Day At The Track

That’s 50 in Oz for Auckland Reactor

01:42 PM 19 Apr 2019 NZST
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Clayton Harmey, harness racing
Clayton Harmey
Newcastle Herald Photo

Stamina and speed were undoubtedly a major factor of former star Kiwi pacer Auckland Reactor’s dominance during his sensational harness racing career – and it’s now emerging through the progeny of the champ.

Auckland Reactor sired his 50th individual Australian winner this season at Newcastle last Tuesday night. All up it’s the 87th victory for the “Reactor Factor” (as he was known to rival trainers and fans) for stakes of more than – this is not a misprint – $2.2 million.

The pacer notching up the sire’s Oz half century was Stephens Spirit (Auckland Reactor NZ-Big Smiles Please (Grinfromeartoear USA), trained by Clayton Harmey, of Cessnock.

“I really like the horse, and he’s only going to get better with more race experience,” Harmey said.

“He likes to roll along, particularly with a consistent speed, and he’s got a future,” he said.

Stephens Spirit certainly showed his depth, with the three-year-old being pinged out of the gate, then holding off Aspiring Stride (Michael Formosa) and Ultra Bliss (Glenn Bull) at the finish.

Harmey said it was fortunate that Stephens Spirit took no harm in a race three days earlier when his driver Will Rixon was dislodged from the sulky.

“I actually didn’t see the incident because I was busy with some other horses. But I think Will got tipped out after there was some tightening and locking of wheels.

“The clerk of the course was apparently quick to grab our horse so there was no damage done, thankfully.

“I gave him the following day off and then bowled him along a bit on the Monday to ensure there weren’t any problems with him.”

Harmey said when Stephens Spirit was able to lead at Newcastle and coast along in 28.7, 31.8, 29.5 and 29.4, he thought he would take so catching.

“But I wasn’t too sure at the 300-metre mark because he appeared to be under siege. But I was pleased at the way he fought on and held them all off,” he said.

Stephens Spirit is the only live foal out of a former handy racemare Big Smile Please, who finished with nine wins and 10 placings for over $37,000.

Harmey said before Stephen Sweeney died, he gave some money to his family.

“Joel Sweeney and his mum Roslyn bought Big Smile Please. I was training her when she won a heat of the prestigious Inter-City heat at Newcastle, but injuries prevented her from showing her best,” Harmey said.

“We all liked Auckland Reactor – we just thought he was an awesome racehorse (winner of his first 17 starts in a row and 24 of his first 27 starts), so it was decided to take Big Smile Please to get in foal to him and the resultant foal was Stephens Spirit.”

Harmey said the win was a welcome reward for Joel and Roslyn for their help around the stables.

“Joel cleans out all the boxes and helps with feeding up and Roslyn is there to do waters and other jobs,” he said.

“Without those two, my life would be hell. They got a big kick out of the win and they deserve it.”

Harmey trains at the Cessnock show grounds and despite reducing his numbers to 17 a while ago, there has been a sudden increase in numbers recently, and he’s now back up to a team of 27.

He has a large proportion of youngsters, and Harmey has high hopes for a three-year-old Straddie, a winner of two races and five placings from just 10 outings.

“He’s a half-brother to millionaire pacer For A Reason (27 wins for $1.1m) so the breeding is certainly there,” he said.

Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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