Day At The Track

Irishman has last laugh on St Pat's Day

01:18 PM 19 Mar 2017 NZDT
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Irishman Gerry Cronin’s lifetime desire to own and train a winner on his beloved St Patrick’s Day came to fruition at Cambridge Raceway last night (Friday).

The 45-year-old South Auckland horseman, who immigrated to New Zealand from Limerick in 1995, was almost doing handstands after Lola Jones won the last of the 11 races.

The little 6-year-old McArdle mare with the Shamrock and Irish colours won the Rotorua East Club Mares Mobile for the 4yo and older R66 to R69 rated mares by a neck.

Lola Jones was the $6.40 third favourite. It was her seventh win in 62 starts and she's now banked $40,810 in stakes.

Cronin, who has driven four amateur winners, works for Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick at Clevedon. Lola Jones races in their name but Cronin does a lot of the work with helpful advice from Telfer.

“Our training methods compliment each other. I was so elated. I’ve been planing this St Patrick’s Day victory for over a year now. I did the same last year but she tied up and didn’t win.

“I thought this is the year. I’ve set her for this race for some time now. It means so much to win on St Paddy’s Day. It’s huge. I’m still over the moon. It has made my year,” Cronin said.

“Now all I want is for the Irish to beat England in the rugby tomorrow and that will make my weekend,” he added.

Cronin had huge praise for junior driver, Jacob Wallace.

The $7,000 event was also a junior driving race and provided Wallace with his first win since returning from Australia last year. He's now reined two New Zealand winners - the other coming in the 2014-2015 season.

“I’m an amateur driver and I know what it’s like not to get drives. I thought I’d give Jacob an opportunity because he’s good driver and has gained a lot of experience having worked in Australia and now works for Barry Purdon.

“I had a lot of faith in him and was more than confident to put him on. His drive was superb. He drove the horse exactly like I told him to. Be patient and make sure she has got clear air at the top of the straight. I couldn’t have scripted his drive any better,” Cronin said.

Lola Jones and Wallace sat back and then in the lane powered home to beat favourite Rocknroll Princess (Jack MacKinnon) right on the line. It was a stable quinella for Telfer and Garlick.

Cronin bought Lola Jones as a one-win pacer off Blenheim’s Mike O’Brien out of the ‘Harness Weekly’. He said he was looking for an amateur horse so he could get more drives.

“She’s now won another six races for me and I love her to bits. She gets nothing but tender, loving care from me. That’s the way I was taught back home. I’ve also learnt so much since coming here,” Cronin said.

Cronin actually came to New Zealand in the mid-1990s to work in his family’s former pub – Kitty O'Brien's which was near Victoria Park Market in Auckland.

“I grew up with horses since I was a kid. In my early teenage years I used to ride for a racing stable but we always had the odd trotter. 

“There were no tracks and we used to race them in a paddock or on the road. Then when I met Frank Phelan one day (who’s mother is Irish) we hit it off straight away.

“He was foreman for John Green at the time. It must have been around 2000. The Green family are also Irish so I became hooked even more than I thought I would.

“I have since worked for Jay Abernethy and the last couple of months I’ve been with Steve and Chris. All of them have been amazing. They have all taught me so much. None of them leave a stone unturned. They are absolute professionals and even though I have always loved the trots, I love them more now because of what they have taught me.”

Because Lola Jones is now too highly assessed to trace in amateur events, Cronin said he was now on the lookout for an amateur horse to drive.

“I’d love another one because ‘Lola’ is rated 69 now and amateurs go up to R64 or then they become claimers.

“Last night’s race was penalty free so that helps. I think I’ll race her at Cambridge again next start. Perhaps in a standing start event. She goes well from a stand. She has a great temperament.

“I probably go overboard a bit, but I love spoiling her. I have applied everything I have learnt onto her. She is my darling and last night’s win not only made my day – it made my year,” Cronin said.

He also paid a tribute to equine physiotherapist, Clare McGowan who eliminated a few niggles from his beloved mare earlier in the week.

 

Duane Ranger

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