Day At The Track

Whatever you can do…I can do too!

10:22 AM 01 Apr 2019 NZDT
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Heir to Zanzibar, harness racing
John Morris with Auckland Reactor-sired 3yo Heir to Zanzibar
Echuca Harness Racing Club Photo

John Morris, who has his harness racing stables based at Barham, on the Victorian/New South Wales border downstream from Echuca, had bragging rights last Thursday – for just four hours that is!

Morris, a successful real estate agent, and an astute horse breeder-trainer took out the opening Echuca event with three-year-old Heir To Zanzibar (Auckland Reactor NZ - Miss Midnight (Northern Lights USA).

But then not to be outdone, long-time close friend and stable co-habitant Dennis Stevens got into the act in the final race of the night, with long shot winner Village Art (Village Jasper USA - Haytime (Exotic Earl USA).

“It was certainly a night we’ll remember for a while. Both the horses had been working well at home, but we haven’t been able to trial them much,” Morris said.

“I felt a bit sorry for Dennis who was at home resting after some minor surgery on one of his legs -- but to tell the truth I do nearly all the work with his mare,” he joked.

It is obvious their friendship of over 45 years has involved plenty of fun, laughs and jokes with heaps of friendly banter.

Morris said he expected Heir To Zanzibar, a half-brother to his former star performer in Showdown at Midnight (14 wins $108,000) to further improve.

“He blew up big time after the race and will harden up with consistent racing,” he said.

“He was the nicest horse I’ve broken in over 40 years. He mouthed very well and had quite a lot of speed. I think he is sure to develop into a handy one.

“We used to try and trial regularly at Echuca but they’ve had to cut back to one morning of trials each month so that makes it difficult,” he said.

To watch a video replay of this race click here.

Morris has a 1070 metre track on his 70-acre property, which is usually planted to pasture and running a few broodmares and cattle.

“They get reasonably fit at home and Dennis and I do fastwork against each other so that helps,” he said.

It was the nine-year-old mare’s Village Art’s second race win – her first being as a three-year-old at Charlton. Stevens said he believed his first-up success with the $17 chance was due to working the mare with other horses.

“A friend, Ruth Arthur, bred Village Art, but Ruth isn’t able to do one-on-one work at home,” he said.

“The horse was reasonably fit, and I knew that because I drive a few for Ruth now and again. When she asked me if I was interested in giving Village Art a try, I didn’t hesitate.

“Ruth has been fantastic as she gave me the hopples with the horse and then when I was laid up at home, floated it to Echuca for me.

“I think much of the credit for both of the wins should go to our reinsman Michael Bellman (of Ararat) who does a fantastic job. He’s one of the best going around at the moment.”

Michael Bellman

Stevens said he agreed that Morris did some work with his charge Village Art and was happy to admit that.  But there’s always two sides to a story…

“The reason being that I offered to drive one of his horses in Pirate of Zanzibar, because John just doesn’t get on with it at all!”

Stevens admitted to having a quiet celebration at home after his horse got the chocolates.

“I don’t mind a glass of red now and again. I probably spoilt myself and had an extra one or two that night,” he said.

Morris said he had been “extremely lucky” during his time in the sport, adding that all his horses over the years had stemmed from some foundation broodmare lines.

Del’s Doll (Adios Delmer - Hanover Bands (Ribands) was bred by legendary Noel Simpson, with the other foundation mares being full sisters in Annbank and Steda Money (Gaviland - Ardeer (Danny Hanover).

“We got Del’s Doll from a clearing sale held by a well-known horseman back in the ‘80s in Greg Major, who was giving the game away,” Morris said.

“She had some nice foals with the standout racetrack performer being Police Wagon, who got down to the fast class with 13 wins and 15 placings for about $40,000. Another fella that went okay was Nullabooma Lane (12 wins 7places for $20,000).

“Then there was Nicotina Dauphine, who did her best work as a broodmare being the dam of Outer Limits, by Limited Partner, who had 27 wins and 25 placings for $139,000.”

Steda Money was a mare all breeding buffs dream of owning! The mare was a full sister to the champion Steel Jaw, who quickly raced through the classes for Norm Lang, of NSW, claiming several Cups on his way.

Steel Jaw

Consecutive matings to Tarzan Blue Chip in 1985 and ‘86 saw Lord Greystoke (46 wins, 51 placings $243,000) and Heir To Greystoke (17 wins, 12 placings $83,250). Annbank produced Bank on a Touch Down (23 wins 14 places $96,000), Hue and Cry (11 wins 15 places $23,000) and Tour De Force (12 wins 12 places $17,000).

And still highlighting the deeds of an absolute breeding gem in Steda Money, there was Validator (20 wins, 23 placings $69,700), The Cherokee (17 wins, 29 placings $57,000), and Star Silhouette (4 wins, 14 placings $17,000).

Then in the breeding barn, Star Silhouette thrived with five foals to race, all being winners with the best possibly Mile High Heat (4 wins, 33 placings $31,000).

Morris again showed a Midas touch when he retired moderate performer Miss Midnight (Northern Lights - Star Silhouette (The Contender) and sent her to stud. All five progeny to race have been winners.

Heading the list is Showdown at Midnight (14 wins $108,000). Then there was Prince of Zanzibar (14 wins $60,000), The Love Child (2 wins $16,000), Princess of Zanzibar (1 win $8800) and now latest Echuca winner Heir of Zanzibar (2 wins $9800).

However, it is an Auckland Reactor yearling colt, a full brother to Heir of Zanzibar, that has the Morris stable bubbling with excitement.

“He’s just doing everything so nicely. We broke him in with little trouble and he’s a lovely pacer,” Morris said.

Auckland Reactor

“We actually haven’t had any issues with the Auckland Reactor breed at all. I’m super impressed and I honestly believe we are getting a better type of horse from that particular sire.”

So, while the two mates are always quick to congratulate each other on success, the friendly crossfire looks sure to continue at the stable complex in the years ahead.

Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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