Tas For Hannon (Thursday 7th September 2017)


Bruce Stewart



Trainer driver Nathan Williamson says Tas Man Bromac is likely to start in the Group Three Hannon Memorial at Oamaru on Sunday 24th September.


"I don't think the class will worry him. The better the company the better he goes. In the likes of todays company you have to make your own luck but in a race like the Hannon if he began good and settled handy he can follow speed," said Williamson.   


The six year old starting from the 35 metre mark held off a late challenge from 10 metre marker Crime Scene to win by a neck.



Crime Scene leads with a lap to run with eventual winner Tas Man Bromac last on the outside - Photo Bruce Stewart. 


Tas Man Bromac ran the 2400 metre stand post to post in 3-03.3 with the last 800 metres run in 57.7. He's now won ten races from his thirty one starts.  


"He felt great out there today. He still can improve. Now that he's an older horse he's going to take a wee bit more racing."


Tas_Man_Bromac_finish_950_x_434.jpg Nathan Williamson drives out Tas Man Bromac to beat Crime Scene and Blair Orange - Photo Bruce Stewart.


 Tas_Man_Bromac_returning_950_x_576.jpg Returning to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart.


Williamson also trained and drove Splash Cola to win the Majestic Son at Alabar Handicap Trot.


She took over the lead early in the running after a good beginning from the unruly position and always had the back markers chasing. 


"Happy with her and I just hope she progresses. Her coat's come on since that first run and I just hope it improves as much next time."


The seven year old Sundon mare owned by Ian Hunter has now won seven races in a limited career of nineteen starts over four seasons.


 Splash Cola and Nathan Williamson leads from Mass Invasion and Clark Barron - Photo Bruce Stewart.




Stretching out to win - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Returning to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart. 









Business Resumes For Gray (Thursday 7th September 2017)


Bruce Stewart



Southland's leading trainer from last season Brett Gray, was back training winners at Winton today.


Four year old mare Ideal Conquest capped off solid maiden form by leading all the way to win the Terror To Love At Pinelea Farm Fillies and Mares Mobile Pace. 


She was bought by Winton Plumber Marty Fairbairn at the 2015 Australian Classic Yearling Sale when offered by Woodlands Stud on behalf of Charlie Roberts.  


"I thought she was sold. I was talking to Tony Barron and said to him - gee that was a cheap horse. A guy overheard me and told me the horse hadn't sold and would I help him out. The reserve was $5,000. I said give me a minute. I shot outside and rang Robert Symon. He's the man with all the money. 'Robert Butterworth' I call him. We bought her and decided that the girls (wives) would own her (Sharon Symon and Daphne Fairbairn). I took her home and the first thing she did was kick a horse I'd paid quite a bit more for. We discovered that you couldn't get near her so that's why she was a $5,000 purchase," Gray said.


Ideal Conquest is by American Ideal out of the one win In The Pocket mare Pocket Conquest. Her dam is the smart seventeen win mare Victor Supreme.


Her winning time over the 1609 metres today was 1-56.9 and she won by three lengths. She was driven by regular pilot Brent Barclay. 


"She's such a big mare we wondered whether a mile was suitable. We were going to be looking for standing starts but she's got a bit of an attitude," added Fairbairn.


Some thought will be given now, to whether she'll be set for the Southern Belle Speed Series or take on more staying tests. 


"I haven't worked that out yet. We'll see what the owners think. We've just got to go with her rather than plan," said trainer Brett Gray. 


The Gray trained trotter Smokey Mac was sensational when he won Race Three.


The four year old Monarchy gelding was slow to go and settled well off the pace early. He was second to last of the main bunch with a lap to run. At the 400 metre mark he skipped for a few strides when following a retreating Our Budd and was taken back to last. As the field opened driver Brent Barclay wove a path through the middle of the field and he stormed home to beat pacemaker Scarlet Lane easily by a length and a half.    


"He was unbelievable. He had a wee skip and still won. He's perfect around the place but when he gets to the races he gets a bit hypo. We've had a couple of workouts but we've been careful with him because he can over race. He's got the ability but it's his attitude we have to work on," said Gray about the talented squaregaiter. 


"We just work him in the morning on the day of the races and that takes a wee bit of the sting out of him and try to take him onto the track as late as possible." 



 Brett Gray - Photo Bruce Stewart


Meanwhile Gray also won both the days qualifying heats.


The well bred Mr Kiwi, which is a half brother by American Ideal to Mr Mojito, won his mobile heat in 3-05.3. 


"He's pretty green. He's got a bit of ability but he just has to switch into it. I'll look to freshen him up."


The Ryal Bush trainer's second winner was Live Or Die entire The Heart Rulz. He's owned by loyal owner Caroline Pannett.


"She's getting excited and we're all happy for her. She's got a nice horse."


He's out of the three win Master Mood mare Nevalookbak. 









Ben Blitz (Thursday 7th September 2017)


Bruce Stewart



Maiden pacer Benio Ben proved too smart for his rivals at Winton today.


"It surprised me the way he won but I've always had a bit of an opinion of him. Matty (Matty Williamson) was stoked with the way he went at Gore. I was quietly confident he'd go good and could win but I was impressed with that win. They don't often win by nine or ten lengths here, " said trainer Tony Stratford. 


He's by Gotta Go Cullect and was bred by Alan Steel, Stratford's uncle and his good friend Trevor McCall. He's out of the Soky's Atom mare Benio's Ella.


From barrier five Williamson took him straight to the top and commentator Dave McDonald summed it up perfectly when he said "Benio Ben bashes them up big time."


The four year old's winning margin was nine and three quarter lengths. The winning time for the 2400 metre mobile was 2-58.2 - last half in 58.0 and the last quarter in a smart 27.3.


Benio Ben will now contest the first $12,000 Nuggets Championship Mobile Pace at the Northern Southland meeting on 7th October.


"Those nice ones have to do it at both ends. He did that at Gore. He squirted off the gate and was still giving at the other end and he did that today."  







No Pressure! (Sunday 24th September 2017)


Bruce Stewart



Phil Williamson admitted to feeling a bit of pressure yesterday when he drove first starter and hot favourite Davey Mac at Invercargill.


"Yeah I did a wee bit. With a $1.32 favourite you've got to take luck out of the equation and you have to drive in a manner that doesn't open you up for criticism. I'd like to drive him from in behind down the track because that's when you'll see what he can really do," he said after the royally bred trotter won at Ascot Park by a length.   


"Yes he won well. He would have run around again." 


Williamson is rarely seen in a driving role these days with sons Matthew and Brad driving the majority of the Oamaru team. But driving a horse named after the South's commentator Dave McDonald had special significance.


"I'd done all the work with him just for a start. Whether I drive him again we'll wait and see. I wanted to drive him especially for Davey Mac because he's commentated more winners for me than anyone else. We actually rang him and asked him if we could use his name and he said it would be an honour."


The Sundon gelding has been a 'talk' horse for a while and his debut was eagerly awaited. Williamson says he had no worries once the five year old was underway.   


"I couldn't see him making a mistake because he's got good manners. The only thing I was concerned about was controlling his emotions. He can be a little bit on and off and when he's on he can tend to over-race. But it's just experience and he hasn't had much of it. I was delighted with him today being so calm and collected. He just strolled around in a slow time and thought he was out there on a Sunday stroll."


Williamson now says its just a matter of racing him so he can get more ringcraft. 


"He's always had a good horses ability. He's a really big horse who has just taken time. We should be able to progress a bit with a bit of luck." 


Dave McDonald, (a tidy sprinter back in the day), showed a good turn of foot, sprinting down from the commentary tower to get his photo taken in the birdcage. 


"I'm thrilled for Dave because he's been keeping an eye out for him for such a long time. He was just hoping he wasn't a dud. You don't want Davey Mac running around for his fortieth start for no wins." 


Davey Mac was bred and is owned by Williamson's wife Bev and is out of a four win Britwell mare Little Contessa; she's been a star broodmare for Bev leaving Group One winner Irish Whisper, Maori Invasion the winner of three races and Heard The Whisper which won six.


Little Contessa was loaned to son Nathan for one breeding season and he has a two year old full brother to Davey Mac in his stable. 


"He's a lot smaller. More in the mould of a young type horse. I'd say you might see him running down here as a two or three year old. We had him at home for a good while. I did a bit of handling with him and really liked him so I was a bit sad I had to give him to Nathan."


And a final word on Davey Mac - "He's got that nice gait and good speed so we think he'll keep progressing." 









Tony Gets Two (Sunday 24th September 2017)


Bruce Stewart




Gore trainer Tony Stratford is on a bit of a roll.


Early into the new season he has four winners on the board from just sixteen starters.


The latest two winners came at Invercargill yesterday when Macandrew Majic and Benio Ben won their respective races.


Macandrew Majic easily won the More FM Mobile Pace by eight and a half lengths. 


"I've had him since we were up at Macca Lodge. His first start was a duck egg but he galloped away from a stand and took no part. He ran third at his next start and fifth at Forbury when they ran 2-41.0. At his next start be was pulled up because he fractured a hind pastern. It was quite bad. Brendon Bell did the op and we just wanted to save him and look after him. He's got four or five screws in his leg and he was out for six months" said Stratford.


This was the five year old's first start for eleven months and it was a very good training feat by Stratford who readied the gelding for yesterdays race with just two workouts. 



"When we kicked off again we didn't have any problems with him. He had a good workout at Gore which he won in good time and we had a quiet run around at Winton. I was expecting a bold run."


Macandrew Majic is part owned by Megan Tutty (nee Reidie) who used to work for Murray Brown. She shares in the ownership with her parents and two brothers.



Macandrew Majic warming up prior to his Winton Workout - Photo Bruce Stewart 


Meanwhile one of the early season finds in Southland, Benio Ben also trained by Stratford continued on his winning way when he won the Net Ten EOM at Macca Lodge Mobile Pace.


It was the four year old's second win this season. Driven by Matty Williamson the gelding began well to lead before handing up to Rockaball. Williamson then came out of the trail to take up the running. The winning margin at the end of the 2200 metre journey was a length over Rockaball.


"He went awesome. I wasn't expecting too much to be fair because it was such a step up. I said to the owners if he ran in the top four I'd be happy," said Stratford.


The time was a slick 2-41.8 with the last half run in 57 seconds and the final quarter in 28.5.  


"He burnt twice in the first six hundred metres and held them out easily really." 



Benio Ben beating Rockaball at Ascot Park - Photo Emma McSoriley 


The first Southland Nuggets Final at the Northern Southland Meeting at Ascot Park is Benio Ben's next target and then Stratford will look at the South of the Waitaki race on Show Day during Cup week.


"I always thought he was a pretty nice horse but he was disappointing when he qualified so we biffed him out. This year he hasn't worked super at home but he's doing it when it matters (on raceday)."


The Gotta Go Cullect gelding was bred by Alan Steel, Stratford's uncle and his good friend Trevor McCall. 


"He's got a real high cruising speed. Most horses when they're running halves in a minute you know they are. He's doing it as though you're running a half in ten. A bit like Pulp Fiction."



In the birdcage - Photo Emma McSoriley 








Cox Finally Gets 500 (28th September 2017)


Bruce Stewart 



Jonny Cox became the latest driver to win 500 races when he drove Rah De Rah which he also trains, to success in the Auckland Reactor At Alabar Mobile Pace at Winton today.


He'd been sitting on 499 wins since June.


"I wasn't too worry about it really. It was good to get it and move on," he said after the race.



Win number 500 for Jonny Cox - Photo Bruce Stewart 



Heading back to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart 


His first winner came on the Winton track almost fifteen years ago to the day when he reined the Tony Barron trained Godet to win.


He compared the way races are driven these days to when he first started driving in 2002.


"You used to be able to sit back and roar home and pick them up. Now they're running faster times and are faster off the front. You definitely need to be a lot handier these days."


The former Southland driver has slowly migrated north. He was based out of Otago for a while and in recent years has worked for a number of Canterbury trainers. Up until this month he was working for Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen.


He's also trained a small team of his own in the region. 


"Happy to be a part of it (Canterbury Racing Scene). That's where it's at really. I've picked up some nice drives and had some good owners up there that have looked after me." 


He rates the Dominion Handicap win on Jaccka Justy in 2014 as the highlight of his driving career.


"I don't think I can top that." 


Recently Cox became Tim Butt's new training partner in New Zealand as Butt looks to concentrate more on his Australian stable.


"It's exciting and a new challenge. Tim has taken some nice horses to Australia but has left some nice ones here as well."


Cox was Southland Junior Driver of the Year in 2005 with 40 wins and again in 2006 with 33 wins. He was also New Zealand's leading junior driver in 2005. 


He rates Jasmyn's Gift, Lets Get Serious and Classic Cullen as some of the nicest horses he's driven outside of Jaccka Justy. 


Later in the today's programme Cox drove the Brett Gray trained Jen Jaccka to win the Phillips Horse Transport Handicap Trot. Cox has a long association with Charlie and Ailsa Smaill who own Jen Jaccka, and has driven many of their horses over the years. 


Cox took the short way home in the race, and the six year old mare won easily by two and a quarter lengths in a new track, Southland and New Zealand record time of 3-00.9 for the 2400 metre stand. The previous track records were held by Spotlight The Valley (mares- 3-02.1), Santorini Sunset (open - 3-02.8) and the New Zealand record (mares) was held by her half-sister Jess Jaccka (3-01.9).



Winning in New Zealand record time - Jen Jaccka - Photo Bruce Stewart



Back to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart 


The record was made possible by a brave front running effort from Mass Invasion.








 Kilowatt Charges Home (Thursday 28th September 2017)


Bruce Stewart



Alister Black has always had a high opinion of the royally bred Kilowatt Kid and his judgement was reinforced today when he dealt to a strong field of maiden pacers at Winton.


By American Ideal out of the eight win Live Or Die mare Wave Runner, Kilowatt Kid is owned by brothers Lindsay and Ian Thomson.


"We spotted him at Dan Cumming's place on the Southern Yearling Tour. Alister liked him. A couple of years before, we'd bought Six Diamonds, which was also by American Ideal, off the (Cummings) family," said Lindsay.


Wave Runner is also the dam of Break Dance (5 wins and 1-53.3) and Bonnie Joan (7 wins and 1-52.8).


"We bought Kilowatt Kid before Bonnie Joan showed up so we were lucky to buy him when we did."


The stable have been very patient with the gelding and were rewarded today when he won by a length and a half from another first starter in The Heart Rulz. 


"Alister said he was a nice horse from day one and he's just looked after him. He qualified last season and was turned out. We thought he'd be a better three year old. I was always told that if you haven't got the best two year old in the country don't go chasing them."


Black fitted the gelding for today's debut with two workouts.


"We were confident. We weren't too sure about Chmiels horse (Nota Bene Denario) and we'd looked at the videos. I was pretty confident anyway (laughter)." 


Kilowatt Kid was driven by Oamaru reinsman Brad Williamson who was also impressed by the horse's effort.


"He's bred to get better with racing so hopefully that's the case. He feels very green and is still learning. Potentially he could be a nice horse," said Williamson.


The early pace was set by favourite Nota Bene Denario and Dodgethebullet. Williamson followed The Heart Rulz forward. At the top of the straight it was all on for two of Southland's best early season maiden horses - The Heart Rulz held a slender lead before Kilowatt Kid slowly ground him down. The winning time was 2-59.9 and the winning margin was a length and a half. There were a further six and a half lengths back to third placegetter The Maroon Marauder.  


"He wasn't travelling all that well and it wasn't until I was halfway round the last bend that I knew he was going to win - at the 500." 




Kilowatt Kid and Brad Williamson beating The Heart Rulz (obscured) - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Winner are grinners - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Birdcage group - Photo Bruce Stewart 



The Thomson brothers, who have a farm and stable at Branxholme have been keen investers in harness racing since they sold their sheep farm about nine years ago. 


"When we sold the farm we set up at Branxholme and Alister came here and the hobby got out of hand (laughter)," said Lindsay.


So understandably the brothesr are excited about Kilowatt Kid's future. 


"Potentially he could be the best. Six Diamonds is a nice horse and we've looked after him too. We had New York Town and he's won a further six races in America."


Lindsay has been racing horses since 1986. He bred and raced Young Reb - a Yankee Reb trotter which also won at it's first start on the Winton track for Wyndham trainer Brendon McLellan.


"It was probably the worst thing that could have happened," he said highlighting the fact that he'd caught the harness racing bug.


"I also had horses with Jim Ferguson in Canterbury." 


They are for good reason, fans of the Woodland Stud stallion American Ideal and their latest 'project' by that stallion is Dazzle Me. He's a two year old out of Diamante and is closely related to Smiling Armada, Pembrook's Delight and Swamp Major.  





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