Day At The Track
Search Results
1 to 16 of 20866
1 2 3 4 5 Next »

Just An Excuse completed a remarkable New Zealand Cup run for driver Todd Mitchell. Between 1999 and 2004 the man they call “The Wizard” had three NZ Cup wins in a row and four in six years. The final two were with Just An Excuse, both times beating glamour pacer Elsu.   In 2003 (the 100th running of the NZ Cup) Just An Excuse  started a warm favourite and led from the front, outmuscling Elsu and Jack Cade in a thrilling finish. He got home by a long neck. Then a year later the champion was a $7 third favourite on the back of a limited and injury-plagued preparation.  Elsu was all the rage but Just an Excuse – a horse that his driver called a “freak” -  outsprinted his rivals to go back to back. In 2003 the winning time was 4:05.7, in 2004  4:01.2.  Just An Excuse also finished third in Mainland Banner’s history-making New Zealand Cup triumph in 2005 in what commentator Reon Murtha described as a “mighty performance”. Mitchell’s earlier Cup wins had come with Gracious Knight (2002) and Homin Hosed (1999).  His wins place him fourth equal all-time, behind Ricky May (7 NZ Cups), Cecil Devine (6) and Mark Purdon (5). Making Todd Mitchell’s successes even better was the fact that the horse they called “Lordie” was trained by his father, Robert Mitchell at Raglan . By then first season Nevele R sire Live Or Die,  Just An Excuse was the sixth foal out of My Excuse, a mare that owner-breeder  Ollie Haines once described as a “bloody nutter”. As a weanling the signs were not good as the horse had a club foot. Attempts by the breeders Ollie and Irene Haines to sell him were not successful so they raced him themselves.  He repaid the faith, winning his debut at Cambridge as a three-year-old by nine lengths. He went on to win over a million dollars by claiming five Group Ones and the New Zealand Cup – Free For All double in 2004. He was the first to do that since Christian Cullen in 1998. In all he won 17 from 39 starts. Just An Excuse’s last race was as a seven year old  on December 23, 2005.  His retirement came to a premature end two years later when he suffered a paddock injury. He broke his leg and was put down in June 2008. At the time Robert Mitchell said : “He has been such a great horse for us and really didn’t deserve to go like this.” ​   Harness Racing New Zealand

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk    Despite a lack of recent racing,  Kiwi-bred pacer Forgotten Highway is being talked up as a big contender for the  $40,000 Easter Cup at Gloucester Park in Perth. Formerly trained by Mitchell Kerr in North Canterbury, the son of Bettor’s Delight finished eighth in the 2018  New Zealand Cup and headed to Western Australia in June last year.  Now being trained by Michael Brennan the six-year-old has had two wins, four seconds and one third in seven starts. But “Butch”, as he was known in New Zealand, goes into a Group 2 staying test over 2902 metres having raced only once in the past five months. In November last year he was spelled after recording an elevated heart rate and low red cell count. But his resumption at Pinjarra on Monday was a winning one. In the Easter Cup he will  be handled for the first time by Nathan Turvey, after regular driver Michael Grantham opted for stablemate Miss Sangrial. He will start from barrier three on the front line with experts in Perth saying he ticks a lot of boxes as a winning chance. Before heading to Australia Forgotten Highway won six from 29 in New Zealand, with his final success as a $1.70 favourite at Methven in March.  Among Forgotten Highway’s rivals in the  feature to be run just after midnight on Friday morning will be another former Kiwi Taroona Bromac, who has won 10 from 13, and Always An Honour to be driven by Gary Hall Junior who has won this race five times already.​ Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk    Aged 87, well-known racing identity Ivan Schwamm has passed away, only months after training his last winner. It was just October last year when his four-year-old trotter Majestic Sunset and driver Jimmy Curtin combined to win at Timaru. “I got him for nothing off Bruce Negus. Bruce bred him, and trained him, but didn’t really like him. According to an interview he gave at the time , the victory at the Phar Lap raceway was clearly a thrill : “It was so great at the races today, the number of people that called out to me, owners, trainers, drivers – many of them I’ve known for years and years. It’s a fellowship and I love it.” It’s an industry he was part of for nearly 70 years, after first gaining his license while living in Palmerston North in 1954-55. Trotter Perekop was one of his early success stories, while Rocky Star was a stand-out. Against a field of 25 starters, he took out the 1966 Hawera Cup and was a 10-race winner. It appeared Schwamm also had an entrepreneurial streak. He started out milking cows and shearing, and in the 1960s negotiated the sale of numerous horses to North America. “I would hire an aeroplane to take a consignment of 21 horses at a time and I was in the business for 10 years”. He was associated with some great horses. He trained and drove the great mare Tussle to success early in her career after regular trainer and owner Cliff Irvine was away overseas. Tussle ended up winning 38 races including the 1987 Interdominion final at Addington. He also drove Ruling Lobell to victory in the Group 2 Welcome Stakes in 1976. Starting a $2.90 favourite he won by five lengths for trainer Des Grice. 1976 was his best year for driving with 11 wins while as a trainer, he had 122 winners from more than 1700 starters from the 1950s through to the 2020s. The veteran trainer-driver had a stable at Leeston on the outskirts of Christchurch but did most of his work with the horses on the roadside. Known for his bold driving tactics, in 2010 the then 77 year old drove his own horse Doc’s Delight to a win at Rangiora. It was his first for two seasons. At the time the horse was trained by Lew Driver. He followed that up with Saltwater Gold’s success at Orari in 2015. He will be remembered as one of harness racing’s most enduring characters Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Moving one of New Zealand’s biggest horse sales totally online could mean a fast forward to the future of the standardbred sales industry. Because while the major yearling sales every year look certain to remain a physical experience what is about to unfold in May could be an interesting test case for the future of secondary sales. New Zealand Bloodstock’s Standardbred division has been forced to move its All Aged Sale next month to the platform because of the Covid-19 restrictions. The sale is usually held at the sales grounds and many of the larger prices have been for weanlings, with buying them later enabling good pinhooking opportunities at the yearling sales nine months later. But with a physical sale not possible this year the entire catalogue of 148, including 125 weanlings will be sold via Gavelhouse. Gavelhouse started as a steady burner for New Zealand Bloodstock but has now built up a registered buyer base of over 1000, with that number set to rise quickly. While online platforms are sometimes considered an easy option for those wanting to sell excess stock, including going horses and broodmares, that has changed dramatically in the last few months. Firstly group one thoroughbred mare Consensus was sold for huge money online and then last month 1000 Guineas winner Hasahalo followed, showing the online platform can work for elite level stock. Now it is harness racing’s turn. Gavelhouse has already been hosting regular standardbred sales but they have yet to skyrocket, with the going horse market to Australia and North America already a successful avenue for selling horses of all price ranges. So moving the All Aged Sale to Gavelhouse is going to greatly raise awareness of online selling in the harness racing industry. The catalogue is online now, then moves to the Gavelhouse platform with more pics and information on the horses on May 1 and bidding starts on May 20, with a week until the sale closes on May 27 at 5pm. The horses never have to leave home and either do the buyers, who have the whole week to decide on their final bid price. And the bottom line is, it cheaper for vendors, with no transportation costs for a start. But to get the best out of harness racing sales on Gavelhouse they will need vendors to step up their presentation levels. At present online harness racing lots vary from well-presented lots with professional photography to pics of horses taken with cellphone up against the side of a shed. New Zealand Bloodstock boss Andrew Seabrook says his team led by James Jennings are going to work with vendors to provide the best advice on how to present the horses in an online world. “For this particular sale a lot of the horses are being sold by Woodlands and Alabar so they will have a good handle on presentation already,” says Seabrook. “James and the team will be sending out some hints on what to look for and it is a real chance for the whole standard to go up. “Gavelhouse is getting bigger every day and the two top thoroughbred mares we were able to sell for Australasian record prices recently show what is possible. “And while we would love to be holding the sale as normal we are thrilled to still be able to offer it using Gavelhouse.” Seabrook is hoping that if and when Level 4 restrictions are lifted that could allow at least some potential buyers to get out to see some of the horses on offer, particularly the weanlings. But if they can’t the onus goes on vendors to take high quality photos and/or video, the use of which has been enormously beneficial to yearling sales vendors who have embraced it in the last three years. And don’t be surprised if a successful sale on Gavelhouse and the resulting more registered standardbred buyers doesn’t see the platform open up even more. That could see flexibility soon whereas rather than having one sale her code per month there hare smaller, more specialised sales, maybe even just one high profile lot, which goes up for a week and can test a truly international market. While there will always be those who want to see the horses in the flesh, when it comes to actual going racehorses or recently retired broodmares most of what potential buyers want to know is readily available and vet reports can always be uploaded. The moving of the May sale to Gavelhouse comes as the far richer Inglis Easter Sale in Sydney is conduced this week entirely online, with not a horse leaving its home base. While it saw varied results, Seabrook says any sale could experience that at the moment. “We have great faith in the Gavelhouse platform and what it has already achieved and it is obvious is it only going to get better and play a larger role in both industries. “But as for this May sale, it is coming up at a very unusual time in the world economy so it will be very interesting. “But could mean so real bargains for buyers.”   Michael Guerin

The old adage ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’ will ring true with many of New Zealand’s trotting breeders.   Muscle Hill is a sire who averages $100K+ with drafts of 100+ every year in North America.His service fee commands an undisclosed figure rumoured to be north of $40,000 and yet several of this year’s age group trotting winners couldn’t get near that figure at the NZ yearling sales when offered by their vendors.   Cracker Hill, the brilliant winner of the Hambletonian was passed in for $40,000.   Chloe Rose, a New Zealand record holder this term when winning the Sires Stakes Classique, was sold for $21,000.   New Zealand Two Year Old Trotter of the Year Bolt For brilliance was sold for $30,000.   Muscle Mountain was knocked down for $30,000 and Midnight Dash passed in for $40,000.   What do they all have in common?   They were all sold at the 2018 Premiere Sale in Christchurch and they have all exceeded $30,000 in stakes.   They have achieved this despite the limited prize money on offer for square gaiters in their two year old season and early into their three year old campaigns, with their lucrative three year old season riches of the Derbies and Sires Stakes Features yet to be run.   New Zealand Oaks winner Vacation Hill is another to add to the same list of Muscle Hill yearlings offered that year, and her breeder Bruce Hutton is still scratching his head as to how.   “I think they must have thought what is Bruce Hutton doing selling this horse when he keeps and races all of his, but I had already made the decision early on that she would be sold and she never got a bid,” he said.   Despite having no obvious faults, the daughter of Muscle Hill out of Vacanza, a Dream Vacation NZ record holder from the paternal family of Sundon and Pine Chip was unwanted.   “She was a lovely filly, and a couple of days later Kevin Townley called me to see if she was still for sale and he bought her over the phone.   “I got to break her in which was part of the deal and I remember Kevin coming to look at her and quite liking her,” said Hutton.   “He made the comment that his yearlings were usually bowling along a little more when he broke them in.   “I told him because the mother could pull, we’ve really kept her quiet and never told her that she’s got speed and I think he adapted that into his own training of her.   “She just had a great style and she was bred to be good as well. We just thought we will never tell her how fast she is,” he said.   Despite qualifying as a late two-year old, the decision was made to tuck the blue-blood filly away to allow her the time to develop into her big frame.   “We all knew very early on she would make a good filly and even as a two-year old Kevin really rated her. She will get better with time and she’s in the right hands with Kevin to do so. She was too big and immature to go early and he’s looked after which is what she needed.   Vacation Hill’s mother, Vacanza, was a late bloomer and never begun her race career until January of her four-year old season.   After wins at Geraldine and then Methven, she showed she wasn’t just a toff for the grass when she then broke the 1950m mobile record for trotting mares at Addington.   She trotted the sprint trip in 2.25.2 and a MR of 1:59, breaking a 12 year old record held by Valley of the Moon.   “She was a funny mare because she pulled terribly in the prelim but in a race she was a dream to drive.   “You put her in the paddock and she takes off at a thousand miles an hour, does one lap around the paddock and then she’s as good as gold. I dunno why she did it, cover on, cover off, it didn’t make any difference,” he said.   Vacanza (Dream Vacation) was in utero as a package deal when her mother Sunny Lane (2000 Lindy Lane) was purchased.   That was a great result in itself because like Vacanza, Sunny Lane was a nightmare to get in foal and only produced three in her time at stud from eleven years of trying.   “She was at Nevele R and she always had breeding issues and didn’t get in foal that easy. We just happened to fluke that she got in foal to Dream Vacation first go,” said Hutton.   Three years after Vacanza, Sunny Lane produced a Majestic Son colt called Solar Storm who won three but disappeared in Australia after being sold.   Three years later she produced a Muscle Hilly filly called American Jewel who was purchased as a weanling by Pat Driscoll of Yabby Dabby Farm.   “American Jewel was showing exceptional talent as a three year old and was just about to race, but injured herself in a pool accident and hence never made it,” said Driscoll.   “She was bred to Love You in 2018 but we lost the foal and is now  in foal to Father Patrick, so hopefully all going  well we have a healthy foal this spring,” he said. Both Hutton and Driscoll will be hoping for some good fortune as American Jewel was where the road ended for Sunny Lane as a mare despite several more efforts.   Sunny Lane was bred by Jim Dalgety having successfully raced her dam, the exceptionally talented Sunny Action.   Sunny Action did a lot of her Open Class racing in Mark Purdon’s care, but ultimately won her three biggest races in the colours of Dalgety including the Yearling Sales Final and the NZ Trotting Stakes at three.   She was back in his colours with a young Terry Chmiel when she downed Lyell Creek in the 2000 NZ Trotting FFA, ending his unbeaten streak at 20.   The Sundon mare was line bred 2x3 to her grandam Roydon Gal and was one of the few bred on this cross by the great Sir Roy McKenzie to have much success on the track.   A few astute breeders will know this story but when researching the family I came across this nugget in Sir Roy’s book, The Roydon Heritage.   It details how fortunate we as an industry were in Sir Roy securing Roydon Gal for many reasons, none more so than the fact she left Arndon, and in turn Sundon.   “At the 1976 ‘Adios’ there was a yearling sale which featured a Super Bowl filly I was keen to secure. My aim was to help breed good young trotters. This was not a very attractive financial investment but probably necessary long term. As well as driving her before the sale, I drove a Noble Victory colt who impressed me as an ideal cross for our Game Pride mares and as a result, I had a difficult decision to make between the filly and the colt.   The sales area was crowded but my wife and daughter Robyn got seats and shortly before the filly came in, I gained one in front of them.   There was some quick and frantic bidding, but I finally secured her, though my family didn’t think so. She had cost more than I bargained for. The colt, Noble Art, sold for $4000 less later in the sale. He was purchased by Del Miller and the Grants and he became the top money winning two-year-old of 1977. He has earned over $100,000 and he will have a sub 2min record any day.   We named the filly Roydon Gal and she trained really well as a two-year-old but showed some soreness when due to race at that age. We later qualified her in 2:10 and she has now been bred to Arnie Almahurst to whom she is in foal. In 1979 she will be brought back to New Zealand. A full brother to Roydon Gal, Superbly sold at the yearling Sales for $70,000 in 1978.   The advent of time would tell us that Noble Art never broke two minutes and Roydon Gal would be one of the most influential, if not the most influential trotting mare to the New Zealand stud book ever.”   Unfortunately for Hutton, Vacanza has carried on the family tradition of struggling to get in foal.   “She’s been to some of the best vets and nobody seems to know whats wrong there.   “She doesn’t cycle or ovulate properly. We got her in foal first go with frozen semen (Vacation Hill) and thought it was easy, but she’s proved hard since,” he said.   Matings to frozen semen consorts in Muscle Hill (2017), Wishing Stone (2018) and Southwind Frank (2019) coupled with two seasons of trying the fresh semen route with Majestic Son (2020) all came up empty.   “We’ll try a few different things this year and see how we go,” said Hutton.   Hutton is perhaps best known for the deeds of his trotters from the wonderful producer, Belday.   He won the Yearling Sales Final for three-year olds with Rhythm of the Night as well as a heat of the Victorian Trotters Derby.   He still has a full-sister in Fire in the Night who was a bonnie mare and should have won a New Zealand Trotting Oaks if not for breaking in the run home where she still ran fourth and only six lengths from the winner, Commander Jewel.   Hutton has had better luck producing from this breed with three foals from Fire in the Night (in foal to Majestic Son) including a Muscle Hill mare Luminosity.   She was on track to clear maidens having run second four times in her last five starts before Covid-19 abruptly ended the season.   Injured while racing as an early two-year old, Luminosity was put in foal and produced a Love You colt that is doing its early education at the present.   “We like him but he’s not a natural trotter at this stage,” said Hutton.   “I’m also breeding from Insignificant who has a Southwind Frank colt on her and is back in foal to Majestic Son,” he said.   Hutton has never been shy when it comes to trying to improve his breed and has been one of the great disciples of Muscle Hill, well before his stock began to produce the results they have today.   His theories on breeding are simple.   “Both Fire in the Night and Insignificant are nice quality mares with a reasonable pedigree behind them. You’ve gotta try and back yourself don’t ya?   “Breed the best to the best and hope for the best. I sell a lot of horses up to American and I’ve got a lot of contacts up there who I’ve always spoken to about their breeding scene and what’s working well.   “I’ve been looking to see if I can find a quality horse up there to bring down and actually race here with a view to breed from, but of course with all the stuff that’s happening now it’s probably going to be prohibitive,” said Hutton.   Another prohibitive factor in recent years has been Hutton’s health with the Canterbury horseman battling cancer, but he is fighting back having recently undergone stem cell treatment.   It’s a good thing he’s a fighter, because Vacation Hill’s win in the Oaks provided him with his biggest thrill as a breeder.   “It was actually my first ever Group win as a breeder and was a massive thrill to see the horse win for Kev and connections,” he said.     By Brad Reid Read more articles like this in the Breeders Update: Subscribe here: 

Mike and Dawn McQuoid celebrated their biggest thrill as breeders on Friday night when they cheered home Patronus Star in the Group One Western Australian Derby. Currently in lock down in Roxborough with family, Mike said the family stayed up late to take in the result, win, lose or draw. “We knew it was on and we thought we would have a punt and either make some money, or lose some money. And as it turned out, we made some money,” he laughed. The North Canterbury businessman owns a scrap metal company and has only been involved in harness racing since 2007. He attended an auction for the estate of Bill McDonald with the intention of buying a broodmare. “We purchased Star Command (2000 In The Pocket) as a dry mare for $7000 after being put onto through a mate of ours who had Nursemepocket and she was a close relative. “When she came into the ring, he made sure to turn around and tell us to not let her get away and pay what we needed too to secure her. We probably would have drawn the line somewhere, but we got what we came for in the end,” said McQuoid. On paper the mare doesn’t jump out as mare you have to have, but when you dig a little deeper you soon see this was a family that has a bit more than meets the eye. And as I have since learned, it was a well-respected breed that was damn hard to get into. Star Command was unraced but was out of a full sister to the former Open Class pacer Starship in Venetian Star. Venetian Star and Starship were both by Lordship and the latter took on the town hall company of his era. Bill McDonald did the training of Starship at two, but the colt ran into Tuapeka Knight who we know was nigh on unbeatable as a juvenile. Starship ran second to Tuapeka Knight an incredible eight times, but still won six races including the G3 Forbury Juvenile and amassed $70,000 in stakes. At three and four it didn’t get any easier running into the sensational Dillon Dean and Godfrey. After getting his toes wet in Open Class in 1988, he transferred to the care of John Reedy where was produced fresh up in the Ashburton Flying Stakes having not races since Cup Day the year prior to win the Group 3 ahead of Debbie’s Boy and his old foe Dillon Dean. He ran second in the Flying Stakes a year later and finished second in the 1990 New Zealand Cup behind Neroship. He beat Christopher Vance and Master Musician in the 1991 Kaikoura Cup and was second behind Christopher Vance in the 1991 Auckland Cup. Although he never won a Group One, Starship was there abouts in most of the big races in a tough era of racing, winning over $350,000 and 16 races. He would be tried at stud and despite some fairly good numbers early on, never quite measured up, leaving 39 winners from 209 live foals. Starship’s full sister Venetian Star was unraced, but as her brother was going to war on the track, she was about to leave a star of her own. From her first foal in 1991 she left a Vance Hanover colt by the name of Anvils Star. He never raced at two and waiting for him in the three-year-old ranks was Il Vicolo who was simply a class above. Anvils Star was second to Il Vicolo in the Sires Stakes final in 1994 however and ran with distinction into his Open Class career without ever bagging a Group One. Having won the 96’ Hannon Memorial, he ran 2nd in the New Zealand Cup that year behind Il Vicolo as the rank outside in the field. Soon after he was off to Victoria where in his first three runs on Aussie soil, Anvils Star won the Bendigo cup, ran 2nd in the Victoria Cup behind Desperate Comment and was 2nd a fortnight later in the Hunter Cup behind Surprise Package. On his return home he won the 1998 Waitakere Flying Mile while it was still held at Alexandra Park in a career best 1:54.8, having run fifth in the Auckland Cup four days earlier. He finished his career with $444,000 in stakes and won 15 races. Other good performers from the immediate family of Venetian Star include; Rocket Star ($411,000) Out of a full sister to Star Command in Star Rhapsody Marshal Star ($100,669) Crystal Star ($148,406) Star Friendship ($53,000) What the family lacks in depth it makes up for with some good, tough horses who now with the advent of modern bloodlines, appear to be resurgent with some speed being bred into the breed. Back to the McQuoid’s who bred the Derby winner after having decided to get into the breeding caper as a hobby. “We’ve had the mare at Wai Eyre farm for nearly 13 years now and always go out to see the foals and have raced most of the progeny,” said McQuoid. The first foal they bred from Star Command was a Bettor’s Delight colt who didn’t want to be a pacer. “Kairanga Star was a high gaited thing and a wee bit crazy on it and was sent down to the road to Joe Clementson and is possibly still there, “he laughed. The second foal they bred by American Ideal was much better and was to be the McQuoid’s first horse at the races and kick start a bit of success in the 2014/15 season. “He won three in a row with Phil Burrows and then won the Futurity on Show Day which was a bit of a buzz and shortly after that race we sold him to Perth. “He ended up running third in the Golden Nugget at his first start behind Libertybelle Midfrew,” said McQuoid. He would win $145,000 and 12 races in W.A where he finished his career. The same season Billies A Star came on the scene, the friend (Ray Churches) who had talked the McQuoid’s into the breed did a deal on a mare of his own from the same family, albeit a different taproot. “He wasn’t going to serve his mare called Nurseme Pocket (In The Pocket – Star Mystery) so I agreed to breed a few with him,” said McQuoid. “We bred her to Real Desire and got Gracious Star who was a bloody nice mare (won four at four) until she had a freak injury in the Harness Jewels mares’ race and broke her front leg,” he said. Although the season finished on a sour note, the McQuoid’s had a year to remember in 2015 winning eight races in total. The next mating of his own mare was to Rocknroll Hanover who at $20,000 didn’t come cheap. “Perfect Circle won one race, but she was just a wee dot and wasn’t very big, but we gave her away as a hack. Someone recently asked me where she is and she’s enjoying life as a riding horse for a young girl. Better someone else be having a bit of fun with her but she could be bred from one day,” he laughed. “We actually got a discount mating to Four Starzz Shark for having bred our mare to Rocknroll Hanover and we used it on Ray Churches mare to get Mista Shark. “He was a nice horse who we sold to Perth and he actually won the San Simeon Final (G2) the same night Lazarus won the Interdominion Final at Gloucester Park,” he said. After missing with American Ideal to Star Command in 2014, the McQuoid’s waited another two years before serving their mare with the same sire. The resultant foal produced a full brother to Billie’s A Star and last week’s WA Derby winner, Patronus Star. “We originally had our progeny trained by Phil Burrows but when Ronnie Dawe sold his property and Phil went to work at the Dunn’s, we sent Patronus to Gavin Smith,” said McQuoid. Gavin Smith had done a lot of the driving for the McQuoid’s charges in their brief time racing horses, so it wasn’t a completely new association for either party. Smith always felt the horse would improve with time, and potentially the style of racing, but admits he never saw Derby potential. “I couldn’t have said he’d win the derby, but he was a really nice horse that was just coming to it after needing time to strengthen. “His two starts at Blenheim without a trial we’re super. He was very much on the up as American ideals tend to do with time and they seem to thrive in Perth as long as they have speed, which he did,” said Smith. Patronus Star barely went a bad race in New Zealand before going to WA. He won his second start at Timaru after placing on debut, ran third on Cup Day behind Ascalabus paying $17 a place and did a nice job on the Blenheim circuit with a win and a second over the two-day meeting. Patronus Star won fresh up over a mile at Bunbury in a 1:53 mile rate and was sent out a $7.50 chance in the Derby a week later. In what was an enthralling race with several tactical moves, Gary Hall Jnr launched the favourite, Major Martini with a lap to go making a line of three setting up a third quarter of 27.3. Patronus Star was sitting four the pegs and sweating a run which never came until several runners tired on the final bend. With plenty of work to do, Patronus Star gobbled them up right down the outside to nail a gallant Major Martini on the wire. Having celebrated their greatest breeding achievement under the constraints of the Covid19 lockdown, the next goal for the McQuoid’s is understandably to get their Group One producer back in foal. “We couldn’t get her in foal this year, but we will be going to American Ideal this coming season,” Said McQuoid. With the stallion now Vic Bred eligible, the resultant progeny will have a lot of value on both sides of the tasman.   By Brad Reid Read more articles like this in the Breeders Update: Subscribe here: 

Like his Sire and Grandsire before him, Inky Lord was a New Zealand Cup champion and very much an Addington crowd favourite. He won in 1989 as a four year old in what was the first of Ricky May’s seven New Zealand Cup-winning drives. That followed Lord Module’s win for Ces Devine in 1979 ( the last of his six wins). Both champions were sired by the great Lordship who won twice for the Nyhans (1962 and 1966). In the first of his triumphs he beat none other than the great Cardigan Bay. And Lordship in turn was from 1954 winner Johnny Globe who went on to become the country’s leading sire four times in the 1970s. Inky Lord was trained by Brian Saunders in Mid Canterbury, and raced by his brother Gavan. He won 21 from 50. His triumph in the New Zealand Cup was notable from start to finish. Because the horse had been erratic from the stand previously May used a tip from his good mate Jim Curtin and that was to get the starter’s assistant to put a few stones in Inky Lord’s mouth to distract him. “I don’t know if you’d get away with that these days.” May said. But it worked a treat – Inky Lord made a great start But the concluding stages didn’t go to plan at all, with Inky Lord getting a check 450 metres from the finish. He was already 12 lengths from pacemaker Kylie’s Hero. Ricky May would later say, “It just took me out of the race. I didn’t have a dog’s show when that happened.” But the gaps opened and Inky Lord powered home out wide and just five metres from the finish he was home. Favourite Luxury Liner was out of the money, Dillion Dean was second ahead of Bold Sharvid. Dillion Dean’s driver Colin De Filippi said : “I was pretty confident I had everything covered. I had forgotten about Inky Lord, because I knew he was behind me, and I didn’t think anything would come from behind Dillion Dean and beat him.” De Filippi would get his one and only New Zealand Cup win, at his 17th attempt, with Kym’s Girl in 2001. As for Inky Lord there was no fairytale finish to his racing career. On November 7 he collapsed and died during the 1991 New Zealand Cup trial from a ruptured aorta.   Harness Racing New Zealand

By Dave Di Somma On January 3 Ellie Barron played a part in saving Ricky May’s life. He had just collapsed in the sulky and fell to the track when driving A. G. White Socks in the Central Otago Cup at Omakau. Ellie Barron, a trained physiotherapist, was quickly on the scene and administered CPR until the paramedics took over.  Thanks to her actions, Ricky May has recovered to the point where he is back working on the family farm and is confident of a return to driving when racing resumes post lockdown. The winner of 2949 races  (the third highest in NZ) May has won the New Zealand Cup seven times while Clark is the third generation of her family to be involved in harness racing.  She’s a Junior Driver with 38 wins since starting her driving career in 2018. In this video May and Barron talk face to face for the first time since that day.​   Harness Racing New Zealand

Sydney-based Riley Butt has become the latest member of one of New Zealand harness racing's most famous  families to make it to the winner's circle. In just his fourth raceday drive the 17 year old has won at Menangle on hot favourite "Tact Tama" trained by his dad Tim Butt. Here he talks to Greg O'Connor about his debut win.    Harness Racing New Zealand

When it comes to his deeds in a sulky, Anthony Grant Herlihy (Tony) is without rival. Since reining his first winner Gymea Gold at Cambridge in 1978, the Papakura-based trainer-driver has saluted the judge a record 3530 times, including three New Zealand Cups with Luxury Liner (1988) , Christopher Vance (1991) and Chokin (1993). On the all-time list of New Zealand drivers, he is 262 clear of nearest rival Maurice McKendry (3268) and then Ricky May (2949). Along the way he’s also won four Inter-dominions, eight Driving Premierships, been World Champion, and made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit. As a driver he’s won more than $38m in stakes, as a trainer he’s had 970 winners from 5377 starts. He knows his way around a track. Not from a traditional racing family Herlihy started out by helping his uncle Arnie Gadsby before leaving school in Te Awamutu at 16. By then his uncle was stable foreman for one of the sport’s legends, Roy Purdon. Many years later Herlihy married Roy’s daughter Suzanne and has had a long and successful association with the Purdon clan, including brothers-in-law and champion trainers Mark and Barry. Known for his unflappable demeanour Herlihy is commonly referred to as The Ice Man but apparently has other nicknames as well. According to an interview with the New Zealand Herald (2012) they include Mr Perfect, Ice Block and also Forest Gump, “because he is so simple and down-to-earth yet has achieved so much.” And the COVID-19 lockdown came at a time when Herlihy was in fine form. At Alexandra Park on March 20 the Iceman became the Thriceman with a treble of winners with Platinum, On the Cards and LL Cool J. Tomorrow we bring you “I” and a NZ Cup win that ran in the family.   Harness Racing New Zealand

Like all Harness Racing trainers, Phil Williamson of Oamaru is in a holding pattern at the moment – just waiting for Covid19 to get to a stage where racing can resume. “We’re in jog mode. Some horses have had some time off and we’ve carried on through with others with the hope that when they make a decision to get back to racing we won’t be too far off,” he said. Stable star Ultimate Stride is one horse Williamson is keen to get back to the races. “He’s not quite ready to race but if they race in May or June he’ll be ready.” In his first season of racing as a two year old Ultimate Stride won on both sides of the Tasman, claiming stakes of close to $150,000. “He’s come up great. He’s a quality horse and it’ll be exciting to have him back racing. I’ve heard the Sires Stakes races (for horses that are now two and three years old) will be held in the new season, which will be exciting. We’ll definitely be there with Ultimate Stride and Leaf Stride (Love You – Sun Mist) if they have those kinds of races.” Leaf Stride                                                                 – Photo Bruce Stewart The stable’s open class trotter Majestic Man is also being jogged. He’s proved to be particularly good at racing right handed and he’s missed racing in some of the richest trotting races in Auckland at the end of the season. “He’s in the same holding pattern. He was going to go to Auckland for the Rowe and Anzac Cups but obviously they’ve been shelved. He’s in light work and just waiting on the green light as we are with our whole team.” Williamson says one of the stable’s main challenges is proving to be the lack of availability of a blacksmith. “My blacksmith comes from the other side of the Waitaki Bridge which is deemed outside of our region. So he can’t come across; but it’s also deemed not to be essential. They (MPI) say you can work horses with no shoes on. You can to a degree, but when you’re working on grit tracks you’ll have no feet left after a certain amount of time.” Williamson says he’s talked to HRNZ about the issue. “I can’t get going without my blacksmith. I can only get so far into jogging without shoes before I have to stop. It’s a problem for me because there are three blacksmiths in the area and they’re all across the river.” Hopefully HRNZ will have some luck in convincing MPI that shoeing horses is a essential service.   Bruce Stewart

“He was a nice horse from day dot. He always had ability, was nice to work with and had a good all round game.” This is how trainer Phil Williamson summed up the career of recently retired open class trotter Monty Python when spoken to today. The veteran of 119 starts has been a great example of trotting longevity, racing over eight seasons for Williamson and The Griffins Syndicate. “He hasn’t had a single injury as I can recall, and he retired sound, and he’s running round like a gazelle.” Over eight seasons of racing the Pegasus Spur gelding earned a tick over $300,000. “He probably wasn’t a star but ran against some stars and he beat a lot of them on occasions.” I asked Williamson what Monty Python’s career highlights were for him. “His Group One efforts for third in two Dominions and second in a Rowe Cup. I think being three quarters of a lengths behind Speeding Spur – that was a terrific effort considering he didn’t like the Auckland way round.” The ten year old has been retired to a large dairy farm south of Oamaru, twenty minutes from the Williamson stable. “He’s on a nice big farm and with a farmer that has two or three other horses. He was galloping round the hill as we let him go on a 100 acre block so he’s got the good life. Being on a dairy farm he’ll have good pasture. Whether they try to get on him to ride remains to be seen. He’ll probably be fine with that as he’s a big strong horse.” Monty Python after winning the Southern Lights 2017    --Bruce Stewart photo Williamson has a half-brother to Monty Python in the stable. He’s a three year old by Quaker Jet and he too is owned by the Griffins Syndicate along with the Seafield Trotting Syndicate. “He’s a very big horse needing time. He’ll win races but he’s not of the same quality of Monty Python. He’s okay though.” Williamson says the Griffins Syndicate has been one of the luckiest syndicates he knows. “They’ve had a run of pretty nice horses. They’ve been blessed alright.” “Monty’s” fact sheet Monty Python: 2009 bay gelding by Pegasus Spur fourth foal out of Juliana (Sundon) Born: 13th December 2009 Breeders:  Keith and Bevan Grice Lessee:  Griffins Syndicate, R I McIntosh, G L McIntyre (as at 24-12-2019) Trainer:  Phil Williamson Qualified:  Oamaru 8th September 2012 winning by two lengths. Lifetime record:  119-15-17-21 $300,592 Wins:  New Zealand (12) and Australia (3) Biggest paydays:  2018 Rowe Cup –second ($25,500), 2017 Dominion Handicap – third ($20,590) and 2019 Dominion Handicap – third  ($20,590) First win:  Winton 27th February 2013 Last win:  Gore 8th February 2020 Biggest winning streak (4):  November 2014 – January 2015. Biggest season:  2019 39-6-1-9  $161,604 Biggest winning margins:  Ascot Park – August 2015 (nine and half lengths), Ascot Park -November 2014 (nine and a quarter lengths), and Winton February 2013 (six lengths- first win) Biggest handicap win:  (55 metres) Gore February 2020 (last win) Winning drivers:  Brad Williamson (8), Matty Williamson (6), Chris Alford (3) and Gavin Laing (1) Group wins and placings New Zealand: 3rd 2016 Group Three Summer Trotting FFA at Addington 1st 2017 Group Three Southern Light at Ascot Park 3rd 2017 Group Three DG Jones Memorial at Bank Peninsula 3rd 2017 Group One Dominion Handicap at Addington 2nd 2018 Group One Rowe Cup at Alexandra Park 2nd 2018 Group Three DG Jones Memorial at Banks Peninsula 3rd 2019 Group One Dominion Handicap at Addington Groups wins and placings Australia 3rd 2018 Group One Interdominion Trotting Championship at Melton 3rd 2019 Group Three Cobram Trotters Cup 3rd 2019 Group Two South Australian Trotters Cup 1st 2019 Group Three Cranbourne Trotters Cup 1st 2019 Group Three Horsham Trotters Cup Ascot Park and Southland Track Records: Ascot Park: 2700 metre stand for four year old and older entires and geldings (3-26.3) 30th January 2016. Ascot Park: 3200 metre stand for four year old and older entires and geldings (4-06.6) 12th March 2017. Best tracks by wins: Addington (5) Ascot Park (4) Winton, Gore and Omakau (1 at each)   Bruce Stewart

HRNZ Chief Executive Peter Jensen is cautiously optimistic that harness racing could resume later this season, but he fully understands that the  Covid19 situation changes by the day. “We’re looking at resuming racing at the end of May or the beginning of June but that’s very much subject to the alert level status. I’m very keen to give people some certainty but it’s very difficult to do in such a changing environment,” he said. Under Covid19 restrictions Jensen says HRNZ has made the decision to limit racing when it resumes, on a regional basis. He says how that looks will be communicated over the next week. “So there won’t be licensee movement between those regions. I read today that we may come out of Alert Level 4 on a regional basis so obviously we want to maximise the opportunity to race, but taking a regional approach.” Jensen said the regional plan hasn’t been completely finalised yet. “What I can tell you is that we’ll only be racing on one course in Southland. It’s not 100% confirmed but that’s likely to be Ascot Park.” Jensen says that whilst it’s likely that horses will be able to move between regions to race, for example Southland horses could to travel to Canterbury, trainers and drivers would not. He says HRNZ Handicapper Andrew Morris is currently working with the Regional Racing Managers to assess how many horses are still in racing stables and/or are on the active list. “We’re just getting a sense of what decisions they’ve made about their teams. If we were for example to resume at the end of May, what sort of horse numbers will we have? This information will allow us to know what sort and how many races we can schedule to maximise the horses for wagering.” Jensen says that when racing does return it will have to be done cost effectively. “That decision will be made in conjunction with RITA but you’ve got to understand there are venue services costs and club costs that don’t vary much whether you run five or ten races. So the challenge for us is to make it cost effective.” Jensen says from feedback he’s received from trainers, a reasonable number of horses remain in work. “I saw a note today from a trainer saying he’d turned out his team that were ready to race for ten days but he was keeping the other horses ticking over. I think that’s the sort of approach we’ll see from a number of trainers. That’s why we’re saying we probably won’t be racing until the end of May because we know we just can’t turn the tap on.” Jensen says that all the meetings scheduled for the rest of the season have been scrapped. “We’ll rework the calendar from when racing resumes until probably the end of September. The focus will be on two things; maximising the opportunities for horses to race, and maximising the wagering opportunities.” Jensen says its HRNZ intent to race the end of the season Sires Stakes races early in the new season, but this too is yet to be finalised.   Bruce Stewart

A contingent of 17 horses was flown out from Auckland to America late last month.   It included the dual Inter Dominion Final placegetter and Grand Circuit winner Flaming Flutter 1:52.2 ($814,235), a 10 year-old Bettor’s Delight entire out of the In The Pocket mare Twice As Hot; the mile specialist Majordan 1:48.9 ($506,568), a seven-year-old Art Major gelding from the multiple Group 1 producer Benelise; and the WA Golden Nugget winner Ana Malak (1:54.9), a five-year-old entire son of Bettor’s Delight and Anna Livia.   The Hondo Grattan Sprint winner Salty Robyn (1:49.2), a seven-year-old gelding by Art Official from Holly Robyn; the prolific cups winner Yaya’s Hot Spot (1:50.9), a nine-year-old gelding by Jereme’s Jet from Star Of Heaven; the NSW Golden Mile winner Letspendanitetogetha (1:51.4), a seven-year-old gelding by Washington VC out of The Moth were also part of the IRT payload.   Others on the flight were: Afterdinnerspeaker (1:49.9), a six-year-old Well Said gelding from Luckisaladytonight; God’s Spirit (1:50.9), a five-year-old Tintin In America gelding out of Cathar; Im The Director (1:51), a six-year-old Courage Under Fire-The Actress gelding; Thatswhatisaid (1:51.4), a five-year-old Well Said gelding from Shakeilah; and My Ruebe Star (1:52.6), a five-year-old mare by Falcon Seelster from Zenola Star; Ohoka Johnny (1:52.7), a six-year-old gelding by Ohoka Arizona from Glentara; Foo Fighter (1:50.6), a six-year-old gelding by American Ideal from Lucy’s Way; and Dontstopbelievin (1:56.3), a five-year-old mare by Somebeachsomewhere from Bedtime.   The Melton winning trotter Montpellier(Orlando Vici-The Kahmotion); Majorly Sexy, an unraced Art Major-Sexy Lexy Whitby colt; and the maiden mare Shezlimitless (Sportswriter- Speedy Falcon) completed the charter.   Peter Wharton

New Zealand Bloodstock’s largest standardbred breeding stock sale is now set be conducted on the digital platform this May, with an early release of the full catalogue available to view on the NZB Standardbred website.  Initially cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, the support and resilience shown by consignors alongside the partnership between NZB Standardbred and has seen the transfer of the 2020 All Age Sale catalogue to NZB’s subsidiary online auction platform. The revised format will see only those initially entered in the physical sale offered on from Friday 1 May, with bidding open from Wednesday 20 May and the first Lot closing on Wednesday 27 May at 5pm (NZT). In light of recent and unprecedented circumstances, the pre-launched catalogue on NZB Standardbred’s website will give buyers a timely opportunity to conduct appropriate research for the online sale, which would have been initially accessible if the physical sale had taken place. “When we announced the cancellation of the physical auction we said it was important for the vendors to offer their weanlings within the usual trading period, in order to maintain their on-farm operations,” commented NZB Director and Operations Manager James Jennings. “Having the 2020 All Age Sale as an online sale on Standardbred enables that to be achieved. “We are grateful for the commitment by the consignors to support the sale with 148 lots including 125 weanlings entered.  “Our two largest consignors, Woodlands Stud and Alabar’s continued support using this online format presents a wonderful opportunity, which we feel people will embrace to secure quality stock. “Our intention is to give prospective buyers the best resources we can to assess the offerings and we will be releasing further information shortly with buyer how-to guides as well as announcements on COVID-19 restrictions as we progress through to the Sale,” said Jennings. Taking into account government restrictions where in-person inspections of All Age Sale stock are currently not viable, there will be enhanced features with additional photos and videos able to be uploaded by vendors to showcase their entries.  Alabar Farm’s Graeme Henley is encouraged by the new Sale format. “With the cancellation of the physical Sale, we’re grateful that NZB Standardbred are continuing to back the selling of these weanlings by providing us with an online alternative. “The catalogue being put on means that everyone will be able to be involved – which is obviously essential until there is some certainty around travel. “To be fair and transparent, none of our weanling sale entries are available for prior sale, and most importantly the weanlings offered will still be Harness Million Series eligible.  “There’s some really top horses sold at the weanling sale every year. The format may be different this year, but the quality is still there,” said Henley. Buyers will need to register on prior to the Sale in order to invest in a wide range of quality stock, featuring proven, emerging and first season sires, plus siblings to Group winners and progeny from Group One-winning dams. Adding further appeal to the bloodstock that will be on offer, all weanlings offered at the All Age Sale on, which had previously been entered in the 2020 All Aged Sale are eligible to be nominated for the NZB Standardbred Harness Million Sales Race Series. Take an early look at the 2020 All Age Sale catalogue to go live on on 1 May online here. Create a account to ensure you are registered for bidding here. For more information, contact Cam Bray ( or call +64 21 737 199) or Haylie Martin ( or call +64 22 637 8127).  

The late Lorraine Grant was a trailblazer, though it appears she didn’t want to make a big deal about making her way in what was a male-dominated industry.   “Really driving is all in the hands and feet, sex makes no difference," she said at the time, "Of course, there will always be those against women drivers, but I was surprised by a lot of the others." She’d been involved with horses since she was a teenager and in the 1960s helped her husband Murray Watson at their Methven property in Mid Canterbury.   He died in hospital after a race crash at Motukarara in October, 1971. "I felt I had to keep on, I didn't want to see all the work he'd done go to waste, or the horses go to someone else," she said. "And that's what he would have wanted." According to HRNZ statistics her best year would be 1993.  As a driver she won 8 from 35 that year and in 25 years of training (1972-97) there were 46 wins from 219 starters. But it’s her association with stable star Rainbow Patch (10 wins – 51 starts) that saw her make New Zealand Cup history.   In 1995 she was the first woman to drive in the country’s most important race. The combo started as the rank outsider, and finished last in the 14-strong field, with Mark Purdon and  Il Vicolo winning the first of their two New Zealand Cups.  It would be 20 years before a female driver would take out the Cup, with Australian visitor Kerryn Manning winning with Arden Rooney, just a week after Michelle Payne created history by being  the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup. Natalie Rasmussen, of Blacks A Fake fame, but now very much at the heart of the all-powerful All Stars stable with Purdon, would repeat the dose with The Fixer in 2018. Lorraine Grant finished race driving and training in 1997, and after suffering health issues, died a year later, aged 54. ​   Harness Racing New Zealand

1 to 16 of 20866
1 2 3 4 5 Next »