Last Saturday’s (October 12) Gore Harness Racing Club’s meeting produced a couple of training firsts in the eighth and 11th events.
Both Earl Drake and John Price have been involved in harness racing for years but achieved their maiden victories when Liam Sienna and Surprise Party both scored narrow 2200m mobile victories.
Otautau-based Drake (53) and his father Reg (73) trained Liam Sienna to a head victory in 2:47.1, while Price and his wife Katrina, who train near Winton, got Surprise Party up by a neck in 2:48.2.
Junior driver Carl Hanna and Nathan Williamson were the respective reinsmen.
Liam Sienna was the Drake father/son combo’s only starter since they went into partnership on August 1. Reg has been training since 1983 and has had 11 winners and 29 placings from 175 starters, while Earl, who is a builder by trade, has always helped out.
“It’s a good feeling to get the first win out of the way early on. We are working five at the moment, and that includes three 2-year-olds.
“Dad paid $16,000 for 'Liam' at 'the Yearling Sales. It was the year of the earthquake. We gave him to Hamish Hunter as a 2-year-old and he won three races with him.
“He’s a bit underrated and is a really nice horse to train,” Earl said.
Liam Sienna is a 4-year-old Elsu gelding out of the former Tony Grayling trained four-win Sands A Flyin mare, Whata Breeze.
Liam Sienna is owned by Mrs P.J. Drake and Reg Drake. He was bred by Alabar Stud.
Reg Drake is a life member of the Wairio Trotting Club while Earl is a past president. They are both committee members.
Meanwhile, Southland company executive John Price had recorded a second and a third before nailing his first winner at his ninth attempt with Surprise Party.
It was the well-bred daughter of Christian Cullen and Champagne Party’s first win in five races. The Tony Herlihy trained and driven Champagne Party mare won 14 races and $159,226.
Up until August 1 Price’s wife Katrina had been training with her father-in-law Roger. They started out in 1999 and went on to win 76 races and more than $500,000.
“John’s delighted with the win. Relief more than anything. Mind you it’s not really his first. He’s always helped out in the weekends. It has been a family operation,” Katrina said.
She said they were working a team of 11, comprising mainly youngsters.
They recently retired three-win 6-year-old Bettor’s Delight mare Easybet to stud, while McArdle 5-year-old gelding Ardghal had been sold.
He won nine of his 35 starts and $76,313.
Price said Surprise Party would spell for a few days now before being brought back for racing next month.
“She was terribly gaited early on and I think it was only her rich bloodlines that kept us persevering with her. She’s still on the unruly and has plenty to learn.
“She’s getting better with racing experience and she has placed a couple of times and was the favourite ($4.20) on Saturday,” Price said.
Surprise Party is owned by F. J. Price, K. V. Price, T. G. Bell, Mrs V. I. Bell, F. R. Price, H. L. Price, and was bred by Cullen Breeding Limited.
By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)