One of the North Island's top trainers has had his stable numbers cut in half by Harness Racing New Zealand board member and prominent Auckland owner - Kerry Hoggard.
Gareth Dixon, who has trained 311 career winners and won $3,589,366 in career purses, has also been given six months to vacate Hoggard's 'Rossland Stud' property at Clevedon. Two staff - and possibly one more - will be laid off.
Hoggard, who is also an Auckland Trotting Club Board member, said it was nothing personal. In fact he said Dixon was a good horseman, but believed his 15 horses - about 10 of them 2-year-olds - needed a new environment to thrive.
"I have been very supportive of Gareth the last seven or eight seasons and I wish him every success in the future - and will do all I can to co-operate with him over the next six months.
"But we haven't had much success over the last two to three seasons and I just thought the time was right to try new trainers," Hoggard told Harnesslink.
The 15 horses will now be trained by Steven Reid at Pukekohe, Michelle Wallis & Bernie Hackett at Waiuku, Barry Purdon at Clevedon, and Todd Macfarlane at Pukekohe.
One of Dixon's brightest young prospects Tori Maguire, who won the $25,000 Young Guns 2yo fillies heat on debut, will be trained at Karioitahi Beach by Wallis and Hackett.
"There's a couple who need beach training and that's why I took them to Michelle and Bernie," said Hoggard.
The horses, which included Overlap, Tori Maguire and Sonic Classic, were relocated today (Thursday November 22).
It is believed one employee will leave on Saturday and two others will also have to go. The only other employee - Andrew Veint - is believed to be staying with Dixon.
Meanwhile, Dixon refused to comment when approached twice by Harnesslink.
Hoggard insists there was no bad blood.
"I have no ill feelings towards Gareth. Like I said earlier I just want to co-operate and help him as much as I can," Hoggard said.
"My horses needed a changed," he added.
The duo haven't tasted big-race success since the Lizzie Maguire days when she won Group and Listed events like the 2007 2yo Harness Jewels Diamond; the 2008 Northern Oaks; and the 2008 Sales Series Final.
The now 8-year-oldmare finished her career the way she started it - with a win.
That was at Cambridge Raceway on May 28, 2009. All up she won 12 of her 28 starts and $477,366.
Lizzie Maguire has left one2-year-old filly named Asuka.
By Duane RANGER (editor)
Lizzie Maguire winning the Group Two $130,000 Northern Oaks in 2008:
Lizzie Maguire winning the $130,000 Listed Sales Series 3yo Fillies Final in 2008: