Day At The Track

Talented rogue gets first win

10:30 AM 11 Feb 2018 NZDT
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Picketts Ridge,Harness racing
Picketts Ridge after winning at Gore
Photo Bruce Stewart

To say that Picketts Ridge has been a bit of a handful is a major understatement!

The 'problem child' spent the early part of his life with Gore trainer Tony Holland who picked him up from Macca Lodge when he was looking for a horse to take on holiday to Cromwell.

“He’d done six weeks jogging which suited me. He had a bit of a history of bucking. The wife was half scared of him. Thats why I ended up giving him to John. He’s got more carts than I have,” said Holland with a rye smile.

Holland said Picketts Ridge has had some major meltdowns - twice on the Gore track and twice at home.

“Out on the track one day I was jogging him and having a chat to Tony Stratford and a couple of horses came towards me. Did he go off! He broke the cart in half and got away, with the cart on, down to the far corner of the racecourse. I got within twenty metres of him and he just walked up to me. I’ve never had a horse do that to me. I went home, put another cart on him and we went straight back out. You couldn’t have got a quieter horse.”

Picketts Ridge beating Nottingham K Two  - Photo Bruce Stewart

Current trainer John Ryan says he got to know Picketts Ridge well in the early days working his own horses with the gelding last season, and also seeing him at the trials at Winton one day.

“My mare (Kiwi Inspiration) trotted off the mark and after a while I looked back and Tony’s horse (Picketts Ridge) was still at the start. The next thing he was up beside me and won. He must have trotted 3-10 but didn’t qualify because he broke,” said Ryan.

That was in March last year and Holland said at one point he was close to sacking the horse.

“The day before the trials at Wyndham I was giving him standing start practice and once again he got into it (bucking and kicking). It was all in mid-air. You had to feel it. I said that was it, bugger him. A fella wanted to buy him and was supposed to be at the trials but he didn’t turn up. Nathan drove him at the trials and won on him and he qualified easily.” 

That was in April last season as a three year old. After that his training was taken over by Ryan. 

“I took him right back to basics. He’d had a few injuries and had a lot of healing to do so we used that time to put him back onto the long reins,” he said.

Ryan says he’s also changed the gear the trotter was wearing, putting a special homemade add-on to the horse’s cropper (see picture). It’s a piece of polythene pipe that’s taped to the top of the cropper which holds the tail higher than usual.

Picketts Ridges cropper - Photo Bruce Stewart

“It’s actually off one of the markers on the track. It means he couldn’t get his tail down and start bucking. Nine times out of ten they clap their tail before they buck. When they clap their tail it sends a signal to the brain to kick and buck. He’s been picture perfect since.”

Ryan says there’s still plenty of sorting out to do but the potential is certainly there.

“He’s got a future. He feels like as good a horse as I’ve ever had. In saying that he trotted really roughly when he finished second at Wyndham. If I can get him trotting as good as he should be he could be anything.”

Ryan says at the moment he has to be driven in a certain way.

“I was working him on the grass and running him down the straight the other day. I just let him go and he rolled into a break. I said to Nathan 'keep him on the bit and hang on'.

That’s what Williamson did today and he held on to beat Nottingham K Two by three quarters of a length.

John also suspects the horse is feeling his hocks and he’s considering giving the horse a short break.

“When I was in Auckland I stayed with Claire and Dave McGowan. Claire’s a wonderful horse physio. Six days a week she’s flat tak from daylight to dark. She’s advised me to ice pack his hocks. I’ve got a set (of special ice packs) arriving this week. She said to take him quietly and not work him too hard which I have done this week.”

Picketts Ridge is out of the Sundon mare Come Follow Me and was bred by Macca Lodge. Come Follow Me is out of the nine win Gee Whiz II mare Be Not Afraid.

Holland, who shares in the ownership of Picketts Ridge with his wife Philippa, works shift work at Fonterra and finished at 5am this morning. He doesn’t train too many horses and recently sold his unbeaten Washington VC pacer Back In The Day who will do his future racing in Melbourne.

Philippa Holland, John Ryan and Tony Holland with Picketts Ridge - Photo Bruce Stewart.

“I got four or five good offers for him. I said 'I’m keeping this one - he’s got the X factor'. I got a text (from Peter Larkin) with a huge offer and it buggered me seeing that. I said to the Aussie - you’ve stuffed me making the offer like that. He said that’s usually the best way.” 

Meanwhile Ryan’s good mare Golden Gate is in foal to Love You.

“She’s not at the peak of her powers at the moment but is enjoying being in work.  It’s good to have her so settled at this time of year. Normally she’s in and out of season and she can be a proper old dog. We can race her until the end of next month before the 120 days are up.”

The win on Picketts Ridge was Southland driver Nathan Williamson’s 700th.

Bruce Stewart

Southland Harness Racing

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