Simon McMullan has decided to end his junior driving days on a high. The 25-year-old Franklin horseman steered Take A Hint to victory on co-trainer David Butcher’s 50th birthday at Cambridge Raceway last Thursday night – and then said that’s his race-day driving was all done and dusted. “Who knows I might return to the sulky one day, say if I lease a trotter and have to drive him, but that’s it for now. “I certainly won’t be driving as an open horseman next year. I want to concentrate on one thing at a time. I’m in a privileged position working for Steven and I want to keep improving as a trainer. “That’s where my focus is now,” McMullan said. Take A Hint won the last race of the season at Cambridge. He and McMullan sat in the trail and then pounced to win the $7,000 Fairview Motors Mobile for C2-C4 pacers. They won by three quarters of a length pacing the 2200m mobile in a slick 2:42.8 with final 800m and 400m sprints of 58.5 and 29.8 seconds. The black Washington V C gelding won with a 1:59 mile rate. It was the 4-year-old’s fifth win in 28 starts. He was the third favourite and paid $8 to win. “He’s a nice horse. Not many pacers can go 2:42 and that tells me he’s got a couple of wins left in him yet. “It’s a drive I won’t forget in a while,” McMullan said. Pukekohe-based McMullan has driven 55 winners since taking out his licence in 2008. He’s also placed 130 times from his 648 starts, and won $428,521 in stakes. Training-wise he has won 29 races and just over $360,000 since joining forces with Reid at the start of the season. They finished 19th on the national training premiership. But McMullan has been with ‘The Reid Man’ for eight years now. “Steven had no right to make me a partner in his stable at the start of the season. He has rewarded me for my loyalty to him and for that I’m extremely grateful. “That’s why I want to give the driving away. I want to repay Steven’s faith in me and keep doing my best and learning from him,” McMullan said. McMullan’s first training wins came via Roger Ramjet and Sweet Jane in races one and four at Alexandra Park on August 16. McMullan was educated at Burnside High School and has worked for Brent Lilley, Brendon Hill and Doug Gale prior to coming to Reid’s Pukekohe stable. His work ethic soon ensured he was stable foreman before being promoted to a partner on August 1. Reid and McMullan are working a team of about 25 out of the Franklin Trotting Club’s complex on Station Road. “We’ve got some nice young horses coming through the ranks. Potentially I think our rising 3-year-old Art Major colt - Zennart is the most promising racehorse we have got. He won really well first-up at Alexandra Park on Friday. “My ambition is to train a Group One winner next season. Hopefully some of the younger horses or perhaps Unforgiving can do that for us,” McMullan said. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)
Champion harness racing driver Ricky May notched up his third season century in succession when winning aboard the Dave Anderson trained Abbey Cullen at Addington last night. The win was May’s third for the night after good mate Mark Jones put him on Zakspatrol and Sabellian in order to help him reach the milestone. Both 3YO pacers were winners of their two-horse Breeders Crown heats. However, Zakspatrol was actually a narrow second and was a promoted winner after Artismee was relegated for galloping over the line. Driven positively by May, Abbey Cullen held up from her ace alley before undergoing a mid-race attack from Smart Alex. She then kicked strongly in the straight to hold off a late bid from Smart Alex who was able to drop into the trail when the mid-race speed went on. Hikoi finished a further a one and a quarter lengths away in third. The win was the Christian Cullen mares first from fourteen starts. It was also the first time May has taken the reins behind the four-year-old. May then went on to notch up his 101st win for the season, and fourth for the night, when winning aboard the smart Brendon Hill trained pacer Dalton Bromac, who looked back to the horse that we saw in his South Island debut two starts back. After missing away from the standing start, May worked Dalton Bromac into the race three-wide before taking a one-one sit down the back straight. He then worked the gelding into the clear rounding the final bend, with the three-year-old letting down strongly for a comprehensive win despite not running straight. Robbie Close, who has been the caretaker trainer of the gelding during the week, said that he believes Dalton Bromac is a better horse when coming from behind, which may be the reason he was slightly disappointing when a well beaten third after leading up in his second start in the south. “He is still pretty green and I think he is a better horse when he is chasing,” revealed Close. “I also think the 2600 metre trips suit him as he is a very good stayer and can follow pace,” he added. The season century tops off what has been another tremendous innings for May. Not only did he notch up his seventh New Zealand Cup victory but he was also victorious in the Auckland Cup. His emphatic win aboard Monbet in the Harness Jewels 2YO Ruby, which gave long-time supporters Greg & Nina Hope their first Group One win in New Zealand, was another one of his highlights. Meanwhile, Robert Dunn is now just two wins shy of training 100 winners in a season for the first time after winning a heat of the Golden Girls with Westburn Warrior. His tally could have been 99 had Artismee not been relegated. By Mitchell Robertson
Kaiapoi harness racing trainer Brendon Hill has had enough good horses to know when he has got one a bit above average. So when he says a horse is “very good” you should probably stand up and listen. And many did that before the fourth race at Addington last night when a late betting plunge saw Dalton Bromac crunched into odds of $3.50. “He had really impressed me with his work and trials but sometimes they can let you down on raceday, so I was trying not to get too carried away,” said Hill. Given a nice run in the one-one by driver Ricky May, Dalton Bromac dashed clear of his rivals over the concluding stages to pull away for an emphatic 3 & ½ length win. The Major In Art gelding paced the 2600 metre mobile journey in a dashing 3:12.8, with slick sectionals of 58.0 and 28.4 “It was his first race in seven weeks so he should improve of the run,” he added. Dalton Bromac was purchased out of the barn of John and David Butcher by Brendon Hill and owner Noel Bowden. “I watched him win his second start at Cambridge and he was three-wide and parked the whole trip. I said to my wife that horse shouldn’t have been able to win that race,” said Bowden. “So when Benny (Hill) txt me and said that the horse was for sale and told me the price I jumped at the opportunity,” he added. Bowden had previously raced one other horse with Hill and that one turned out to be a minor failure. However this time Bowden wasn’t prepared to make the same mistake. “My first horse with Brendon was just a cheapie and although he won a race he wasn’t really up to Canterbury racing. You get what you pay for and that is definitely what we have got with Dalton Bromac.” Dalton Bromac’s other two stars for the Butchers resulted in a second and very good fifth after blowing the score up “We paid a bit for him but we actually thought he was reasonably good value considering what he had done in his three starts,” said Bowden. Dalton Bromac will now need to have one more start at Addington over the next fortnight in order to qualify for the upcoming August Super Series. “That is our main aim at this stage,” enthused Hill. By Mitchell Robertson
Art Official's first crop of two year olds in the Southern Hemisphere has had a noticeable lack of runners in both Australia and New Zealand, especially when you compare their performance with that of his first crop in North America which raced as two year olds in the 2013 harness racing season. Finishing 15th on the North American sires list was a good achievement as he battled stallions with much larger crops in the main. This season at three they have stepped up to the next level with the latest winner in the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes series, Let's Drink On It ($213,482) stopping the clock in 1;49 and winning by three lengths. Add in the fact that Pennsylvania is the home state for Somebeachsomewhere and last season’s leading first season sire in Well Said and the Art Official camp would be well pleased. However the Southern Hemisphere has been nowhere near as successful for Art Official to date but his numbers are not large. In Australia he has just ten two year olds this season. The only one of these to race to date is the talented Bevendale Boy ($10,950) who made the final of the $300,000 Australian Pacing Gold recently. Art Official’s second crop number a much larger 66 and these will no doubt give a much better indication of his siring worth. In New Zealand he has 49 two year olds and while he has had eight qualifiers and another 14 at the workouts, they have yet to trouble the judge on race day. One who has caught the eye of experienced judges is the two year old colt Romanite who recently broke 27 for his last quarter when chasing home the very smart Mark Purdon trained Iceobar at the Ashburton trials. Developed by Brian Zampese, he has recently been purchased by clients of the Brendon Hill barn and will debut for that stable at Addington on Friday night. Romanite is from a Totally Western mare in Roman Tear who, while a half-sister to four winners including Romanston 1:59.1 ($70,870) and Automaton 1:58.7 ($39,500) is not from a really strong maternal family. Totally Western was only available to Australasian breeders for two seasons around 2006 and 2007 but managed to leave 35 winners from limited opportunities including smart horses such as Son Of Fergie ($323,605) and Shez Ryleymak ($270,688). His daughters have made a great start in the brood mare ranks with the brilliant two year old Alta Orlando amongst his first credits. Another Art Official filly Post Modern who qualified impressively earlier in the season behind the talented Linda Lovegrace is also from a Totally Western mare. While Romanite is not in the class of Let's Drink On It, he may be just the horse Art Official needs to lift his profile in New Zealand. Harnesslink media
Washydke’s Jesse Wederell has now trained his first winner but is still yet to see one of his horses cross the line in first place. “I got that excited that I was jumping up and down and in the end it ended up being nothing more than a blur,” laughed the young enthusiastic horseman. Wederell, who is in his first season of training, broke his duck when his four-year-old Sand’s A Flyin gelding, Garibaldi, was successful in the fourth race at Rangiora today. “He has always had plenty of ability but he seems to have really clicked of late,” said Wederell, who also owns the gelding. “He may have had 13 starts but he is still pretty inexperienced, so I expect him to get better in time,” he enthused. “He is still learning what this racing game is all about.” Garibaldi is one of two two-year-olds that 21-year-old Wederell purchased of Brendon Hill in 2012. The other is Phil Monty, who Wederell recently sold to Lance Justice for good money after a very good second at Addington on February 27. “He is a really nice horse and I have kept a ten percent share in him,” enthused Wederell. “He should do a super job over there for Lance. Both Garibaldi and Phil Monty were purchased out of the Harness Racing Weekly for $1000 apiece. “I was looking for a horse at the time and I liked their breeding,” recalled Wederell. “Garibaldi’s mother (Western Starr) went 1-50 in America as a three-year-old.” “But I never dreamed I’d get two nice horses to kick off my career. I guess you could say I’ve been a bit lucky.” When asked what he was going to do with his newly found wealth, Wederell said that a new Ute could well be on the cards. It may even be towing Garibaldi next time he arrives at the races. Meanwhile, Arden Rooney was an impressive winner of the $25,000 North Canterbury Country Cups Final and will now target the $100,000 Easter Cup on April 19. By Mitchell Robertson
Star trotting filly Majestic Time looks primed and ready for the upcoming trotting features after setting an unofficial New Zealand record at the Ashburton workouts yesterday. Competing against C0 and faster pacers, Majestic Time trotted the 2400 metre journey in a time of 3-03.8, which is actually 1.9 seconds quicker than the official record for a three-year-old trotting filly which is held by Sun Watch. Majestic Time has had three starts for three emphatic wins this time in and looks set to extent her winning streak in next week’s 25,000 New Zealand Trotting Oaks. Another to impress at the trials on Tuesday was Bit Of A Legend, who scored a ½ length victory over Great Northern Derby winner Tiger Tara at Rangiora. The dual Breeders Crown champion, who is coming off the back of a disastrous WA campaign, is set to resume in next week’s Gotta Go Cullen Free-For-All, while stablemate Regulus, who finished third in the same trial, will compete in the 3YO Flying Stakes at the same meeting. In other news, dual New Zealand Cup winning trainer Brendon Hill is set to try his hand in public training. “Robert (Famularo) is going to start selling more of his stock at the Yearling Sales, but he will still have a half dozen nice horses in work with me,” said Hill, who will rent boxes at Famularo's Dancingonmoonlight Farm. “So I am a looking forward to having Robert’s ongoing support as I begin a new chapter and open myself up to the public,” he added. By Mitchell Robertson
Smart youngster Regulus has been a touch disappointing this season, and is yet to win a race in four runs back, but that should all change after race seven at Addington tonight. The Mach Three three-year-old has come up with a favourable alley in what looks like only an adequate heat of the NRM Sires Stakes, so, to put in bluntly, he really would want to be winning. Others that are competing in heat five of the Sires Stakes, which is the first leg of the Quaddie, are Return To Sender, Emmanuel, Carlos Santana, and Max Richter, who produced a huge run to finished third on debut after making a mess of the start. But, personally I think you only need Regulus printed in black ink on your Quaddie ticket. As for legs two, three, and four – well, they are not quite so straight forward. The second leg, a maiden trot – I did warn you it wasn’t so straight forward, looks like a wide open affair, and I can count seven possible winning chances. Filigree Sheree, Little Rakaia, and Lothario, are my first three elects, while the always consistent Barry, as well as Very Persuasive, Gin Rummy, and Never Fear, who does possess a lot of ability, are others I would want to have on my ticket. Safely through the first two legs, with any luck, I think we can get away with just the four runners in the third leg. Starlett Lavra stands out for me despite the 10 draw over the mile, and looks well placed as the winner of four races. If she can repeat her Rangiora performance last Sunday, she will be winning again, but to play it safe include Lady Godiva, Good Girl Becqui, and Betty Golightly Hopefully by now we are anxiously waiting upon the fourth and final leg, and I once again believe we can get away with the four runners. The Brendon Hill pair of Gino D’Acompo and Beaver Boy are both musts, while Bold Lustre, who will be hard to catch if he can lead, and impressive Rangiora trialist Billy Jack are two horses I would definitely be including. By Mitchell Robertson
Don’t be surprised if you see Robbie Close achieve high honours amongst our best Junior Drivers this season. The 21-year-old reinsman, as he puts it, ‘wants to give the Juniors a real crack’ in 2013-2014. And one man who believes in his driving abilities is one of our greatest all-time reinsman, Methven maestro, Ricky May. It was May who convinced Kaiapoi trainer Brendon Hill to give the former South Aucklander the drive last Friday night (August 23) behind the talented Bettor Rock On. The 4-year-old Bettor’s Delight gelding is now unbeaten in two starts this season after May drove him to one-two-win victory at Oamaru on August 4. Close had Bettor Rock On in front soon after the start of the $5,500 Muscara Standardbred Pace for Junior Drivers. From that point they proved too strong in the run home pacing the 2600m stand in 3:19.3 (mile rate: 2:03.3), with final 800m and 400m sprints of 57.2 and 28 seconds flat. He was the $2.90 favourite. Outsiders Tyron’s Falcon Ella (Jessica Young) and Massimo (Matt Purvis) were second and third some 1-3/4 lengths and 1-1/2 lengths away. “He’s a really nice horse – probably one of the best I’ve driven. He was doing it easy, but he did knock off with about 100 to go. “It was really good of Ricky and Brendon to give me the drive. He felt like a good horse. “It was really pleasing to hear that Ricky had been impressed by some of my drives lately. Drivers like him and Blair Orange are reinsmen I really look up to,” Close said. Close transferred from South Auckland to Canterbury four years ago from his home town of Waiuku. He’s just started his fourth season. He’s driven 43 winners – 22 of them last year. Asked if he felt the pressure, especially when sitting behind a warm favourite, Close replied: “Pressure has never been a concern. I am pretty relaxed actually. I talk to the other drivers and really don’t think about anything until the starter says ‘Go’. “I really enjoyed driving Bettor Rock On. Even though he’s a bit green you can tell he’s going to be a very nice horse.” Bettor Rock On is the fourth of six foals out of the 17-year-old one-win Caprock mare, Jingle Belle Rock. Her first two foals – Great Balls A Flyin (by Sands A Flyin) and J D Fortune (Washington VC) won three and six races respectively. Bettor Rock on has now raced 18 times for four wins and eight placings. He’s won $32,716 in purses. He is owned by Hill, D.P. McHugh, P.M. Ellis, and Peter Yesberg. He was bred by Yesberg, and A, and R. Hemingway. Close regarded Bettor Rock On As his number one drive so far. “Donaldson and Lachlan Jack are some other nice ones I’ve driven also. They are right up there,” he added. For the record Close has driven two winners and two place-getters from eight drives this season. He worked for Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett in Waiuku and had a short stint with Barry Purdon before transferring south and taking up a position with Robbie Holmes at Amberley for three years. Close has been with Greg and Nina Hope since just prior to last Christmas. By Duane Ranger Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand
Carabella's near foreleg blows up, putting her return to the harness racing track and career in doubt. Champion pacing mare Carabella's comeback could be over before it passes first base.
One of the good guys of harness racing- John Dunn- brought up career win number 500 and then quickly surpassed that tally, when reining home a treble at Friday night's (April 5) premier meeting at Addington.
Star harness racing mares Carabella and Bettor Cover Lover must have cut a deal early on in their racing careers.
‘The King’ Ken Barron is now just one win away from the magical 1000 after he reined his 999th winner at yesterday’s (Sunday March 17) Akaroa harness racing meeting at Motukarara.
With The Box Seat no longer doing the highly popular weekly ring around, I thought it was only right that Harnesslink got it back up and running. We will start with just the South Island guys this week before we get the North Island boys on board.
Two-time New Zealand Cup winning trainer Brendon Hill has had a quiet last couple of months on the racing front, but has three more than useful types set to resume this weekend.
Brendon Hill asked the question of New Zealand harness racing hero Monkey King, but the 10-year-old today (Thursday September 13) told 'Benny' - "enough is enough".
In his first public appearance since retiring last season Monkey King underwhelmed his trainer Brendon Hill. In the fast-class heat at Saturday's Rangiora workouts Monkey King didn't fire.