It was just a matter of waiting for giant pacer Ask Me Major to mature, and both owner Tom Kilkelly and trainer Kirstin Barclay were prepared to do that. Last week at the Northern Southland harness racing meeting you can see the gelding switch on, halfway down the straight when he ran an improvers fourth. Today after lobbing the one one he came up the middle of the track and held on to narrowly beat a fast finishing Patanjali by a nose. The angle is deceptive but Ask Me Major (4) beats Patanjali (1) by a nose The Ask Me Major story has plenty of twists and turns, starting on day two at the 2012 Sale of the Stars in Christchurch. "He came through (the ring). He was by Major In Art and they couldn't get a bid on him because he was huge.They said 'someone give us a thousand dollars' so I put my hand up, gave them a thousand and that was it," said Kilkelly. Kilkelly had a soft spot for the giant black colt because he'd successfully raced his half-sister Ask McArdle which won five races for him. Fast forward to November 2015 and Ask Me Major qualified as a five year old, but there's certainly been some trials and tribulations on the way to today. "He's broken down three times in the tendon. We gave him over a year off and this time in we've really looked after him. Kirstin does it all. She wraps him continually with one of those pulse blankets and does the legs as well everyday. He's got ice boots - you name it he gets every little bit of treatment." Kilkelly says despite his size the gelding paces perfectly. "Normally with a big horse they can pace out of kilter but he paces lovely. I always said he's my cup horse. I'm not sure whether it's the Tin Shed Cup (raced on the grass at Balfour) or the New Zealand Cup," he said laughing. Such is Barclay's dedication to Ask Me Major that she had to be part of the birdcage photo today even though she was driving a stablemate of the winner. Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart. "After he won she gave someone the horse she was driving so she could get her photo taken with him. You don't normally get that emotional with horses but he's pretty special to us this fella." The horse has also impressed seasoned reinsman Andrew Suddaby who had the reins again today. "Suds said he is totally green and was talking about putting some blinds on to wake him up but we decided it was better to run him just the way we are." Despite his progress the stable's not getting too carried away. "He's still just a day to day proposition. Kirstin keeps looking at the legs and saying I think there's a bump there." So it's back to the routine again tomorrow. "He never works between races. He just jogs all week and then races at the weekend. That way you're not putting pressure on him all the time." Bruce Stewart Southland Harness racing
It was a stellar day for Southland harness racing driver Andrew Suddaby who drove three winners on the card at Winton on Saturday. His winners were Pegasus Merrily for Matt Saunders and My Rona Gold and Grace Burns for Kirstin Barclay. Suddaby who drove his first winner at Timaru in January 1995 has now driven 220 winners. It's not the first time he's driven three winners in one day, and in fact in August 2005 he drove four in one night at Forbury Park (Boulder Bay, Jaccka Turbo, Copper Belt and Elvis Rocks). Number two with My Rona Gold - Photo Bruce Stewart. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing
"It was good to finally get the monkey off my back and get a bit of stress off the shoulders;" the first words harness racing trainer Kirstin Barclay said after Just Say Go and Don't Pass I'm Fast won consecutive races at Winton today. Just Say Go in the hands of junior reinsmans Jamie Campbell won the John Keenan Memorial Mobile Pace comfortably by one and three quarter lengths. "I was pretty confident. He raced well first up at Invercargill in the slush with a hopeless draw and ran on strongly. We took him to Balfour last weekend and again he ran home strongly. It was a poor field today so we were confident." The win was Campbell's second in his career. "It was great to get the win for Jamie. He's been a big help to us over the years. If we've ever been stuck we could always ring him and he'd come and give us a hand." In the next race Don't Pass I'm Fast beat the claimers, running the mile in 1-59.9. After a nice trip driver Andrew Suddaby eased the Art Official mare out of the one one and took the lead at the top of the straight. She held on to beat favourite Longevity by three quarters of a length. Don't Pass I'm Fast winning Photo Bruce Stewart "Shes improving all the time. I really liked her early on after she showed a lot in track work but didn't show up on the racetrack. We've changed the way we train her. We've backed right off her. She used to cop a fair bit of work because she's a big strong looking horse. Andrew, who helps us out, suggested that maybe we try going the other way. She often has a day off before the races. She does very little." Don't Pass I'm Fast is out of the Wingspread mare Fast Winger. She also left the ill-fated Almost A Christian which won four of his eight starts and Still Laughin the winner of seven for Ken and Clark Barron. Don't Pass I'm Fast returning to the birdcage Photo Bruce Stewart Both Just Say Go and Don't Pass I'm Fast are owned by Tom Kilkelly. Don't Pass I'm Fast won the Regent Car Court Claimers Mobile Pace. Regent Car Court is owned by Kilkelly so it was a great result. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing
Trainer Greg Hunter was beginning to wonder if his first harness racing winner from his new training base at Kennington was ever going to come but yesterday at the Northern Southland meeting Bettor's Delight mare Simple Pleasure provided the answer. It was the five year old's first start in her second season of racing but a good performance at the Invercargill Workouts last Saturday indicated she would be tough to roll. "Yeah I did think she'd be hard. She ran a half in 54.4 that day and I thought she would improve with the run. I didn't think she'd go 2-41 today all the same but Greg's horses are always pretty fit and she's tough so it was a good effort," said driver Andrew Suddaby. The early pace was set by Red Electric before Manuka Valley and Clark Barron took up the role. Then Suddaby and Simple Pleasure took over which wasn't the pre-race intent. "It wasn't really but it was just where we ended up. Clark had to do a bit to get there so I thought he may have been looking for a trail. We just put our eggs in one basket, had a go and got it. Once she got to the front I thought she'd be pretty hard to beat. I looked around at the half to ease up a bit and give her a bit of a breather but they were all dropping off so I thought I might as well press on. At the 800 metres I thought she had them in big trouble." Simple Pleasure held on to beat a late charge from first starter Debnita Rose running the 2200 metres is a swift 2-41.6. Simple Pleasure returning to the birdcage Photo by Bruce Stewart Simple Pleasure is out of the five win Miles McCool mare Cool Ripple which Hunter also trained. Suddaby reined her to win four of those starts. "She may not have the speed of her mother but she's definitely tougher so she's got a lot more wins in her yet. She's got a good attitude to try and a will to win." Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing
Early last year former Canterbury horseman Brent Lilley pulled off a harness racing masterstroke. In just 18 months the 35-year-old has gone from an average Kiwi conditioner who had never trained more than 23 winners in 12 seasons - to one of Australia's best.