Day At The Track

Retirees celebrate Electric Chapel's win

06:10 AM 15 Jul 2013 NZST
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Electric Chapel & Simon Lawson
Electric Chapel & Simon Lawson

Imagine having 80 winners from 35 horses with Geoff Small since 2005 - and at the age of 82 remembering almost every one of them. Laurie Henwood isn’t only a successful standardbred owner, but the Wattle Downs retirement village resident has a memory that would make people half of his age envious.

Henwood was again in the winner's circle at Alexandra Park last Friday night (July 12) when his 3-year-old Mach Three gelding - Electric Chapel racked up his fourth win in eight starts. Trained by Small and driven by New Zealand junior driving champion Simon Lawson, Electric Chapel settled last in the $10,000 Woodlands Stud 1-3 Pace before being sent around the field at the 1700m.

Lawson led at the bell and then hang on to win by a neck and three quarters of a length from second favourite Hudi Haxwell (Maurice McKendry) and Pacific Rapture (Jay Abernethy). Electric Chapel paced the 2200m mobile in 2.44.5 (mile rate: 2.00.3) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 57.6 and 28.1. The bay gelding was favourite and paid $2.10 to win.

"He's a very promising pacer but James (Stormont) found it very difficult to break him in. Then he got a severe bout of colic when he was young and almost died. He was lucky to survive.

"That's why he never started racing until March this year. He's also a Mach Three and they have got brain deficiencies and it has taken a while to get his brain into gear.

"He's now starting to show us what he's made of and Geoff has done a great job to get him where he is. He will win a few more," Henwood said.

Henwood believed that because the horse was starting to relax more, Small would now remove him off the unruly mark. "He can be a handful, but he's settled down a lot now. He's starting to look a picture," Henwood said.

Electric Chapel is the fifth foal of six out of the six-win Miles McCool mare, Electric Kiwi. She was trained by Doug Gale, had a 1.56.4 mile rate, and racked up $124,556 in stakes. Henwood said Small bought Electric Chapel on behalf of Henwood, his nephew Tony, T.G. O'Shea from Hawera and another Auckland retirement village resident, 92-year-old Sue McCarthy.

"We paid $30,000 for him at the Karaka yearling sales. Geoff's a very good judge. The best horse I've had with him would be Gomeo Romeo. He's had tendon problems but is slowing being aimed towards the New Zealand Cup in the spring," Henwood said.

The first winner Henwood had with Small was Dream Away gelding - Alpine Dream, who won six races and $63,301. He said Hot Mach, Golden Delight and Macy Delight were other promising horses he had with Small, while The Magic and Clive Bromac were on the verge of a sale to China.

A dairy farmer all of his working life, Henwood, was introduced to harness racing by his uncle - J.T. Paul, the man they called ‘Silent Jim'. "He won an Auckland Cup with Great Paris, and two Rowe Cups. His good horses included the good trotter Balmoral, Gold Horizon which he bred, Great Adventure, and Golden Eagle," Henwood reminisced.

by Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

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