Day At The Track

Making every post a winner

11:33 AM 17 Jun 2016 NZST
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Jack Mackinnon.png
Jack Mackinnon

Some of New Zealand’s top harness racing trainers have always believed in Jack MacKinnon and now the recently turned 21-year-old is starting to repay their faith in them.

When MacKinnon was 17 master Canterbury trainer Paul Nairn entrusted the then Ponsonby teenager with some of his team in the North Island. Since then MacKinnon has also worked for several horsemen and women including Tim Vince, Michelle Wallis & Bernie Hackett, but in 2015 he started to impress top New Zealand trainer, Robert Dunn.

“Jack worked part-time for me for about a year while he worked for his father (Jamie) in his Auckland ‘Olympic Swiss Watches’ business.

“He came to me very experienced considering he was just 19 or 20. Then in February we took him on full-time in Pukekohe. He gets on well with a lot of my horses and he is a very capable horseman who came to me with a very impressive CV,” Dunn said.

“If Paul Nairn can put his faith in him as a teenager, then that’s good enough for me,” Dunn said.

Nairn also had high praise for MacKinnon.

"Jack has helped me out when I come north and he is a smart young guy and very conscientious. I’ve always believed in his horsemanship, he has a bright future in the game," Nairn said.

Going into Friday’s (June 17) meeting at Alexandra Park, MacKinnon was the leading junior driver at ‘Northern Headquarters’. He put that down to experience and a better quality of horse he is now driving.

“I really want to win the Alexandra Park premiership. It was my goal last year and I finished in the top five. Coming to Robert’s was one of the best decision’s I’ve ever made.

“My driving has improved I think because Robert has a large team and therefore I can get better quality drives. I’m learning all the time. Robert is one of New Zealand’s best trainers. The statistics will tell you that,” MacKinnon said.

This was clearly evident last Friday night when MacKinnon drove the Dunn trained Cherry Bay to her first win in four starts.

“He gets on very good with that filly and got the best out of her last week. He also had a good rapport with Whitney. He’s a very good wee driver and we have yet to see the best of him.

“I’m just happy we are able to provide him with the next stepping stone in his driving career,” Dunn said.

Both of MacKinnon’s parents were delighted with the way a city boy was making it in a predominantly rural sport.

“It’s not easy for him because he wasn’t born into a prominent harness racing family. But now he’s working for Robert Dunn and he’s a very good friend of mine and he is an exceptional trainer. That can only be good for his career,” said Dad, Jamie.

MacKinnon’s mother was equally proud.

“I am one of Jacks biggest supporters. He has the whole family backing him and we are absolutely thrilled with his success. His dedication and hard work is paying off and it's great to see his name out there amongst the best of the best,” his Mum, Gayleen said.

Auckland-born and Mt Albert Grammar educated MacKinnon is currently experiencing his most successful season in the sulky with nine wins – six of them at Alexandra Park.

All up he’s saluted the judge 21 times since 2013. He’s also trained three winners since 2014, including two this season – Kneed The Dough at Thames in January and Any Old Way at Alexandra Park in August.

“I just want to keep turning over the winners so other owners and trainers realise I can drive a bit. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I am living the dream and am delighted to be working in one of New Zealand’s biggest and most successful stables,” the Northern 2014 Primary ITO Cadet of the Year said.

MacKinnon trained his first winner when Ruby Castleton won at Tauranga on January 26, 2014. That came 19 months after MacKinnon won his first race in the sulky behind his mate David Branch’s then 6-year-old pacer, All About Speed (June 11, 2012).

MacKinnon, a former star in the Kidz Kartz ranks, paid a tribute to those who taught him during those mini-pony days.

"If it wasn't for Kidz Kartz and the people who educated me on how to drive I wouldn't be where I am today. I have always wanted to be a driver and Kidz Kartz made my dream come true," MacKinnon said.

“I also want to thank every owner and trainer who has put their faith in me since then,” he added.

There have been 19 junior drivers who have lined up at ‘The Park’ this season.

The TOP FIVE Junior Drivers at Alexandra Park (as at June 16) are:

Junior Driver Starts Wins Seconds Thirds UDR
Jack MacKinnon 84 6 14 7 0.1918
Tony Cameron  27 5 1 2 0.2305
Sean Grayling  26 5 1 5 0.2778
Kyle Marshall  53 5 2 7 0.1593
Andre Poutama  39 4 2 1 0.1396

Last season's TOP 5 Juniors at Alexandra Park

Junior Driver Starts Wins Seconds Thirds UDR
Tony Cameron 41 6 7 6 0.29
Michael Blakemore  27 4 5 4 0.3004
Kim Butt  9 4 0 2 0.5185
Robbie Close  11 4 2 2 0.5253
Jack MacKinnon  59 4 8 5 0.1714
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