Day At The Track

'Best move I've ever made' - Symon Spicer

06:54 AM 29 Sep 2011 NZDT
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Symon Spicer and PJ Fraley
Symon Spicer - And his girlfriend Kim Foley
Symon Spicer - Flanked by Jeremy Howard and PJ Fraley
Symon spicer - Working on a cold crisp New York morning
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Symon Spicer - Proud of being a New Zealander but preferred racing in NA
Symon Spicer and Kim Foley
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A chance meeting by his mother, Helen and American trainer Linda Toscano at the Christchurch Sales in New Zealand about a decade ago has lead to a harness racing job half way around the world former Kiwi horseman, Symon Spicer.

Spicer was scheduled to fly to the United States on September 12, 2001, but the Al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center put a stop to that.

Instead Spicer arrived in America in February 2002 thanks to two of his favorite women having a chat about him at the Sales.

“Mum mentioned that I was looking for a bit of work and was heading to the United States before the Twin Towers went down, and the next thing I know I was working for Linda at her Freehold Stable in New Jersey.

“Now some 10 years later I’m Linda’s number two trainer and I break in about 30 of her babies each year. I’ve loved the work so much I haven’t been home since – and to be honest I have no intention of leaving here.

“The American life is great and so is the racing. I have a lovely fiancée named Kim (Foley) and I want to get married and become an American citizen,” the 36-year-old told Harnesslink.

Spicer was born in Ashburton and raised and educated in nearby Methven in Mid Canterbury. It was while he was at Methven High School he won a scholarship to work for New Zealand’s leading trainers – Roy and Barry Purdon at Clevedon.

“I was 14 when I won that scholarship and in 1990 I went and worked for them for four years before heading back home to work for Robert Cameron.

“I worked for Robert for three years and that’s when Mum ran into Linda at the Sales. I’ve been with Linda since. It was the best move I’ve ever made,” Spicer said.

Spicer’s father Ross and a couple of horses when he was young and that’s where he picked up the racing bug.

“Dad learnt a lot from Jim Ferguson and helped him quite a bit. In the 1990s he had a nice trotter named Galleon’s Paradise, who won 12 races and just under $100,000. She was Two-and-Three-year-old Trotter-Of-The-Year, and I took her to Australia when she was three.

“Dad, Jim and people like Alistair and Lindsay Kerslake taught me a lot and fuelled my fire for harness racing. I remember the first real good race horse I had anything to do with was the Kerslake’s Bionic Chance, who raced in the mid to late 1980s. I was really young at the time,” Spicer said.

“He was some horse winning 18 of his 37 starts and more than $300, 000,” he added.

Spicer said he could now look back on his career and say he’s worked for the best horsemen and woman in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

“The Purdons were great to work for and in a class of their own back then and I have nothing but admiration and respect for Linda. She is one hell of a trainer.

“Ask anyone up here and they will tell you how good she is. She has an amazing eye for a horse. Uncanny really! When she’s at the sales she seems to have an extra sense. She just knows a good young one when she sees one.

“I should know I break them in and help train them. And I have seen the results first hand,” Spicer said.

Toscano’s training record speaks for itself.

Since 1992 she has trained 924 winners from 5,100 starters. She’s also placed 1,431 times for a whopping $21.5 million in purses. Every season since 2007 she has won $2.4 million-plus in stakes.

Last year her 115 wins was a personal best – but with 104 winners already this year that record will almost certainly be smashed.

“It’s an absolute privilege to work with someone so professional. Linda is exceptional. I’ve been lucky to have worked for some greats in both hemispheres,” he stressed.

Some of Spicer’s most memorable stable wins have included Molly Can Do It (1:49.4 - $890,000) winning the 2002 Breeders Crown Final; Kenneth J (1:49. - $1.5m) winning both the 2 & 3yo New York Sires Stakes Final; and more recently He’s Gorgeous (1:50 - $726,719) also winning the New York Sires Stakes 2&3yo finals.

Toscana started with 65 in work at the start of the season and currently has about 30 of those in work. Spicer said the team now comprised about 40 babies and 30 racehorses.

Spicer said he was proud of being a New Zealander but preferred the racing in North America.

“It’s a much more level playing field up here. We don’t have standing starts and our races are all over the mile. It would be a step backwards coming home to work. We always race horses in their correct class up here. Back home that’s not always the case.

"And the New Zealand national website is never updated daily like yours (Harnesslink). That’s why I log onto Harnesslink everyday. That’s where I get all my racing information from,” Spicer said.

He said New Zealand had produced some very good horses over the years that had performed with distinction in the USA.

“Extender N (1:49.1) is one horse that really sticks in my mind. He was a former Southlander who won 54 races and almost $1 million. He loved the Meadowlands,” Spicer said.

However he said 1993 New Zealand Cup winner Chokin was the best horse he had anything to do with.

“He was a phenomenal horse. I was working for Roy and Barry when he won the Cup. Somebeachsomewhere aside I have never seen a greater horse. Chokin had everything,” Spicer said.

“In the US I would say Kenneth J and Heston Blue Chip would have been the best I have been associated with,” he added.

Outside of harness racing Spicer said he enjoyed playing golf and poker. He’s also a big fan of the All Blacks and the New York Giants.

“I’m loving the Rugby World Cup at the moment. I’m getting up early to watch every All Blacks game. Go the mighty All Blacks! I’m confident they will win the World Cup this time,” Spicer said.

by Duane RANGER (editor)

(1) Kenneth J winning the $93,000 3yo Stake Final at The Red Mile on September 29, 2007:

(2) In The Sulky with Linda Toscano:

(3) Symon Spicer is a huge All Blacks fan:

(4) Symon Spicer is a converted New York Giants fan:

(5) Symon Spicer loves to play poker:

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