Day At The Track

Heaton and Ashworth back in the winner’s circle

07:03 AM 26 Nov 2016 NZDT
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Two hobby trainers were back in the winner’s circle after long absences at Manawatu Raceway last night (Thursday).
 
It’s been just on 12 months since Blenheim trainer Mark Heaton has trained a winner, while Auckland conditioner Stewart Ashworth has waited three years and three months for his winning turn.
 
The Heaton trained Contractual Issues proved too smart in the fourth event – the $6,600 Visique up to R55 Pace.
 
He last won at the Manawatu meeting 360 days ago (November 29). Heaton waited almost five years for that winner. Prior to that his last victory came via Aveross Star at Waterlea on January 15, 2010.
 
Ashworth’s Luna Da Miel justified her $1.40 favouritism in the fifth race - the $6,000 Carlton Maiden Pace. His last winner came via Machinegun Kelly at Alexandra Park on August 29, 2014.
 
Both men were over the moon. (Incidentally Luna Da Miel means ‘honeymoon’ in Spanish).
 
“’Connor’ (Contractual Issues) is a lovely horse to do anything with. He is as genuine and honest as the day is long. He loves racing unlike some who have to endure it all.
 
He’s a family horse. Even my 85-year-old mother came up to Palmerston North and watched him finish third on the first day. I told people he was pretty close to winning and then, the good fella that he is, obliged,” Heaton said.
 
Heaton, who is a forklift driver by trade, had to watch the 2,000m mobile on one foot. In October one of his mates reversed a forklift onto him while they were working at a mussel factory in Marlborough.
 
But that didn’t dampen the 55-year-old’s spirits. A nice Dylan Ferguson drive left him with a smile from ear to ear.
 
The talented junior driver got the 5-year-old Elsu gelding home by a nose stopping the clock in 2:32.3 (mile rate 2:02.5) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 60.2 and 29.8.
 
Contractual Issues was the $5.60 third favourite and it was his third career win in 42 starts. His first win came when he was trained and driven by Robbie Hughes at Blenheim in January last year.
 
He actually ran third behind Have Faith In Me on debut in a 2-year-old race at Ashburton (July 20, 2014). He’s not a bad pacer at all.
 
I was offered the horse twice and turned him down the first time. Eventually my late brother Grant (passed away June 2014) talked me into buying the horse off his breeder Marl Nicholls of Tabman Enterprises,” Heaton said.
 
He will most likely come back to the next Manawatu meeting next month and then I will take him to Westport over the Christmas period. His stable mate Rebel Richie went well on both days (4th and 5th) and is close to winning his first race,” he added,
 
Meanwhile, Ashworth was almost doing handstands shortly after 7pm last night. (Thursday)
 
"It's been a while between drinks but it's finally happened. It was a great drive by a fantastic young bloke.
 
"I just want to thank Andre (Poutama) for taking her down for me, and his parents too, for looking after the mare when he went back to Pukekohe to work. He then drove her through the night to bring her back. Andre more importantly is a polite, respectful and caring bloke and I can’t thank him enough for what he has done for me,” Ashworth said.
 
Ashworth is the Head of Grounds’ at Alexandra Park and because this is his busiest time of the year he couldn’t make the trip south. However, he did watch his bonny mare virtually lead all the way and get home easily by three quarters of a length.
 
Driven superbly by Poutama, Luna Di Miel paced the 2500m mobile in 3:19.5 (mile rate 2:08.4) and home in 60.1 and 29.5. It was her first career win for owner Ashworth. She was bred by Les Girls Number Two Syndicate.
 
"For me this is my New Zealand Cup. I think I have already worn the video out and must be getting close to my 100th watch.
 
"I also want to thank Nicky Chilcott for taking her down and looking after her a fortnight ago as well.
 
"And finally to the two people who have helped me since day one, and continue to do so - Dave and Clare McGowan. Just one word says it all: Thanks," said the true-blue Auckland-based Cantabrian.
 
Duane Ranger
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