Commander Barclay (Sunday 15th March 2015)
Driver Brent Barclay knew he had an advantage and that he had to make the most of Sky Commander's very good standing start manners.
The consistent C0 trotter had some talented C1 trotters behind him, including his stablemate Jen Jaccka which started off the 30 metre mark in yesterday's New Zealand Steel Graduation Series Handicap Trot at Winton.
Barclay's plan to lead and run the journey at good even quarters, put paid to any of his opposition getting near him. The Skyvalley three year old was just too good, beating Ruby's Jewel by seven and a half lengths.
He was having only his second start for Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray after he was purchased by the Butterworth Racing Syndicate from Brian Norman.
The 2400 metres was trotted in 3-04.2 - a new track and Southland record for three year olds, beating the previous record of 3-07.8 held by The Fiery Ginga.
New track record holder Sky Commander and Brent Barclay - Photo Bruce Stewart
Stable mate Jen Jaccka driven by Nathan Williamson finished well for fifth.
"Jen's a pretty special horse but with the 30 metres it was just a long way to give them over 2400 metres. Nathan was rapt with her run and he said she went to the line really nice. So we'll go into the Oaks at Addington next Friday."
Meanwhile earlier in the programme the Ben and Karen Calder owned Santorini Sunset not only picked up a Harness Plus bonus when winning the Ampelite NZ Handicap Trot, but he also broke the open 2400 metre record for trotters.
The four year old Majestic Son - Sunning gelding trained at Russley by Kevin Townley beat Trouble Rieu by half a length running the 2400 stand in 3-02.8. Moment Of Sun held the previous record of 3-03.5.
The Townley trained Sheeman holds the New Zealand record of 3-00.6.
New track record holder Santorini Sunset returning with Dexter Dunn - Photo Bruce Stewart
Other track records on the day were: Donegal Kahlum 1-54.9 (3 year old fillies 2400 metres mobile) and That's Hunting Pink 4-02.5 (open 3200 metres stand).
Dexter with another track record holder Donegal Kahlum - Photo Bruce Stewart
Smithy Into Supremacy (Sunday 15th March 2015)
The Jamie Gameson trained Smithy booked a place in next months Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes Final when he easily won The Hits 98.8 Mobile Pace at Winton yesterday.
"I got him off a guy I'd known all my life called Johnny Smith. He died two years ago so he didn't actually see him race. His wife Nicky suggested that we called him Smithy. She still races him with a couple of good clients Robin Beeby and Peter Burt, my wife Natalie and I and Ken Hainsworth who came on board before Cup week," said Gameson.
In yesterdays race, driver Craig Thornley positioned Smithy two back on the outside with Bettor Pay Me and Dexter Dunn leading. With 1100 metres to run Thornley surged forward, taking the lead and keeping on a solid pace.
Down the straight he kicked on too strongly to beat I'm Full Of Excuses by a length and a half. The 2400 metres was covered in 2-55.9. Rider On The Storm holds the course and New Zealand record of 2-54.5 - recorded in 2007.
"I was glad Craig let them burn early. He was a little bit revved up. Once he got out in the open he just dropped the bit."
Smithy and Craig Thornley - Photo Bruce Stewart
Gameson has had Smithy since he was a young horse.
Smithy is now qualified for the Supremacy Fina,l a $45,000 Group Two feature for three year old colts and geldings held on Diamonds Day Sunday 12th April.
Sell A Bit A Keeper (Sunday 15th March 2015)
Canterbury trainer Brent White has sold some good horses including Elios and Wesley Silcox but yesterday's Southern Belle Speed Series winner Sell A Bit is one he's hanging onto in the meantime.
"It was great for the owners; The Offinluckee Syndicate and Lisa Hill of Nelson, who is a real good friend of mine, and breeder Catherine Hey," said White after the four year old Julius Caesar mare won the feature.
Sell A Bit is out of the Live Or Die mare Nomorenuki.
"I broke her (Sell A Bit) in as a yearling. She broke in real nice and qualified as a two year old but was just a bit weak. She won a race at Forbury as a two year old then we turned her back out. Catherine didn't want to race her by herself so I formed a group of guys to lease her off her. She won two races as a three year old and I sent her up to the North Island just to race against weaker company. The trip made her into the horse she is now. This season she's come back bigger and stronger and I think the short distance races just suit her."
From a second line draw in a hot field, driver Stephen McNally settled her three wide before moving to sit parked. She hit the lead just after turning into the straight and held on to beat an unlucky Royal Counsel by a neck.
The time of 1-54.1 was a new race record beating Hannah's 2011 time of 1-54.3. The track record for mares is 1-53.7 and is held by Cullen's Mercy.
Sell A Bit (13) holds on to beat Royal Counsel (pocking through on her inside) - Photo Bruce Stewart
Sell A Bit and Stephen McNally after winning the Southern Belle Speed Series - Photo Bruce Stewart
"I suppose now we'll have to look at some mares races as she's getting up in the grades. I've done a pretty good job to dodge them all the way through but I know the boys would love to race her at the Jewels."
Sell a Bit was the sixth win favourite in yesterdays' feature after a disappointing run for fifth at Gore the previous week.
"I was a bit gutted with her run at Gore. We started there because I knew she was in desperate need of a run and Stephen and I thought she should have finished a length closer. I left her with Alister Black for the week and he's done a good job."
Sell A Bit has now won eight races from thirty starts and banked $53,390 for his connections. She is currently fourth on the Four Year Old Diamonds leader board for the Harness Jewels.
White leases boxes off Fred and Joy Morris at Yaldhurst and normally has about twelve horses in work
"I was Murray Edmond's first ever stable hand and worked for Leicester Tatterson and Brian West. I then gave it all away and got into the pub game. I still help friends run the Springston Hotel but I'm back concentrating doing the horses now."
Elios and Wesley Silcox aside, White has also sold Legislate to Graham Bond in Perth. He won fifteen races there. White's first big sale though was Al's Courage which was sold at the 2011 Ready to Run Sales for $80,000. He raced at Winton yesterday for Jamie Gameson's stable finishing seventh in race six.
Kerr In Kind (Sunday 22nd March 2015)
The relationship between trainers Paul and Mitch Kerr and breeder Tony Dickinson goes back a fair way.
Over the years the Kerrs have purchased some very good bloodstock off Dickinson's Alta Breeding Company so it was fitting that Princess Arts, a filly Paul purchased at the 2013 Sale of the Stars for $37,000 for Dickinson, is starting to repay their good judgement.
"We were after a really nice filly for Tony. We've had a long association with him with horses like Alta Christiano and Alta Jerome. He's been good to us and I'd like to think we've been pretty good to him as well," said Mitch.
Princess Arts was bred by Southlanders Vin Devery and Alan Blackler and their wives from their smart mare Natal Franco. She won seven races and was good enough to run third behind Kiwi Ingenuity and Angela's Dream in the Group One 2008 New Zealand Oaks.
In yesterday's Sheet Metalcraft Ltd/Harrington Electrical Ltd Mobile Pace, driver Dexter Dunn placed the Art Major filly three back on the outside with Geordie Sivad leading. With just over a lap to run Dunn spotted the three wide train advancing and hooked out to sit parked with 800 metres to run. Coming down the middle of the track Princess Arts proved too good for Geordie Sivad winning by three quarters of a length.
"She just didn't quite stand up to it as a two year old. She had just a bit of a rapid gait and needed to mature. After her two year old season we turned her out and it strengthened her so now she's able to stand up to work. We took her up north and she's turned out to be a lovely filly."
Princess Arts one five winners for Dexter Dunn - Photo Bruce Stewart
The win now puts Princess Arts into calculation for the Group Two Nevele R/Macca Lodge Southland Oaks Final on Diamonds Day at Ascot Park on Sunday 12th April.
"She's a really tough filly and she's developing speed. In the Southland Oaks if they go really hard it should suit her. We'll just keep her ticking over. We're staying at Brett Gray's and using Nathan Williamson's pool."
The Kerrs nearly won the 2009 Southland Oaks Finals getting within a head of beating Beaudiene Bad Babe with Pay Me Painter. Natal Franco ran 10th in the 2008 Southland Oaks Final. She was unlucky getting carted back by a retiring favourite Fight Fire With Fire.
The win by Princess Arts was one of five for the newly crowned World Champion driver Dexter Dunn. It's not the first time he's won five at Ascot Park. He drove five winners in February 2009 and April 2011.
Vin and Daphne Devery are also having a golden run as breeders. They bred Chase The Dream who is unbeaten in four starts. His wins include the Sapling Stakes and a heat and final of the Young Guns Series at Alexandra Park. The Bettor's Delight - Christian Dreamer colt owned by Jean Feiss has banked close to $100,000.
Matt Anderson is building up a fan base.
The young junior driver drove his second group race winner in a month yesterday when he partnered hot favourite Northern Velocity to win the Group Three Caduceus Club Of Southland/Nevele R Two Year Old Classic at Ascot Park.
The junior, only in his second full year driving, showed a level of determination yesterday, and proved he was not intimidated by champion reinsman Dexter Dunn who challenged him early for the lead.
After beginning well from barrier five Anderson took the lead heading out of the first bend towards the 1600. It was then that Dunn moved forward on Chevrons Champion and the two went stride for stride for most of the back straight before Dunn had to back off. Pat Campbell, then Gina Grace both moved forward to get within range of Northern Velocity. Gina Grace got out to a three quarter of a length lead but was unable to cross. At the top of the straight Anderson had three lengths on the rest of the field and careereda way to win by seven and a half lengths from a brave Pat Campbell.
"That wasn't the plan to go to the front. I was open minded. We drew five and the first bend into Invercargill is quite tricky and you can't rush it too much. She got off the gate nice enough and found the top nicely. She got a bit keen when Dexter came up and had a good look. I was just trying to get a bit of a breather when Gerrard (O'Reilly) came up (on Gina Grace). He wasn't going good enough to hand up. She deserved the win," said Anderson.
Northern Velocity and Matt Anderson after their feature win - Photo Bruce Stewart
The time of 2-44.5 was a new track, race and Southland record. The previous record was held by Goodness Gracious Me. The national record of 2-42.7 is jointly held by Megaera (1990) and God Forbid (2013). The time was remarkable considering the slushy condition of the track.
Trained by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen Northern Velocity was having only her third start. As hot favourite in her first start she galloped when challenging and some gear changes were made. Anderson took over the driving of the filly from Mark Purdon at her next start and she duly won the American Ideal Leonard Memorial Stakes at Addington.
"I think the punters got it dead right and she showed how good she was when she went to Addington. I think today she showed what she can do."
Northern Velocity, a $72,500 yearling purchase is a half sister to the recently retired Pembrook Benny which won 22 races and won $907,890.
Kina Craig Stud principal Ross Jones performs a few duties on race day for his local club the Northern Southland Trotting Club.
He's on the committee, a valued sponsor and helps around at the start with the crash crew so it was fitting that he and his family were rewarded when their horse Statham won the Northern Southland Trotting Club's Caduceus Club of Southland Autumn Futurity at Ascot Park yesterday.
In fact Jones had to take off his fluoro vest as he headed to the birdcage to collect the spoils.
Statham was also bred by Jones and his wife Robyn and is out of the unraced Mach Three mare Dolly McD.
"We bought the mare off Alan McDonald and this is the first foal we've bred out of her. I liked her pedigree because she was out of a Panorama mare and it was the same family as Joyfulbelle. I also liked her because she was young and by Mach Three," said Jones.
Trainer Nathan Williamson has adopted a patient policy with the three year old Bettor's Delight gelding and the $18,000 feature was only the horse's sixth start.
"He's always been a bit hard to get on with and as I mentioned in the presentation Nathan's done very well to get on with him. He's sort of mollycoddled him whereas others would have upset him too much. He's done a fantastic job teaching him the ropes and just to get to this day and whatever happens after this is a bonus."
Heading out of the first bend Williamson was caught three wide on a hot pace before ending up in the parked position. At the 1400 metres Williamson took the second favourite to the front while the favourite Rocker Band sat in the one one. At the 650 mark Ricky May pulled Rocker Band out to move forward and challenge three wide. From the 400 the favoured pair drew away and went to war with the chasing bunch 4 lengths in arrears and struggling. All the way up the straight Rocker Band inched closer but Statham was too strong, holding on to win by three quarters of a length. The time of 2-43.7 was a creditable one a slushy track.
"Nathan knew that he'd stay and it was just a matter of whether the filly (Rocker Band) was too good for him or had too much zip but he just outgunned her."
Statham and Nathan Williamson after their Futurity win - Photo Bruce Stewart
Although qualified for the Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes Final next month Jones was unsure of what Williamson has planned for the gelding. From six starts he's now won three races and run second twice. The win elevated him into the top twenty of the Three Year Old Emerald at the end of season Harness Jewels at Ashburton.
"He's a big strong guy. Just a male version of his mother. He's a lovely horse."
Statham is owned by Ross, wife Robyn and their three children Josh and Sam who live in Australia and Katie who is engaged to Williamson.
"The boys aren't really interested in horses at all but there's nothing like a bit of success to get the kids keen.One of them would have been in the pub while the other would have been working."
Katie and Robyn are also part owners of another Nathan Williamson trained three year old Tas Man Bromac. He's won six races from ten starts and is currently eleventh on the Emerald leader board.