Day At The Track

Dark Horse on the road to recovery

07:26 AM 27 Nov 2018 NZDT
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Dark Horse,Harness racing
Dark Horse getting ready to jog
Photo Bruce Stewart

Branxholme trainer Nathan Williamson is hopeful that quality trotting mare Dark Horse will make it back to the race track but he also knows there are no guarantees.

The Bacardi Lindy mare got injured in the paddock the day before she was due to race in the Southern Lights at the Northern Southland meeting in March last year.

“I noticed a wee bit of swelling in the leg. I trotted her up and she was feeling it a bit. Brendon Bell (vet) came and he scanned it and she had an injury to her suspensory. We’re not really sure how it happened,” he said.

She had two weeks off before having an operation and had stem cell treatment which helps the healing process. She was then boxed for a period of time.

“We then began walking her, starting off slowly at five minutes a day. We ended up walking her an hour a day. With a suspensory it’s got to be stretched and walking is the only way to do that.”

The walks were done by Williamson’s father-in-law Ross Jones.

“Ross ended up building a special frame on his vehicle. She was so fresh and well being couped up in the box all day that she’d get away from you if you were leading her. She liked the routine of following the truck and walked for an hour every day.”

A five minute jog was introduced to her routine and this was slowly lengthened.

“She’s doing fast work now. She’s had a month of fast work but she’s still quite a wee way away. She’s carrying a lot of condition and she’s going to take a while to come up. I’m not going to put any undue pressure on her especially when she’s on the way up.”

Williamson says the rehabilitation for a suspensory injury normally takes eleven months from when the injury occurred.

“With the stem cell treatment Brendon said you may be able to trim a month off. I don’t think we need too. We’ll just let her tell us. She seems good to go now but we just need to take it quietly.”

One thing you do notice with Dark Horse is that she is bigger in condition than she’s ever been in her career.

Since the injury she’s been scanned three times.

“The last time was before I started jogging her so that gave me the all clear. I’ll get Brendon to come and rescan before Christmas just to make sure everything is looking really good before I step her training up. You only get one chance to get her back so you have to make sure its right.”

The six year old mare is raced on lease by the Griffin Syndicate and the Seafield Trotting Syndicate and from twenty starts she’s won nine races receiving $84,541 in stakes.

“What I’ve heard from certain trainers is that if they make it back to a certain stage they’re right. If we can race through the winter then give her a break I think I could say the leg’s okay. But you never can be too sure.”

Delightful Deal in the cart with Ollie Kite with Chinese Whisper (far side) and Dark Horse on the lead - Photo Bruce Stewart 

“One good thing is that she’s put the condition on. If her leg holds strong it’ll be a good thing. As I increase her work load I’ll put solution on and wrap her leg just to keep everything nice and tight.”

Williamson says the 2019 edition of the Southern Lights in March is her main target.

“Last year there were good races for those higher graded trotters. If she can get a few races down here that’ll be vital. If she comes up as well as we hope there could be a trip to Addington or Auckland later in the season.”

He says she may have to go into the Southern Lights fresh.

‘She’ll have to go to at least two workouts to get her match fit, carrying a bit more condition it may have to be more. In the past she’s been one of those horses you could just tick over and she’d produce on the day but this time she’s going to have to put in some hard training miles just to get that condition off.”

Although cautious Williamson is also excited about getting the mare back onto the racetrack and has given her every chance to do that.

“She definitely feels a lot more powerful and stronger than she did before.”


Bruce Stewart

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