Jack MacKinnon trained his first winner when Ruby Castleton won at Tauranga yesterday (Sunday). His one length triumph behind the race favourite in the C0-C1 Wilson trot came 13 months after his first driving win behind All About Speed at Alexandra Park.
But the promising 18-year-old said those two victories meant nothing compared to what he experienced at Alexandra Park on Friday (January 24).
“Nothing beats driving Dr Hook to win the feature trot at Alexandra Park. He’s been my favourite horse since I was doing Kidz Kartz.
“I was just so pleased I could win the race for Paul (Nairn). He has put a lot of faith in me. I’m so happy for him. It was my way of repaying his trust in me,” MacKinnon said.
When Nairn departed Auckland in the New Year bound for his Leeston home with Stig, Lotalov and Any Old Way, he left Dr Hook in the care of the former Mt Albert Grammar student.
It’s not the first time he’s let MacKinnon take over his training duties.
“I’ve know Jack since he was a young kid and he has always shown me his youthful enthusiasm. You can’t beat that. In the early days he would paddock, water and box them for me.
“I knew how keen he was, and I’m just so happy for him. I had no fears whatsoever. I’m just glad I never gave him any driving instructions because I probably would have told him to take Dr Hook around to the front.
“Instead he stayed back and bided his time. It goes to show how much I know,” joked the master Canterbury trainer.
MacKinnon took out his training licence this season and worked his team out of Alexandra Park. Then when the track was being used for the annual ‘Fun Fest’ a couple of weeks ago he transferred his horses to Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis’s stable at Waiuku.
“The horses really thrived on the (Karioitahi) beach and I’ve helped out Bernie and Michelle in the holidays and weekends for about six years now.
“I’m now based there fulltime and I’m loving it. The horses really like it two,” said MacKinnon who has Dr Hook, Ruby Castleton, and Trot Up A Storm in work.
“I prefer working trotters. I’ve learnt so much from Paul, Bernie, and Michelle. There’s also not so much gear to clean either. I like that,” he said.
Mackinnon bought Ruby Castleton off Phil Williamson while he spent three months in the South Island working for Waikouaiti horseman Andrew Faulks.
He has a half share in Trotupastorm with his ‘mentor’ – prominent Auckland owner and amateur driver Tim Vince.
“Apart from my parents Tim has been my greatest supporter. If it wasn’t for him I don’t think I’d be where I am today. He gives me horses and he’s a straight talker who has inspired me to reach my potential. He’s one of my best friends and the person I turn to for advice,” MacKinnon said.
Vince was doing handstands when MacKinnon and Dr Hook crossed the finishing line a whopping 6-1/2 lengths in front of Duchess Diedre in Friday’s C4-Oc $12,250 Hydroflow Trot.
In fact Vince described it as his greatest moment in trotting. That’s a huge statement considering he has owned numerous Group One winning champions like Light And Sound and Cool Hand Luke.
“It was even better than my first driving win. I think the world of Jack. He’s started 20 lengths behind the field simply because he’s got into the game without a famous racing surname to fall back on.
“He’s such a hard worker. I’m just so pleased for him. He deserves every little bit of success that comes his way,” said Vince.
MacKinnon could have one more start with Dr Hook before Nairn brings him home to prepare for the Rowe Cup.
“It will be sad to say goodbye to him because it’s been a huge thrill to be able to train a horse I have admired since I was a young kid.
“To drive an open class trotter with all that speed is a dream come true,” MacKinnon said.
Speaking of dreams he said he wouldn’t have been able to fulfil his lifetime ambition had it not been for his parents.
“Mum (Gayleen) has always been there for me since day one while Dad (Jamie), who owns ‘Olympic Swiss Watches’ has also been a great supporter and my race sponsor,” he said.
Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)