Day At The Track

Kathy's $500 star shines bright

01:00 PM 22 May 2020 NZST
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Kathy and Luke Watson with Stonebridge Star,Harness racing
Kathy and Luke Watson with Stonebridge Star

As Mildura harness racing reinswoman Kathy Watson says, when you buy a horse for $500, you don't expect much!

But Kathy and her husband, trainer Luke, are the first to admit, Kathy's impulse buy a little over two years ago was "a ripper".

Her six year old pacer Stonebridge Star (Stonebridge Regal-Be All Dillinger (DM Dillinger) might not be fancy and he "hits both knees", but he has just notched up his fourth win for the Watson camp, and his never-say-die attitude makes him the family favorite.

"I came home from work one day and Kathy told me she'd bought a horse," Luke said. "It was just out of the blue and not really like Kath - and when I asked her how she picked him out my heart sank because she said she just looked for the cheapest one she could find!"

Stonebridge Star turned up "looking like a $500 horse". An unraced four-year-old, and a lightly framed picky eater, he did little to inspire Luke's confidence.

"We got him off the truck and Kathy wanted to throw the harness on him and try him, and from the moment I sat behind him I loved him," he said.

"As soon as you put the bridle on and get on the track he wants to work. He's been the same every day for nearly two years. He can be a bit cheeky and have a bit of a buck, but there's no malice, he's just having a bit of fun.

"He hasn't had anything more than short let-ups ever since we started racing him because he just loves to work and hates to be in the paddock."

Stonebridge Star didn't race until he was almost five and Watson admits when he first got to the races he was "horrible" at Mildura.

"He had real trouble with the tight track because he hits his knees, and he probably got stood down three times in his first six starts," he said.

"But we knew we had something there because we took him away to the bigger tracks like Horsham and Swan Hill and he'd go great."

The horse is now a model of consistency. His Mildura win last week was his second victory in eight starts and took his lifetime stakes earnings above $40,000.

Watch the Mildura win here.

The Watson couple are based at Merbein South, but Luke freely admits it's Kathy that's the driving force of the training operation.

"We've got a few more horses here than usual because the phone's been ringing a bit more often during the regional racing with people who are keen to get their VicBred bonus. There are probably two or three of those here, but most of the others are for long-term clients," he said.

"We're working 11 and that's mostly Kathy's fault - if it wasn't for her, I'd probably work two and that would be it. But in all honesty, she's the one you'd want to be doing them more than me - she's totally happy to spend all day with them," he said.

"She's a cracker. She'd virtually never touched a horse until she was 30 - the first 10 years we were married she didn't even look at them.

"Then she started to think she might give me a hand and I really just brushed it off and didn't think it would last. But she persisted, started from scratch with jogging a few, then eventually got her trials licence, then her full driver's licence. She just loves it."

Watson said the regionalised racing model had brought changes to the local racing landscape he believes might last beyond the end of COVID-19.

"I can see a little bit of this continuing on. It's been good for Kathy and good for a lot of local drivers who've got more confidence and more opportunities," he said

"Drivers like Shane Smith and Danny Weinert are trainers themselves and more often than not in the past would have handed the reins to someone else. But they're getting a few drives a night, driving different horses for other trainers, getting wins and it's built their self-confidence, and the confidence of trainers.

"I can see those people still driving their own horses and probably keeping a few of the drives they've got. I hope that will be the case, anyway, because I think everyone's enjoyed the regionalisation and what it's brought back to the sport."

 

Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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