One starter for one training victory. That's how's the statistics stack up for 26-year-old Hayden Cullen after opening night of the 2010-2011 harness racing season at the Auckland Trotting Club's meeting at Alexandra Park tonight (Friday August 6).
The Franklin horseman has been working for Brent Mangos for nine years now but only a couple of weeks ago his boss rewarded his hard work by asking him to go into partnership.
"Brent only asked me a couple of days before the season started. He had mentioned it in passing earlier but I never thought much of it. I'm rapt. It was a great opportunity and I couldn't say no. I really enjoy working for ‘Mango' and I'm looking forward to stacking up a few winners with him," Cullen said.
Mangos and Cullen only had one starter to the races tonight and their 5-year-old mare, El De Rosa didn't let the team down.
The daughter ofand Smooth Rosella notched up her fourth win in 14 starts in tonight's $10,000 1-3 win pace after Mangos sent her to the lead not long after the start of the 2200m mobile before handing up mid-way through the race.
In the straight El De Rosa slipped along the passing lane to win by one length in 2:44. Mile rate: 1:59.9. Last 800m: 56.8. Last 400m: 28.3.
Cullen rated the brown mare in the top four or five of 18 standardbreds they work at their Waiau Pa stable.
"We've got about half a dozen young ones and a few of them will be going out for a spell soon. El De Rosa is an honest mare without being a superstar. She's got nice gate speed which puts her in races. She will race periodically throughout the winter," Cullen said.
Stablemates he rated potentially superior to El De Rosa at this stage of her career were Harness Jewels winner Bettor Cover Lover, Talaspring, and Wild Isis.
TWO FROM TWO FOR OWEN GILLIES
He might have only driven one winner last season but hard-working Franklin reinsman Owen Gillies had two drives tonight for two wins.
The Pukekohe horseman also trained the two winners with co-trainer Derek Balle when trotting stablemates Sunny's Bar () and Kingdom Of Heaven ( ) won races six and 10. It was their fifth and first wins respectively.
Gillies has now reined home seven winners since 2005 and the Pick 6 punters would have been loving him tonight.
A jackpot of more than $300,000 was up for grabs and it was Gillies who drove two of the six. Winning dividend: $5,432.80.
Gillies and Balle now stand at the top of the trainer's premiership with Doug Gale, who also trained a pair of winners tonight.
COONEY TOPS THE DRIVING PREMIERSHIP
One of the good guys in New Zealand harness racing, Frank Cooney shot to the top of the national driving premiership with a hatrick of wins at ‘The Park' tonight.
The Taupaki horseman won behind The Doug Gale pairing of Red Zone () and Protocol ( ) in races four and five, as well as the Wayne Anstis trained God Send (Bettor's Delight) in the second event.
A reinsman for near on 30 years Cooney is one of New Zealand's most astute and underrated reinsman having driven approximately 600 winners. He's also a quality trainer with about 300 wins under his belt.
Cooney leads the driving premiership with Dexter Dunn and Brendon McLellan who both have three wins apiece which they racked up at Invercargill and Addington erlier in the week.
RACING MANAGER CLAIMS VICTORY
The Auckland Trotting Club's racing manager and Whitford trainer Kevin Smith won his first race of the season when Wee Willam won the$10,000 claiming pace in 2:45.4 (2200m mobile).
It was the 9-year-oldgelding's 10th win in 112 starts. He was patiently driven back in the field by the 2002-2003 national driving champion Peter Ferguson.
RUA TE PUNI EQUALS HIS 2009-2010 TALLY
And speaking of first wins for the season. Pukekohe trainer Rua Te Puni nabbed his debut win of 2010-2011, and 28th since 1992, when Bravado Boy won the $10,000 1-2 win pace in 2:45.6 (2200m mobile).
It was Bravado Boy's () third win in 46 starts and the 1-1/2 length victory equalled Te Puni's winning training tally of 2009-2010.
ALEXANDRA PARK HIGHLIGHTS:
Top Driver: Frank Cooney 3 wins.
Top Sire:3 wins.
Top Junior Driver: Owen Gillies 2 wins.
Top Trainer: Doug Gale and Derek Balle & Owen Gillies 2 wins each.
Results from the Auckland Trotting Club's meeting held at Alexandra Park Raceway in Auckland tonight (Friday August 6) were:
Race 1: The Brent Mangos & Hayden Cullen trained EL DE ROSA () Brent Mangos.
Race 2: The Wayne Anstis trained GOD SEND (Bettor's Delight) Frank Cooney.
Race 3: The Rua Te Puni trained BRAVADO BOY () Nicky Chilcott.
Race 4: The Doug Gale trained RED ZONE () Frank Cooney.
Race 5: The Doug Gale trained PROTOCOL () Frank Cooney.
Race 6: The Derek Balle & Owen Gillies trained SUNNY'S BAR () Owen Gillies.
Race 7: The Kevin Smith tarined WEE WILLAM () Peter Ferguson.
Race 8: The Graeme Rogerson trained DEAD CALM () David Butcher.
Race 9: The Mike Berger trained CAESAR COURT () James Stormont.
Race 10: The The Derek Balle & Owen Gillies trained KINGDOM OF HEAVEN () Owen Gillies.
Duane RANGER (editor)