.


And Murray Swain remembers going to see his prospective purchase on the day of the sale.


"She (the foal) was quite a flighty filly in the box with the mare and Denice (sister Denice Swain) always said some of the flighty quick moving ones turn out to be okay. I didnt mind her for $700."


In the score up from barrier one Share The Road broke for driver Dexter Dunn and a false start was declared by starter Ben Ward. Dunn quickly decided in the interests of safety that his charge would be better starting from the outside of the front row.


The one draw at the end of the day wasnt the best draw for her. Ive been looking after her at home and at the workouts because she can lose the plot a wee bit as she did today. Today was the first time someone else had driven her. If she doesnt do what you want to do you just have to give her some rein. You cant pull her in. I thought 'were not going to win from the unruly.' But she did stick on.

From the new outside starting position Dunn didn't rush Share The Road, letting her settle two lengths last after the early rush for positions.  With a 1000 metres to run he sent the filly forward and with a lightning move he had her sitting outside the leader and favourite Tara Tutaia inside the 800. At the top of the lane these two started a dog fight that lasted the length of the straight and in the end Share The Road beat Tara Tutaia by three quarters of a length. Repartee was a nose back in third.



Share The Road (1) and Dexter Dunn beating Tara Tuaia on her immediate inside - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Returning to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Wendy and Murray Swain with trainer Aaron and Share The Road and Dexter Dunn - Photo Bruce Stewart. 



The plan is to put her in the paddock until next year and target the mares races like the Southern Belle."


Swain said he just puts today's misdemeanours down to inexperience.


"Shes not like that at home. We have to lead her out of the box. She just got a bit fired up and she didn't have plugs in. Its just a learning thing.


High Tops Hanover's next foal is a yearling by Net Ten EOM.


Hed be the pick of my yearlings. Ive got Art Majors and some Mach Threes and I still think this guy is the pick. Hes very solid and the sort of horse that could run at two. Im going to call him Stiven as John (John Stiven) convinced me to go to Net Ten EOM.










Dark Horse - Bright Hope (Saturday 13th May 2017)


Bruce Stewart


As predicted rising Southland trotting star Dark Horse got the right conditions and had the class to break a Southland trotting record at Winton today.


Her 2-58.9 for the 2400 metre mobile betters the old record set in 2010 by Ready Set. The last 800 metres was run in 57.1 and 400 metres in 27.9. The national record over this distance for mares of 2-58.5 was recorded by Habibti Ivy when she won at Ashburton in February.


From barrier five driver Nathan Williamson sent Dark Horse forward and after 200 metres the Bacardi Lindy mare was in front. 


"It's just nice to know that I have that gate speed if we have to use it. Its the first time shes drawn the gate. The last time she won behind the mobile she drew the second line. In the New Zealand Trotting Oaks last year she drew one but was planted up behind runners and she was never happy, he said.


With 900 metres to run driver Blair Orange took second favourite Eyre I Come to the lead.


We didnt have to trail. I could have parked him but it was just a good experience."

Once the field straightened up Dark Horse was presented with the passing lane and she comfortably cruised up the inside to beat Eyre I Come by three lengths.

"I didnt have to pull the plugs today. The main thing I have to watch with her is that she can come through (the passing lane)and go too quickly. She only had to do what she has to and I didnt have to get after her. She was nice and controlled with everything she did.



Dark Horse leads Pyramid Magic with a lap to run - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Well clear in track record time - Photo Bruce Stewart.



 Returning - Photo Bruce Stewart.



 Winning owners - Photo Bruce Stewart.


So all roads now for the Griffins and Seafield Trotting Syndicates lead to Ashburton for the $100,000 McMillan Feeds Four Year Old Ruby in just over three weeks times. There she'll meet Rowe Cup winner Temporale and quality trotter Marcoola.


"There are no plans to race her again before Ashburton but she may have a workout. It just depends on whether I think she needs one or not.

The Williamson family have a good record in this race. Nathan and his father Phil won it at Cambridge in 2008 while Springbank Richard and Phil and Matty Williamson won with Leighton Hest the following year at Ashburton. 











Jimmy Cuts A Record (Saturday 13th May 2017)


Bruce Stewart


Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray knows that when Australian owner Merv Butterworth sends him horses it's generally for a short time.


It doesn't bother him though, because he just feels privileged to be training for one of Australiasian's biggest players. So when Jimmy Mack won today in record time at Winton it could have been one of his last runs in the Gray colours. 


"He and G I Joe are Melbourne bound. Not 100 per cent when. Well see what Merv says but the longer would be better. To get horses like Jimmy Mack and G I Joe in the stable is great. I dont often get horses like that, Gray said after Jimmy Mack beat another Australian owned pacer in Bettor Ops by a neck.


Gray had four runners in today's pacing feature - The High Roller (8th), Young Conqueror (9th), G I Joe (4th) and Jimmy Mack.


I thought he (Jimmy Mack) was the one for today. But every time he comes to Winton he gets a bit het up. 


G I Joe was the favourite after it was widely publicised that he'd beaten both Jimmy Mack and Tas Man Bromac in the workout on the track last Friday. He'd in fact finished third behind them respectively. 


In the hotly contested Marshall Industries Mobile Pace Jimmy Mack took an early lead before handing up to Tas Man Bromac with a lap to run. Tas Man Bromac took the field to the top of the straight where Jimmy Mack was given a run up the passing lane. Bettor Ops made his run down the middle of the track. At the finish Jimmy Mack held on to beat a game Bettor Ops by a neck with a nose back to Tas Man Bromac who was having his first race since October last year. 


The winning time of 2-54.0 was a new track and Southland record for colts and geldings for the 2400 metres mobile. The previous record of 2-54.1 was jointly held by Robyn's Bad Boy and Rocking Robyn. Nek Time holds the All-Comers record of 2-53.0.


Jimmy Mack (6) beating Bettor Ops (7) and Tas Man Bromac (8) - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Brent Barclay and Jimmy Mack - Photo Bruce Stewart. 


The win today takes Brett Gray's training tally for the season to 20; three in front of Nathan Williamson on 17.


Im not big on that sort of thing. If it happens it happens. Chasing stuff like that can get out of control. Nathan's a good mate so it doesnt worry me,  Gray said about winning the Southland Training Premiership.







Win And Tonic Thanks (Saturday 13th May 2017)


Bruce Stewart


The win by Justasip at Winton today was great on a couple of fronts.


Trainer Peter Hunter is recovering from a nasty crash on Diamonds Day at Ascot Park and one of the horse's owners is celebrating a big birthday this month.


Its good for Ivy Keenan who is celebrating her 85th birthday. Shes having a family gathering with quite a few friends next Sunday, said Peter Hunter's wife Jo.

The mare which has been in the Hunter stable since December 2015 is raced on lease by Ivy and other members of the Keenan family from Canterbury breeder James Geddes and is due to be returned to him at the end of the season. Today's win was her third in sixty four starts. Both wins have been from the Hunter stable.


Driver Dexter Dunn got a nice drag into the race inside the last 500 metres behind Don't Pass I'm Fast and the free legged pacer sprinted nicely down the outside to win by three quarters of a length from Man I'm Good. 


She seems to go better with the hopples off. We got a bit more speed out of her.


Today's win didn't come as a surprise to Hunter.


I thought shed go better at Gore but Dexter used her up and she cant be used. Shes a funny girl. She just needs to be covered up."



Justasip (14) winning for Dexter Dunn - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart. 


Peter Hunter was on-course today catching up with friends and Jo says he's making good progress in his recovery. 


Hes out keeping an eye on things. Hes doing the odd box and basically handing out the orders. He just needs a lie down in the afternoon to recharge the batteries. Ive had a couple of nice cooked meal this week. Hes actually improved a lot (in the kitchen). I dont know whats happened.


The Hunters are grateful to family and the wider harness racing community for their support. 

Ive had great support around me so its been terrific really. My brother (Brendon McIntyre) has been terrific. He got our sister Megan down from Christchurch and sent one of his workers out to get us through. It's very much appreciated all round.

And as for Peter's return?


"Hopefully he'll be driving work at home in a couple of weeks but wont be back driving at the races until next season.


The Hunter's other horse in the race Bold Ruler which was favourite failed to go with the rest of the field and was pulled out of the race by driver Brent Barclay.


Meanwhile the JCA announced today that as a result of an enquiry into the Foveaux Communications Mobile Pace on Diamonds Day - the race that led to Peter Hunters accident, Winton reinsman Allan Beck has had his driving licence suspended for nine days. 






Connies Keeps His Cool (Saturday 20th May 2017)


Bruce Stewart


Because of the weather Phil Williamson knew it could take a bit longer to get to Ascot Park today and with the first race starting at 11:17am he certainly cut it fine when his float rolled into the float park at about 11.00am.


His stable runner in race one, two year old Majestic Connies handled the rush like a pro and with a helping hand from others the horse made it on to the track in time to start and subsequently to win impressively.


"He just stood there like a lamb and then went out there and did the job," said part owner Alan Mason who had also travelled down from Oamaru to see the run. He shares in the ownership with Peter Evans of Christchurch, NJ Simpson and the Wagovi Sydicate which is managed by Gordon Stewart of Cromwell.


The son of Majestic Son was purchased by Williamson for just $9,000 at the 2016 Sale of the Stars.


Right from day one Phil liked him so he just pushed on. The Yearling Sale race came along and we decided to pay up. He was working with Springbank Lachie and Majestic Man and he was going with them. We were going to go to Ashburton a few weeks ago. I was halfway there in the car and Phil rang and said 'you can turn around and go back again. The horse had got a cold.' So we turned him out for eight days. We carried on and thought wed try to get some money back (from the purchase price) in the Sales Series and he trotted all the way and got a pretty good third. We then thought we might have a shot at this race down here and if he won wed go to the Jewels. 


Mason said Williamson rang him last night to tell him the horse was really well and had been bucking and kicking in the paddock but that he wasn't sure whether he would be able to make the trip south. However horse and trainer made it through the hail and snow.  


The winning margin was six and a half lengths and Majestic Connies winning time of 2-58.1 was a new track record for two year old trotters for the 2200 metre stand. The old record of 2-59.0 was recorded by Duke Of The Moment in 2011. He was also trained by Williamson.


Of the run today Mason said That was only his second race and first from the stand. Hes a sensible wee fella and hes got a bit of lick. Hes got a lovely gait so thats why weve kept him going."





Majestic Connies striding out for Matty Williamson - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Returning back to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart.





Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart 


Mason, who had a royal delivery mail run in Oamaru, has raced horses for over twenty years. He held a training license in the 1985 season.


"I used to potter around with horses after work. I had twenty acres, a wee track and a barn."  


He raced Adios Bachelor gelding Lochinora which won at it's second start at Methven in April 1985 when trained by Mike DeFilippi. He was then sold to Amercia.


He's also raced some handy trotters with the best being Lets Get Serious which won ten races for him before he was sold. The Sundon gelding went on to win a total of forty races and $803,799.


He's also had success with Galleons Triumph (5 wins), All Action Man (4 wins) and Nickelson (6 wins).


"All the horses I've had with Phil have now won." 


Majestic Connies win today now elevates her to tenth position for the Neumann Tyres and Tyre General Two Year Old Ruby on Harness Jewels day in two weeks. The top two slots in this race are also Phil Williamson runners Majestic Man (1) and Springbank Lachie (2). 


Meanwhile the Robert Wilson trained Eagle Galleon won his second race in a row when he won the Breckon Farms Trot. As favourite, the four year old by The Pres, beat Larch by two and a half lengths. Wilson who trains from his Balfour stable is having a great season with eleven wins on the board; his best since he started training in 2012. The win places Eagle Galleon eleventh in the McMillan Feeds Four Year Old Ruby.



Blair Orange and Eagle Galleon trotting out to win at Ascot Park - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Win number 164 for driver Blair Orange - Photo Bruce Stewart. 








Dali Finally Gets The Dough (Saturday 20th May 2017)


Bruce Stewart


After impressively qualifying earlier this season Dali Bread cleared maiden ranks today in the Anka Pipe Fittings Mobile Pace at Ascot Park.


Trainer Clark Barron said after the win that the gelding has had his share of bad luck. 


"Apart from one run in which he hung badly the rest hes had bad luck. Hes still a work in progress but hes got ability. He was only broken in twelve months ago so hes come a long way in a short time and he was gelded late as well. Hes got talent but hes just weak and immature, he said. 


The three year old gelding by Dali is owned by Aucklander Grant Dowdall.

Hes been sending horses down here for a while. He's had a few slow ones but we won a race last season with Something Special. Ive never met him but Ive talked to him on the phone for about four years.


Dali Bread qualified at Ascot Park in March this year winning a 2200 metre mobile heat by ten lengths in 2-45.7 and Barron has rated him from day one. 


Hes a good looking horse and a very good pacer so its just a matter of waiting on him to develop.

In an inch perfect drive by Nathan Williamson Dali Bread ended up four back on the inside running line. With 1800 metres to run Williamson was able to get the gelding off the running line and followed the three wide train forward. With 900 metres to run he was sitting parked outside leader Matai Valour. Dali Bread went down to the post to win easily by a length from Matai Valour. 



Dali Bread and Nathan Williamson winning at Ascot Park - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Returning to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart 


As a stallion Dali has left twenty one named foals in New Zealand. Eleven have qualified including winners El Barcelona (5), Gotta Go Dali Queen (4), Dali Bread (1), Jeremy Jones (1) and The Dali Express (1).


Clark Barron doesn't do too much driving these days, preferring to concentrate on training a large team at his base at Rakauhauka.


The stable is going through a rebuilding stage after horses like Rakarolla and I'm Full Of Excuses were sold to Australia. 


Weve got ten to a dozen being jogged up for next season already.


One horse he's enthused about is Black Ops. He's by McArdle out of the twelve win mare Special Ops. Black Ops, which is a half brother to Bettor Ops, qualified at Gore in February and is raced on lease by The Setarip Syndicate. 

Weve just had to wait on him but he qualified pretty nicely.

Meanwhile the John and Katrina Price trained Repartee capped off her consistent form by beating her older rivals at Ascot Park.


The two year old filly by Well Said is the first foal out of the Christian Cullen mare Surprise Party. Surprise Party is a half sister to six win mare Democrat Party.


Repartee's winning margin today was three quarters of a length from outsider Mandolin. The Prices will have to consider a start in the Ashburton Guardian Two Year Old Diamond on Harness Jewels Day at Ashburton as she sits at number eleven on the leader board.




Another Price winner for Nathan Williamson - Repartee - Photo Bruce Stewart



Returning to scale - Photo Bruce Stewart 







Hunter Team Dishes It Up (Saturday 20th May 2017)


Bruce Stewart


Trainer Peter Hunter may be confined to the kitchen for a while, making his favourite bangers and mash, and because of the way his team is going on the race track at the moment he's afraid he may have to stay there.


The Ryal Bush trainer has been sidelined after being concussed in a nasty smash on Diamonds Day at Ascot Park at the end of last month. Since then his wife Jo has been doing most of the hands on work with the team, and in the last two weeks the stable has picked up three wins.  


They told me to take it quietly and said Id get tired, and I do. The teams going quite good without me so Id better stay put. I like bangers and mash and can cook spuds," he told me after Bold Ruler won his second race at the Invercargill meeting today.


It seems that the Changeover gelding, which is owned by Hunter's brother in law Brendon McIntyre and Bill Moffatt has been around forever. Today's was his sixty fifth start. His last win was on this track at this meeting two years ago.

Hes a bit different precious. He had a bit of ability when he was young but wasnt strong enough to run young. He qualified behind Pulp Fiction. His three year old season was a washout, he just wasnt strong enough. Hed just gone the odd good race to keep you interested. This year hes been really good.

Bold Ruler was on warning after refusing to go with the mobile arm at Winton last weekend resulting in driver Brent Barclay pulling him out of that race.


He never races good at Winton. The starting point throws him a bit because its near the gate. With those sorts of things he plays on it and he over thinks things. Brent didnt pull the plugs on him today. He couldnt believe how different he was (in mood) from last week.


Bold Ruler and Barclay ended up slotting into the one one. He managed to get on to the back of Magnetic Watch inside the last 800 metres. He was carted up by that horse until the field straightened and he came resolutely down the middle of the track to beat pacemaker Wayward Roc by a length.



Bold Ruler and Brent Barclay winning at Ascot Park today - Photo Bruce Stewart.



 Returning home with a tired driver - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Brent Barclay, Bold Ruler, Jo Hunter and Brendon McIntyre - Photo Bruce Stewart. 


But not happy with just winning, the horse carried on under a tight hold for another lap before Barclay was able to point him in the direction of the birdcage. 

Thats him showing off.


The Hunters and Bold Ruler's owners have had to be patient with the five year old which has a few tricks. 


He races a bit more kindly. He's not so revy out there and hes quite nice to train now. He never used to be. Pull down blinds make a difference to him. They just sort of bluff him. I wouldn't play cards with him, hed be quite good at it Id imagine.

Hunter also says he's a bit bossy around the stables and needs to be watched.

Ive got to be careful (with who hes paddocked with) because he beats them up. Hes by himself at the moment because he beat up the last one.

Bold Ruler was purchased at the 2013 Sale of the Stars for $19,000 when he was offered by Regal Lodge Stud. He's closely related to Bogan Fella.


His lifetime earnings are now over $25,000.


Later in the programme Rakarover owned by loyal stable client Brendon Fahy cleared maiden ranks when he beat the favourite The Night Hawk by a length. It was the three year old's first start in six weeks. Prior to today's win he'd run second twice and third four times. 





Fern Lea and The Night Hawk Win (Saturday 27th May 2017)


Bruce Stewart


"She's quite a big three year old who's learning the game, has got a lot of ability and is going to be a very nice mare," said driver Shane Walkinshaw after he drove Fern Lea to win at Invercargill today.


The black filly by Mach Three is out of the Christian Cullen mare Lady Fern which won seven races for Dave Heffernan. Her early education was done by Heffernan who is the President of the Oamaru Harness Racing Club. She was then sent south where she qualified at the end of last month at Ascot Park for local trainer Wayne Adams.


"At the trials she just came off the gate (mobile) a wee bit rough but her gait's getting a lot better. She did it quite effortlessly today." 


On debut  the Adams team were relatively confident of a forward showing. 


"Her work on Tuesday was outstanding and that's why I thought we were going to be pretty hard to beat today. Once we got a front line draw I thought she'd be pretty hard to catch."  


From barrier one Walkinshaw took Fern Lea straight to the lead and she won easily beating Maidonthebeach by three lengths.



Fern Lea easily winning for Shane Walkinshaw - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Returning - Photo Bruce Stewart 


It's expected that Fern Lea will be turned out now and race next season in some of the mares races.


Later in the programme the Tony Stratford trained The Night Hawk capped off some good form and overcame barrier nine to beat a field of non-winners.


The half brother to the good Australian performers in Our Blackbird (18 wins) and The Sparrow Hawk (7 wins), The Night Hawk came with a late run down the outside in the hands of Dexter Dunn to win by a length and a quarter. 


"He (trainer Tony Stratford) likes him.He's such a big horse and that's why it's taken us all year to get him here. He thinks he'll be better next year," said part owner Penny Baynes who races the three year old gelding in partnership with her brother in-law Kenny Baynes.




The Night Hawk beating Born To Run - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Dexter Dunn and The Night Hawk - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Dexter Dunn, The Night Hawk, Tony Stratford and Penny Baynes - Photo Bruce Stewart. 



The Night Hawk usually races in the silver and black colours made famous by Penny's late father in-law Colin Baynes but today he was wearing the Koro Care colours worn by driver Dexter Dunn when he drives in Southland. 


"It's quite sentimental when we put the Baynes colours on. We've had the colours for about three years now and it still means a lot."


Penny is married to John Baynes who held a Junior Drivers licence between 1978 and 1980. He drove five winners in that time but has since moved on from the harness industry.  


"I gave him a half share in one so he would help me feed them. He's my stablehand. His interest now is aviation. That's what he's doing today, away flying the tiger moth. We've had the plane for twenty five years and been around New Zealand a few times in her. We spend half our time flying and racing occasionally. One of the last horses we've named is Altimeter (Mach Three - Better Hurry) so that's the new theme," said Penny. 


The Night Hawk's dam Starling is now owned by Knapdale trainer Robin Swain.  


The Night Hawk was one of four winners driven by Dexter Dunn today. His others were Nerve Of Steel, Kiwi Crusher and Shezacullengirl. 











Moves Like Jagger (Saturday 27th May 2017)


Bruce Stewart


Giant five year old mare Machjagger is tough but needs a good draw to show her best ,according to Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray.


"She does go good when she gets a good draw and she probably hasn't had one since she won at Waikouaiti," he said after the Justa Tiger mare won her third race at Ascot Park today.


Driver Tim Williams took the mare straight to the lead and she held on to beat My Georgie Boy by two and three quarter lengths.

"She's just better on top. She's often hard to get there because she doesn't have a lot of gait speed." 


Gray was quick to give some of the credit for todays win to Oreti Beach trainer Paul 'Tank' Ellis. 


"She's been out on the beach for the last couple of weeks with Tank wading in the water. She's had a bit of a big leg and Tank's done a great job. It's been good giving her an environment change to keep the wheels rolling. She's also had a few feet issues. A bit of beach therapy does wonders." 


Machjagger is part owned by Stu Sloan of Tussock Creek who was on-course to see the mare win today. She's out of the Mach Three mare Mach N Elle which is also the dam of eight win gelding Darcee.


The win was the twenty second for Gray who leads the Southland Trainers Premiership by five wins over last year's winner Nathan Williamson. 




Machjagger winning her third race at Ascot Park - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Tim Williams and Machjagger - Photo Bruce Stewart 









Spotlight On Southland Trotter Of The Year (Saturday 27th May 2017)


Bruce Stewart


With her win today Spotlight The Valley looks to have wrapped up the Caduceus Club of Southland Trotter of the Year title.


The Robert Wilson trained five year old mare has won four races this season and has been placed numerous times.


She did her early education for Wilson before he decided that he liked her enough to buy her.


"We worked Spotlight The Valley and De Vito on the Balfour track as young horses. We bought De Vito for the Balfour Syndicate and Spotlight The Valley for the Sunbeam Syndicate," Wilson said.


From the twenty metre mark driver Blair Orange settled the Skyvalley mare four back on the inside while Mass Invasion made the pace. With 1600 metres to run Orange moved Spotlight The Valley off the inside running line to sit parked. At the top of the straight she took charge and won easily by a length and three quarters from a late charging Jen Jaccka. 



Spotlight The Valley and Blair Orange beating Jen Jaccka (10) - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Photo - Bruce Stewart. 


"She just keeps trying. We've been coming back over the last few weeks because we've had our eye on the Southland Trotter of the Year (award). With that win today we're just about clear I would say." 


Wilson, who has been a long time harness racing administrator for the Northern Southland Trotting Club has now trained eleven winners this season - his best in the six years he's had a licence.  


"It's been my passion for many many years and it's good to be doing things on the other side (training) of things now."


With the season nearly over he says Spotlight The Valley may find it hard to compete in the future in handicap races in this country. 


"I think she's the sort of horse that would do a fantastic job in Australia. She'd probably be in the money most weeks." 


Seven of Wilson's eleven winners have been driven by Blair Orange. 


"This year I've given him first option on every horse I've had at the races. Often he's got drives for Paul Court or Mark Jones and I understand that but we've gone good together." 


Meanwhile Wilson's focus shifts to Ashburton in seven days when he has his first runner at the Harness Jewels. Eagle Galleon which is owned by him and good friend Gary Allen will start in the Group One $100,00. McMillan Feeds Four Year Old Ruby. He'll be driven by Dexter Dunn. 





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