Hayden Cullen will leave harness racing with almost as many driving wins as he has had training victories.
But that could still change even though the 29-year-old will take up a position with Windsor Park Stud in Cambridge next Monday.
Cullen spent about 13 years working for Brent Mangos in Franklin, but he’s not surrendering his driving licence just yet.
“I still hope to steer the odd one or two for my father Barry, who is a hobby trainer in Morrinsville,” Cullen said.
Cullen left the Mangos stable with a sad face last Sunday (February 23), but he said he had no regrets.
“I had a great time working for Barry. He, Diane and Angela treated me like one of the family, but with my fiancée (Amanda Barlow) expecting our first child later in the year, it was time to move on.
“It was a time for a change and we both agreed Cambridge would be a good place to start fresh and begin and new chapter in my life. I will never forget my time with ‘Mango’. We had some great times. It was part of my life I will never forget,” Cullen said.
Such great times included working the million dollar mare Bettor Cover Lover and driving good pacers like Mr Williams and Molly Darling.
He leaves Mangos with 58 career ($514,052) wins in the sulky, and 62 training victories ($1,033,469) – all of them since going into partnership with Mangos in 2010-2011.
He did however have his own horse – Tuhimata Glass race in the red and white Mangos and Cullen colours.
That son of Malabar Maple won three of his 17 starts and placed seven times ($152,356) for Cullen, who co-owned and drove the now 7-year-old squaregaiter.
Tuhimata Glass’s biggest win and one of Cullen’s career highlights came on August 23, 2009 at Melton’s Tabcorp Park when the black gelding won the Group One $170,000 Australasian Breeders Crown for 2yo trotters. Tony Herlihy (MNZM) did the steering that day.
Cullen was born in Hamilton and educated at Hillcrest High School. He then joined forces with Nicky Chilcott for a few months before working for Andrew and Lynn Neal for two years, and then Derek Balle for less than a year.
“Brent then approached me while he was working for Steven Reid and I’ve remained with him ever since. That was not long after the turn of the century.
“I’ve always been interested in harness racing. Dad has always trained horses. His best one was Springfield Barry (four wins). My grandfather Roy (Cullen) also trained a few. I think his best was Black Shield (by Kingcobra) and Tempal Hanover (by Palestine). If he was alive he’d be over 100 now,” Cullen said.
Cullen said he would be moving into new territory when he starts his new job next week.
“This will be my first time involved with gallopers, but I’m up for it. It’s the weanling season so I will be kept busy. Hopefully down the line a bit I will be able to work with the Windsor Park stallions. I’m looking forward to that,” Cullen said.
“But as long as Dad as still got horses, I’ll still have a foot in the trotting door,” Cullen said.
By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)