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The winning streak of young trotter Ultimate Stride continued at Ascot Park yesterday. The quality three year old was having only his second start back after injury forced him to miss most of his three year old season. Driver Matthew Williamson took the Love You colt back early before getting into the one one. With 600 metres to run he changed up a few gears, hooked out and speared Ultimate Stride to the top, easily opening a massive gap in the field. He went down to the line to win by seven lengths. “He got a perfect trip, so everything fell into place. He’s got great manners and he’s exciting,” said trainer Phil Williamson. The time for the 2700 metre stand of 3-27.4 established a new track and Southland record, erasing The Fiery Ginga 2010 record of 3-30.6. The time was just 0.2 seconds outside the New Zealand record of 3-27.2 held by Heavyweight Hero. So how does Williamson rate him? “Nicest colt probably I’ve had but in saying that we did have Oscar Bonavena. He’s (Ultimate Stride) probably the best I’ve gone on with because we didn’t have Oscar for very long. There’s a bit of class there alright.” Williamson says the short term plans are fairly simple. “Keep the hell away from Brad (Son Brad Williamsons trotter Cracker Hill). We’re just on our own paths at the moment. It’ll be an exciting clash. It’s hard to believe you can have two such nice horses on the same property. I’m not keen on having a dual with him and he’s not that keen on having one with me either. If its $100,000 race it’ll be gloves off and see how it goes. At this stage we’re not going head to head for 10k.” The two targets for both trotters will be the $85,000 PGG Wrightson Final at Alexandra Park on October 9th and the Haras des Trottuers Sires Stakes Championship at Addington on October 16th. Ultimate Stride is out of the millionaire trotting mare One Over Kenny which won thirty two races. Bred by Lex and Heather Williams, One Over Kenny has been an outstanding broodmare. All of her seven foals of racing age have qualified and six have collectively won forty seven races. Her seventh foal One Over All is qualified, but unraced. One Over Kenny’s best foal One Over Da Moon won twenty races.   Bruce Stewart

The Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis trained Love On The Rocks continued his good form when he won again at the Southern Harness meeting at Ascot Park yesterday. The three year old settled back early, where he stayed until the 600 when driver Kirstin Barclay followed Nota Bene Denario up three wide. Reined up, Love On The Rocks finished strongly down the middle of the track to beat Nota Bene Denario by a length and a quarter. “He’s got a really good turn of foot but he’s a funny wee horse. You don’t know how well he’s winning because you’ve got to tell him to go. He’s not one that hooks out and just goes. You have to drive him a bit but he seems to get to the line well within himself,” Barclay said. It was the Terror To Love gelding’s third win in row, having only qualified in December. “He’s coming through his races really well. We have no real plans. He pulled up so well we might give him one more race and then give him a bit of a break. It’s hard to turn them out when they’re going so well.” Love On The Rocks is one of a small handful of horses trained at the Barclay/Ellis stable at Tisbury. Most of their horses are trained at Oreti Beach. “He didn’t go that well out there. He’s just a bit lazy. For some reason he just didn’t fire at the beach but not all horses do.” Barclay and Ellis with 26 winners, sit one win behind Nathan Williamson in the race to win the Southland Trainers Premiership.   Bruce Stewart

Two year old trotter Love N The Port created a good impression when he beat older horses on debut at Ascot Park yesterday. The Love You gelding driven by Matthew Williamson stepped nicely and trotted wide early before settling three back on the outside with stable mate Springbank Mason taking up the role of pacemaker. With 600 metres to run Williamson pulled the two year old out and moved him up to challenge Springbank Mason. The two went head to head until 50 metres from the finish line when Love N The Port proved too strong, going away to win by a length and a half. “He’s shown a bit at home and has been pretty impressive at the trials,” said trainer Phil Williamson who was confident of a strong showing. The time of 2-55.1 bettered the track and Southland record of 2-58.1 held by Majestic Connies. The New Zealand record of 2-52.7 is held by Russell Galleon. “He’ll go out now for a spell and come back and race at Christmas time. We’ll look at perhaps running in the Derby if all goes well. He’s got good stamina so there’s a chance he’ll be there if he’s that good a horse. We’re not getting too carried away, we want to see more but he is a quality horse.” Love N The Port is owned by Christchurch Architect Keith Ussher and wife Sylvia White who works at ARA (Christchurch Polytechnic) as an accountant. Keith says they’ve owned horses for over twenty years. “We haven’t had one as good as this one. He looks pretty promising but he’s still got to do it,” he said. Previous winners for the couple include Clovelly Beach (4) and Ace Of Hearts (3) and they currently race Arocknatthepark and The Flying Fijian from Mitchell Kerr’s stable. Keith doesn’t have any family connection with harness racing but Sylvia’s father Tom Roberts bred and raced horses including Lumumba (Light Brigade) which won five races for Broadfield trainer Jim Winter in the mid 1960s. Love N The Port is out of the four win Sundon mare Ngaire Margaret which won once for Brent Weaver and three times for Andrew Faulks. “She was a beautiful trotter but she had so many issues. She broke her leg early on. We ended up sending her south for beach training with Andrew.  We soon learned not to go down (to Forbury Park) – every time we went down she stuffed it up and when we didn’t go she won.” Usher says the journey with Love N The Port hasn’t always been plain sailing. “When we sent him down he was a colt and a bit of a handful. I think they almost considered sending him back at one stage. He was a bit of trouble but no worries now.” This is the first horse the couple have had with Williamson. “We can’t speak highly enough of him (Williamson). When this fella was young we could see he was a little beauty so we decided to send him to the best. The main person behind sending him south was Sylvia’s son Adam (well-known Canterbury farrier Adam White). Phil’s had him down there for about twelve months and he’s said all along that he’d never be a two year old because he was too big. He’s improved so much lately Phil thought he’d give him one race and then tip him out.” The win continued Williamson’s excellent form with trotters in the south. He’s won eight of the eighteen trotting races carded at Ascot Park post Covid19 and he looks set to once again achieve being New Zealands leading trainer of trotters by the end of the current season. He currently sits on thirty three wins, ten clear of Robert Dunn. Both his winners yesterday were by star trotting stallion Love You and Williamson has another promising type in Leaf Stride qualified and ready to go in the new season. “I backed off him because he’s a great big horse. He’s got good ability and is quite an exciting horse. He’s been a work in progress because there have been lot of issues through the early part of his career. We had a few concerns around his manners early on but we’ve worked hard on that with him.” Leaf Stride is out of a daughter of Merinai – Sun Mist, and Williamson says he’s looking at lining the horse up in September.   Bruce Stewart

It’s great news that three key 2019-2020 Southern Group races are to go ahead in the new season. The Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes, Nevele R/Macca Lodge Southland Oaks and Diamond Creek Farm Classic for two year olds have been confirmed for the new season although the exact date and venue are still to be confirmed. “It’s a fair old calendar for the two and three year old colts and geldings. And the three year old fillies have the remainder of the Nevele R Fillies Series and the final which will be run on Cup Day,” said John Price who’s the main driving force behind getting the races back on track. The Supremacy and Oaks will be Group Three races. “It is good for the breeders, the owners, and Southland to get them up and going,” he said. The stake level is likely to be $30,000 for each, but before a final figure can be settled on Price has to have talks with key sponsors regarding their contributions. “I can’t see too much of a problem with them agreeing.” Southland Standardbred Breeders Association, SBSR, New Zealand Bloodstock, Southern Harness, and the National Body of the New Zealand Standardbred Breeders all supported the application to run the feature races. “There was good genuine support right across the board to run the finals.” The top qualifiers for the Southern Supremacy are: Spirit Of St Louis, Pembrook Playboy, See Ya Write, Minstrel, Yossi, Forsure, Burnham Boy, Tyron’s Bit Of Lemon, Carlos Bromac, Willison, Major Meister, Croesus and Longueval. The leading contenders for the Southland Oaks are: Watch Me Now, Pearl Harbour, Bailey’s Dream, Plutonium Lady, American Eyretime, Renegade Rose, Sugar Loaf, Need You Now, Delightful GNP, Princess Jessie, Stylish Memphis, Flossie and Mossdale Lottee. Price is also advocating that the final of the Southern Belle Speed Series be run on the same day.   Bruce Stewart

“It felt like track work to be fair, trainer driver Brad Williamson said after Cracker Hill easily won his sixth race at Ascot Park today. He’s just getting better and better with every run.” The six length win was from the front without the ear plugs being pulled and the time was 0.6 off the New Zealand record of 2-43.0 held by Royal Aspirations. “He’s just got a high cruising speed. If I’d have guessed the time I would have said three minutes for 2200 but we went a Southland record.” The previous track and Southland record for three year olds was shortlived being recorded last Saturday by Ultimate Stride at 2-47.4. Williamson made the most of the front line draw today, and headed straight to the top. “When he draws the front line in a mobile he’s always pretty hard to beat because his gate speed is as good as any. Which makes it pretty easy.” Once again consistent mare Crusher Collins which trailed the leader, had to make do with second placing. Williamson says Cracker Hill takes everything in his stride and acts like an experienced race horse. “As you can see he’s like a sensible campaigner and just wants to be a really good race horse. I think in twelve months time he will be.” Some thought is now being given to an Australian campaign. “Nothing is set in stone but I’ve made a few plans to head to Australia with him to Brent Lilley’s but it’s not confirmed yet. I’d like to get over and contest the Victoria Derby. He’ll have a wee freshen up and whether I race him again before I go to Australia or not, I’m not sure.” Winning connections                                               --Bruce Stewart photo Cracker Hill is owned by Gary Preston, Sue Preston, Wayne Morris, Mike Arnold, Ray Scott, Joan Scott, Jenny Rhodes and Lex Williams. He’s by Muscle Hill out of the Majestic Son mare Juneamy Castleton which won four races for Canterbury trainer Mark Jones. The family goes back to quality trotters Castleton’s Pride which won the 1975 Interdominion Trotters Final and ten other races, and 1983 Rowe Cup winner Sir Castleton which won forty four races. The breed was developed by Mawson MacPherson. Juneamy Castleton is now owned by Brent Smith who lives in Otautau. The Love You yearling colt that Smith offered at this year’s sale was bought by Preston under All Things Harness Racing for $40,000.  Smith also has a Father Patrick weanling colt out of the mare.   Bruce Stewart

Those on course at Ascot Park today were treated to one of the most sensational runs seen in years by a pacer. At about the 600 diminutive Sweet Lou three year old Spirit Of St Louis looked to be in a hopeless position. After stepping nicely from the twenty metre mark driver Matthew Williamson settled the gelding last on the outside with Betterthanbrie making the pace. Half way down the back straight most horses were off the inside running line so Williamson decided to run Spirit Of St Louis up the inside. ‘It was looking good coming off the back because I thought I’d get on the back of Kirk (Kirk Larsen driving Maidonthebeach).” But that move soon looked flawed as horses began to move sharply round the outside and Maidonthebeach wasn’t progressing. “I got held up badly by the two Gray runners (Nota Bene Denario and Born To Boogie) coming round and I had to go behind them. I ended up giving up the ground I’d made back to them.” Williamson was still seven lengths off the leader turning in and wide on the track. Halfway down the straight Spirit Of St Louis was still only going to run second but he sustained his finish and nabbed a game Betterthanbrie right on the line, winning by a nose. “Coming round the last bend I could tell he was jogging. It really surprised me how well he let down. It was a phenomenal run just to get up.” Spirit Of St Louis ran his last 400 metres in 27.8. The overall time of 3-22.6 was 0.6 outside the track and Southland record of 3-22.0 held by Tas Man Bromac. After the run Williamson was full of praise for the horse. “He’s got good high speed and is a lovely natured horse. He’s such a laid back wee fella and pretty lazy. You don’t know how you’re going until you wake him up. Williamson also praised the horse’s Westwood Beach trainer Graeme Anderson. “I don’t want to talk about him too much,  it’ll go to his head (laughter) but he’s done a great job with this horse. His runners are always ready.” So after today’s sensational effort how does Williamson rate Spirit Of St Louis? ‘I think he’s the best. With the run today to beat the older horses and to give them the ground he did was a hell of a good effort. With that one cold shot at them he’s at his best.” Spirit Of St Louis is owned by Trevor Casey, Anderson, Tony Gow, Steve Pulley, Ray Chaiklin, Pauline Gillan and Edwin and Kieran Corby.   Bruce Stewart

“It was good to get the monkey off the back,” was the comment from junior driver Tristan Larsen after he drove Duke Of Dundee to win at Ascot Park today. Trained by Larsen’s father Kirk at Branxholme the four year old gelding was given the perfect trip behind pacemaker Iwanadancewitsumbody. On straightening, Tristan drove Duke Of Dundee up the passing lane, beating Vin Scully by three and three quarter lengths. “It was pretty good to do it for Dad and long-time owner Gordon Smith who’s had a lot of horses with us, so it’s pretty cool.” Larsen has spent all of his life around horses but didn’t have plans to make it them his career. “Not early on. I was a typical boy and liked rugby and mates. Then I came of age, went to the races a bit more and got a love for it.” He drove in the Kidz Kartz programme for a season and then progressed to ‘big horses’ when he drove Auckland Cup winner Howard Bromac at home. “When he was a pacemaker Dad let me have a sit behind him so that was a pretty good start.” Tristan Larsen                                   --Bruce Stewart photo Larsen works for his father for two hours in the morning then heads to Brett Gray’s Ryal Bush stable before returning to his Dad’s stable to help feed up. “It’s really good to be attached to two stables driving wise as you get more opportunities.” Later in the programme Dad Kirk produced another winner when the royally bred Forsure beat favourite American Eryetime by half a length. The Art Major three year old is out of the eighteen win Washington VC mare Foreal and is owned by Shona and Syd Brown.   Bruce Stewart

Oamaru horseman Matty Williamson continued a fine family tradition when he scored his first win as a trainer at Ascot Park today with Flossie holding on to beat outsider Hans Ideal by a nose. “It doesn’t say it in the race book but I bred her as well. I’ve had her the whole time so it was very satisfying going through the whole process and getting the win,” Williamson said. The three year old Shadow Play filly is owned by Williamson’s Uncle and Auntie Lance and Sharon Doran, his mother Bev and his partner Charlotte Purvis. “Because I train her there’s been no pressure other than from the missus. She (Flossie) has raced well in two starts so I haven’t had too much critiquing yet.” Williamson took Flossie to the front and dictated the pace but there were some anxious moments at the end. “I thought she was holding, but having the full blinds on she didn’t see those other horses coming wide late and she knocked off a bit. In hindsight I probably should have taken a sit with her but she got the job done so I’m rapt.” Williamson says Flossie has been a pleasure to train all the way through but that she’s likely to be sold. “She’s very laid back and she’ll continued to improve. Time will be her friend and she’s now for sale to the right person.” Williamson has only two horses in work. He qualified an American Ideal gelding called Mufusa last week at Oamaru. “He’s a nice horse. I expect him to do a bit and he may race before the season is out if he’s not sold.” Mufusa is owned by Geoff and Jude Knight, Williamson and his partner Charlotte. Williamson’s racing colours of orange with a chequered sash were the colours used by the late Dick Prendergast. Matt’s father Phil worked for Prendergast in the mid 1970s. “It was great for Matt especially with my old boss’s colours. Dick offered him the colours. He was a great fella to work for and he would have had a great thrill out of the win today. It was a thrill for us too as I’ve won in those colours a few times,” said Phil Williamson. The winning connections                                                     --Bruce Stewart photo Phil’s first winner as a junior driver was Hajano for Prendergast at Timaru in December 1977.  He also had success with the Prendergast colours driving Kimrock and Thelma Hest. Other winners at Ascot Park today were; Matai Jetstar which capped off a consistent form line to win for Alex Milne, Call Me Keith which won at odds of 76-1 for it’s breeder, owner and trainer Hamish Hunter, Melton Mafia for Wyndham trainers Gordon and Colin Lee, Allandale for Omakau trainer Lionel Sinnamon, Reattore for Mid Canterbury trainer Brent White and Winton trained mare Pearl Harbour for Winton trainers Katrina and John Price.   Bruce Stewart

A trotting double isn’t rare for master trainer Phil Williamson but two long shot trotting winners on the same day is. That’s what the Oamaru trainer produced at Ascot Park today when Majestic Connies won at odds of 25-1 and then two races later Jimmy Carter won paying $14.40. Majestic Connies got the long shot double underway. He was back early but driver John Morrison sent him forward to sit parked with a lap to run. He got his head in front of leader Crusher Collins turning in and held off late charges from Rydgemont Son wide out and That’s The Story on the inside. The winning margin was a head with a nose back to third. Majestic Connies (6) holding on in a tight finish                       – Photo Bruce Stewart “He trialled like he’d be hard to beat before he raced last, and that run was a bit disappointing. He’s hard for the public to follow but on his day he can turn on a good performance and he’s got a reasonable amount of ability for that grade,” said trainer Phil Williamson. Later in the day Jimmy Carter accounted for a tidy field of square gaiters when he got up to win the Carpet Plus Willy’s Flooring Trot. He was in the one one for the last part of the race. Driver Brad Williamson came out inside the last 600 when second favourite Madrik improved. Leader Richard The Third and Jimmy Carter went head to head inside the last 400 metres. The Williamson trained trotter came away at the end, beating Richard The Third by a length and three quarters with Horse Of Course running home for third. “His last two starts were from a mobile and he didn’t take part. He won a trial from the stand in between and we thought that if he got away today he’d be pretty competitive. We had a team in that were all competitive but it’s just around the manners on the day. Brad got it right with Jimmy Carter and Johnny Morrison got Connies round.” Jimmy Carter trotting out to win                             – Photo Bruce Stewart And Williamson says he’s excited to be bringing class trotter Ultimate Stride south in the next fortnight. “It’ll be great to have him back at the races. He had a breakdown after he came back from Australia so he hasn’t raced for nearly a year but he’s a quality horse. He’s had a couple of trials. Will he need a run? I think his class should get him home but it’s never that easy.” After today’s racing the Williamson brothers had extended their collective tally of driving wins to 2002.  Matty currently sits on 860, Nathan 820 and Brad 322. Meanwhile the Des Baynes trained See Ya Write broke the 1700 metre mobile record for three year olds when he won the last race on the card pacing the distance in 2-03.0. The previous record of 2-04.3 was held by Karmic Way.   Bruce Stewart

At the ripe old age of eight, Changeover mare Dachy is having her best season. Owned by trainer Ian Goodman and Doug McLeish, Dachy had to overcome plenty of roadblocks to achieve her win at Ascot Park yesterday in the hands of Sheree Tomlinson. She was locked away on the inside with 500 metres to run surrounded by tiring horses. Tomlinson managed to extricate her from tight quarters and sent her out to chase down leader Wolf West, which had got away by eight lengths. “I was a wee bit concerned and thought we might get dragged right out the back. Sheree said she got the gap and if you watch the replay you can see she ran onto Kirk’s (Larsen driving Maidonthebeach) wheel. But she made enough room and got out,” said Goodman. Straightening up for the run home Dachy mastered Wolf West and came away to win by three lengths. “She’s always been very competitive and just wants to run. It suits her when the speed is on. She can get out and run home.” Dachy doesn’t win out of turn. She won once in each of her first three seasons of racing.  At six she won twice before going winless the following season. “Last season she only had a few starts and did a suspensory and was meant to be out for six months. She was only out for four months. We got her scanned and she was good to go and won first up in Invercargill.” It was the mare’s eighth win in seventy six starts over six seasons of racing. She resumed after lock down with a sixth last Saturday at Ascot Park after getting clear late. Most of Goodman’s thirty two winners have featured the McLeish name in the ownership, including Future Fortune, Connie Belle and Bold Centurion. Dachy has spent some of her career at Nathan Williamson’s barn. “I’ve done it the last two Christmas’s. We take the family, the boat and go on holiday to Hawea.” Most of the mare’s runs have been over the shorter distances and she’s only had one stand. “That was at Gore and she didn’t go that well. I think half her trouble is she gets a bit keen. That was the only time she’s raced over a distance beyond 2400 metres. I hope they stick with what they’re doing racing over 2200 mobiles so we can make the most of that.”   Bruce Stewart

“He made a good beginning which was probably the key to the win. Making a good start has been one of his problems,” said Brad Williamson trainer driver of Rydgemont Son which beat Davey Mac to win his fifth race at Ascot Park yesterday. It was in stark contrast to the five year old’s previous start when he became unsettled by a false start, broke at the beginning of the re-run and finished sixth, nine lengths behind winner Full Noise. “A few of the horses got on the toe that day like Rydgemont Son and Davey Mac, so it was nice to get the quinella today.” Rydgemont Son is owned by Ray and Joan Scott and started his career with Oamaru trainer Murray Tapper who also trained the horse’s dam Domination. “Ray is a part owner of Cracker Hill and came to watch him as a two year old. He then decided to give Rydgemont Son a go in my stable because he was galloping a lot for Murray. The horse had always shown ability. At our Oamaru trials I remember him qualifying and Dad said he quite liked him then. ” And Williamson says the gelding is slowing getting better with his stand start manners. “I told Ray a long time ago that by the time he’s had thirty to forty starts be may be a good genuine standing start horse. Ray joked and said he’d be dead by then. He’s about 84.” Yesterday’s start was Rydgemont Son’s twenty eighth and twenty fourth from a stand. Like most horses he was forced into lockdown during Covid 19 and Williamson says the plan now is to carry on. “He’s racing quite well. The races they’re programming at the moment over 2200 metres are a good thing because it means the horses can back up and don’t necessary have to have hard runs.” Yesterday’s result was also another ‘prefect four’ for the Williamson family with Brad winning, Phil finishing second with Davey Mac, Nathan third with Crusher Collins and Matty fourth with Only One Way. Brad thinks it’s about the third time the family has achieved this feat. The Williamson brothers are fast closing in on having 2000 collective New Zealand winners. Their total currently stands at 1997 with Matty leading the charge on 859, Nathan on 819 and Brad on 319. Earlier in the programme Rydgemont Son’s half-sister Rydgemont Milly recorded her sixth win. She was bred by Stephen Bell who owns Domination along with the Scotts. Rydgemont Milly is raced by Debbie Shirley who trains her with husband Mark. John Morrison drove the eight year old yesterday. Earlier in the day the Williamson name was to the fore when Arc De Triomphe won for trainer Phil and driver Brad. The three year old having only his second start, began well and lead all the way to beat the more favoured stable mate Miss Crazed. “He’s the sort of horse that doesn’t have a lot of speed and can’t change up gears. Matt said at his last start he got back in the field, but was doing his best work at the finish. With a better beginning we took the bull by the horns and a front running rolling along style suits a big gangly horse like him.” Williamson says he wasn’t confident until the last fifty metres. “I know she (Miss Crazed) is probably more talented because I’ve driven her at the trials a few times. I thought after my horse made a good beginning I knew we’d be in the money. I didn’t know  Matthew’s horse (Miss Crazed) had made a mistake and lost forty to fifty metres at the start. I never pulled the plug on him so he won with a bit in hand.” The winning margin was four and a quarter lengths with Miss Crazed getting home late to run second. Arc De Triomphe is by Quaker Jet out of the Sundon mare Juliana and is raced by The Griffin’s Syndicate and Seafield Trotting Syndicate who’ve raced a number of horses out of Juliana, including Monty Python and Dark Horse. Meanwhile Brad’s stable star Cracker Hill resumed racing at Addington last Friday running second behind the talented Greg and Nina Hope trained Matua Tana. “Really happy with him. He seems to have come through that run well. I’ll give him a bit of a freshener. I’ll target another race for him potentially in Invercargill and then look to head to Australia with him later in the season.” The Phil Williamson trained Majestic Man also resumed earlier this week and also had to play second fiddle to Matua Tana but Brad says he and his father were happy with the run. “He’s a horse that takes a run or two to get into form. He’s been beaten in his first run back a couple of times. He did over race quite badly the other night. It took a bit out of him and being in a fresh state may have been the undoing of him but I expect him to improve. If they carded a similar race for him in a couple of weeks I’d expect him to be very hard to beat.”   Bruce Stewart

Southern Bred Southern Reared has a new crop of weanlings to prepare for next season's sale. It’s always exciting to see the new kids on the block, away from their Mums, becoming more independent and growing up. In this series we see some of the fresh faces for the first time and get their handlers opinion of them. Denario Breeding’s run of fillies continues. Mark O’Conner says of the fourteen foals the partnership has bred over the past four years, ten – 71% have been fillies.  And four of the five foals just weaned are fillies. Here’s a rundown and a look at some of the youngsters. Bueno Denario (American Ideal filly – Mantis Denario) – born 01/10/19 “Bueno Denario is the first foal from the qualified but unraced Somebeachsomewhere mare Mantis Denario and should be a showy black type when she passes through the ring next February,” said Mark O’Conner. Lulu Denario (Sweet Lou filly – Southern Delight) – born 01/12/19 Lulu Denario “She’s a foal with a lot of leg underneath her and is our first Sweet Lou that we’ve bred. We have supported this sire again with Goodtogo Denario who’s now in foal to him.” Micaitlen Denario (Captain Treacherous filly – Shezaball) – born 09/12/19 “Micaitlen Denario is a very strong filly by the in-demand sire Captain Treacherous.  At this stage we intend to retain and race her ourselves with the intention of adding her to our future broodmare band. Micaitlen is a combination of our two daughters’ names Micaela and Kaitlen.” Wanta Denario (Art Major filly- Wantapieceofme) – born 12/12/19 “Wanta Denario is the second foal that we’ve produced from the American bred mare Wantapieceofme.  She’s a qualified Rocknroll Hanover mare and a half-sister to the World Champion mare Shebestingin. We bought back the Always B Miki yearling out of this mare at the 2020 sales and she has since been broken in at Macca Lodge, gaining a favourable assessment.” Dictate Denario (Well Said colt – Averil’s Atom) – born 27/12/19 Dictate Denario “He’s a nicely made Well Said colt and the last foal from Averil’s Atom.  We deliberately didn’t serve her this season and have decided to retire her from breeding.” The Twenty one year old mare has been an excellent broodmare for the O’Connors. She’s left Shezacullen (10 wins), Averil;s Quest (9), Shezaball (8) and Southern Delight (3 wins from 9 starts). Mark and Pauline have a rising two year old by A Rocknroll Dance out of the mare and an unqualified three year old American Ideal filly which is raced on lease to the 19th Hole Syndicate and is at Nathan Williamson’s stable.   “Pauline has chosen to break her into saddle and she’ll be gifted to one of her pony-riding pupils who will provide the mare with a quality life after harness racing involvement.” “One of the by-products of the Covid lockdown is that Pauline has encouraged me to go for a few horse rides after about 30 years.  The last time I rode was when I was first dating my wife in an attempt to impress her.”   by Bruce Stewart

Dodgethebullet won the first race in Southland post Lockdown for Gore trainer Tony Stratford and driver Blair Orange at Ascot Park today. The six year old Lis Mara gelding was given a good warmup by Orange.  He led from barrier six and held on to beat Franco June by half a length. It was Dodgethebullet’s third win – all have been from the Stratford stable. Part owner Stephen Blair also trained the gelding for a time. In race two outsider Annie Fitz got the run to suit for driver Craig Ferguson. Just when it looked like Lucys Delight had the race in safe keeping Annie Fitz came through the pack to win by a length with To Ri Caitlin wide out getting second. The eight year old mare last won for trainers Ross and Chris Wilson on this course in January 2019. Delight N Gold rewarded Neville Cleaver’s perseverance. He’s been keen on buying the gelding for a while and the horse finally changed hands earlier this month. It was Delight N Gold’s first start for Nathan Williamson’s stable and viewers that spotted him coming home nicely at last week’s trials made him a favourite for today’s race. Delight N Gold winning for new trainer Nathan Williamson    --Bruce Stewart photo Previously the gelding had raced fifty one times without winning. But he’d run a number of placings over four seasons of racing. Graeme Anderson continued  Wolf West’s success with an easy win today., having had the horse for two starts. He was previously trained by Tony Stratford. Anderson and Stratford are good friends, and they often swap horses. Wolf West returning for Matty (I now look like Phil) Williamson     --Bruce Stewart photo Zooming in on the mo bro!!! Zoned Scarlett was an early reward for Canterbury trainer Michael House who’s committed to racing a sizable team in Southland in the next few months. The seven year old mare was having her first start for House today and the win was her fifth in eighty two starts. She’s been trained previously by Brad Williamson, Darryn Simpson and Kyle Cameron. The Croupier led and won for driver Craig Ferguson and trainer Shane Matheson. It was the horse’s first win this season and it’s fourth career win. Consistent filly American Eyretime scored her first win albeit narrowly, when she came up the inside to beat Longueval which was finishing wide out by a nose. Well deserved win for American Eyretime                     --Bruce Stewart photo The Tintin In America filly had run six placings in her previous seven starts. Pearl Harbour which took the lead with a lap to run held on for an easy win in the Phillips Horse Transport Mobile Pace. The three year old by Somebeachsomewhere trained by Katrina and John Price at Winton beat Altimeter by a length and a half. Easy winner Pearl Harbour                                  --Bruce Stewart photo Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray wasn’t overly confident that Full Noise could win from the 25 metre handicap over 2200 today but the four year old held on with tenacity to beat Crusher Collins by a nose. Stinger Lindenny made it two wins For Micheal House in winning the last on the eleven race card. The 23 to 1 shot was taken to the lead with 1400 metres to run and held on to beat Nota Bene Denario by a length and a quarter.   Bruce Stewart

Madrik lived up to his big wrap when he stepped, led and won at Ascot Park today. The three year old had won impressively at last week’s trials and was made favourite for his debut. “He had excuses at the start as he was playing up, but he did everything right after that. He can get on edge at the start but once he goes he’s normally pretty good.  I’m over the moon.” said co-trainer and driver Kirstin Barclay. She let the gelding roll along in front and he went down to the line, winning easily by a length and a quarter from another debutante Top Pocket Chance. “He did knock off at the end but he still had the fixed deafeners in. We haven’t pulled the plug on him yet but when we do I’d say he’ll buzz up pretty nice.” Barclay and co-trainer Tank Ellis have been cautious with the gelding after Barclay had seen him in action with the plugs  out. “They fell off one day at the beach and I thought I was going to Riverton! (laughter) Hence we haven’t pulled them yet but we’ll have to at some stage.” Madrik is by Coktail Jet stallion/The Best Madrik out of the Earl mare The Fiery Filly which won once from fifteen starts and was bred by Tom Kilkelly who sponsored today’s race. “When we broke him in he always had a nice step and he’s always trotted from day one.” Barclay said Madrik was ready to go before Covid 19. “In hindsight the little spell did him the world of good as he’s still growing. His races will need to be spaced out.” Madrik after winning at Ascot Park                                     --Bruce Stewart Although Madrik won from the front today Barclay says he’s equally as good coming from the back. “I managed to get him in the field at Workouts and he sprinted up really nice but he ends up in front a lot of the time because he begins so well” Although impressive today Barclay is under no illusions that the competition will only get better. “Going forward he’ll be up against the better horses so his manners have got to stay intact.”   Bruce Stewart

Southern Harness website editor Bruce Stewart flushes out a handful of horses that should race well at the Southern Harness racing meeting at Ascot Park on Saturday. Race Four: – Delight N Gold – He’s had a stable change and is now with Nathan Williamson. Shaped up nicely at the trials last Friday running home well for second. Worth a bet. Race Five: – Tact Eze –  Operates well fresh and drawn to lead or trail. John Morrison drives. Each way. Race Seven: Ivana Legacy– Had a quiet trial last Friday. This draw suits as she likes to be tucked away. Look for her to run home late. Good trifecta chance. Race Seven: I’m Watching You – Not pushed at Fridays trials. Crafted a good record early in the season so he should be improved with Friday’s run. Gets a nice second row draw with Matty Williamson on board. Race Eight: La La Land – I always like fresh runners from Brent Shirley’s stable. Could be great each way value. Race Nine: Tairlaw Toll – Wasn’t pulled out when running third at the Ascot Park trials. Likes this course and is in a winnable race. Jump on. Race Ten: Davey Mac – Great distance for him. He’ll step and run making it hard for the handicap horses over 2200 metres. Phil’s on-board. Davey Mac                                           --Bruce Stewart photo   See also the race by race tips by the Southern selectors click here   Bruce Stewart

Thirty years ago, Southlander Denice Swain was a pioneer for women in a harness racing industry that was dominated by males. From her Ashburton base in the nineties she stood tall, gained respect, and fashioned a very good training record. Being the first woman to enter a horse in the New Zealand Cup is one of her many achievements. Denice was born the oldest of seven children, to parents Ray and Rhona Swain who lived at Lumsden. “Unlike other girls of my age I didn’t have a pony in the paddock at home. It was an expense we couldn’t afford so we used to break in and ride wild ponies instead,” Denice said. Her love of horses began as a ten year old when using binder twine for reins, she rode a pacemaker bareback along a railway track with her father in the cart. “Dad used to get me to ride the pacemaker bareback while he would follow with a colt in the cart. It got quite scary at times because we’d be going really fast.” The family also enjoyed the success of racing horses, and Auto Tryax was their best. Owned by her mother Rhona, Auto Tryax won seven races, his first at Wyndham in November 1961, trained and driven by Stewie Sutherland of Duntroon. Auto Tryax’s sister Beautilima won twice and left a string of winners for the Swain family in Honest John (8), Johnny’s Brother (8), Sam’s Smile (6) and Minilima (5). From an early age Denice built a wealth of knowledge about horses, skills she would use later. In the early seventies she moved to Australia with her partner Jo E King, whom she had met when he was working at a sawmill in Balclutha. “He was an entertainer and wanted to try his luck over there.” They lived in Melbourne for eighteen months followed by twelve years in Sydney. While there, Denice started going to race meetings, but she could never afford to train horses across the Tasman. “I would have liked to (train there) but getting a piece of land to train from would have been too expensive so I waited until I came home to Invercargill before I took out a licence.” Denise began her training career in Invercargill in 1984, holding a probationary licence and training out of stables just off Findlay Road once used by galloping trainer Ray Pankhurst. “I started breaking in horses for other trainers but was constantly asked to train them.” The demands for her to train became more constant, so she took out a professional licence. Her first winner was Sweet Song at Forbury Park in April 1986. The win was a family affair with Denice’s brother Robin driving the mare she part owned with Neville Ross. Denice though, was feeling the effects of the Southland weather which was markedly different to Sydney’s. “I was working horses in the mud, rain and hail one day and local vet Dick Hopkirk who had a few horse there as well, said I should think about moving to Ashburton where it was warmer. He got hold of a good friend Graham Sherman, another vet, to help.” The Ashburton Trotting Club was very proactive in helping with the move and Swain, with the help of Hopkirk and Sherman moved north to become the first trainer in the Club’s newly erected barn at the racecourse. “They redid the track, it was a lovely place to train. You could get your horses up a fair way before you took them to the races.” However Swain said that initially she found the move hard. “I called back home often because I got lonely at times.” Her first winner from the new stable was Congo Magic driven by Ricky May at Methven, in December 1988. During this time Swain continued to break in horses, and one that came through her hands was the smart colt Clever Dillion which had been sent north by Bud Baynes.  “It helped build my reputation.” In those early days she broke in horses for some big name owners and trainers including John Seaton, Kevin Townley and Bud Baynes. “I loved the babies because there’s a lot of TLC. At the end you could walk that horse anywhere and it would come with you because it had so much confidence in you.” Denice started creating an impressive record and 1991 was the memorable year that she became the first ever female trainer to have a runner in the New Zealand Cup when she produced Clancy, raced by Colin Baynes and his family to finish a gallant second to Christopher Vance. Clancy had been sent to her by Baynes and training partner Robin Swain in May 1991 after winning eight races for the partnership. “I noticed he wasn’t finishing his races off the way he should so I got him scoped when he got here and found that he had an infection.” At the beginning of the 1991 season Swain had Clancy primed to go and he won at Addington twice before running third in the Ashburton Flying Stakes – beaten by Blossom Lady and Inky Lord. At his next start he won the Hannon Memorial in a record time and he graduated to Cup class.  Swain said the road to the Hannon and New Zealand Cup wasn’t an easy one with Clancy. “He’d jumped on himself while he was jogging one day and got an infection in the hoof.” Part of the healing regime were regular visits to the beach, and bathing in salt water. “I thought I had it right.” Owner Colin Baynes was prepared to head north from Knapdale to see Clancy run in the Hannon. “I said to Colin that the horse would probably need the run so he didn’t come. He won, but yuck came out of his foot again.” Mike De Filippi and Denice Swain after the Hannon Memorial Swain says if Clancy hadn’t had the foot problem he would have been more competitive in the Cup. “The horse’s second (in the Cup) gave me a real boost in confidence that my training method worked.” Clancy running second to Christopher Vance in the New Zealand Cup. Clancy won four races for Swain and $162,850. Four years later she was to line up her second New Zealand Cup runner Just Royce, owned by Noel Morrison of Christchurch. He too had to settle for second, beaten by a neck by Il Vicolo. “John (driver John Hay) just told me the other night that Master Musician interfered with him at the 200. I wasn’t confident. I was standing by the tree at the top of the straight. Then I heard his name being called and I thought oh my god. I couldn’t have got to the birdcage if he’d won (laughter).” Just Royce winning at Addington 7th March 1995 Saturday February 11th 1995 was another special day in Swain’s career when she won three feature races at two venues. The Orator started the successful run, winning the Southern Supremacy Stakes by six and a half lengths. In the next race Just Royce won a heat of the Four Year Old Classic. Both were driven by Denice’s brother Robin. At Addington a few hours later Oneinamillion, bred by Robin and Mandy Swain and trained by Denice, won the two year old feature. “I didn’t like the next morning. I had a cold cloth over my head.” Another fond memory is winning the 1993 Victoria Trotters Derby at Moonee Valley with Top Evander. He won three races under Swain’s guidance before he was transferred to Roy and Barry Purdon with an eye on heading to Australia. Denice retained a half share in the ownership. “It was the first time I’d been to Australia. (with a horse). I’d sent a tape over to Gavin Lang to see whether my horse would be competitive and he thought he would.” Top Evander ran second to Melpark Maid beaten by a head in the Derby prelude. “After the race I couldn’t believe how much pressure he (Gavin Lang) put on himself for not moving at the right time. I said that didn’t matter, it wasn’t the main race (goal).” Top Evander came out a week later and beat Melpark Maid in the Derby. He came home and won two more races for Swain. Gavin and Graeme Lang with Top Evander Swain didn’t train many trotters but had a nice two year called Chicotee which was by Chiola Hanover out of Picotee. He won at his first start at Ashburton in February 1991 and was then taken to Auckland, running second to Call Me Chiola in the $90,000 International Classic Series Final. Over the years Denice formed a close bond with Southland brothers Colin and Bud Baynes. “Bud always had lovely colts. You could walk anything past them, they weren’t squealers. He was a great stockman and he just knew what to buy. He’d never pay more than about five thousand. I remember one year he bought about five. Every one of them won a race and a couple were real nice horses.” Swain says she’ll always be indebted to the brothers. “If it wasn’t for Colin and Bud I wouldn’t have had the good horses I had. You’ve got to have a good horse to show you up and when you’re winning races everyone wants to join the ride. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have done it.” Swain remembers receiving a letter from Colin. It said he was enclosing a cheque for five hundred dollars that he’d intended to use for sponsorship, but that he’d appreciated her going to visit him while he was in hospital, and also knew from his wife Nellie that Denice was working in the cold at Oreti Beach. He hoped the cheque would help with a few bills. Throughout the Ashburton years Swain always seemed to have a good horse in her stable. Vera’s Dream was her first stakes winning filly, and she won the 1996 Nevele R Stakes by five lengths. “Mike De Filippi drove her for me. I told him to go at the 400. He said ‘that’s a bit soon.’ I said no, just go because she’s a great stayer. She just ran away (winning by five lengths). She was a lovely mare but had trouble with her fetlocks. We never saw the best of her.” She only had nine starts, winning twice, and she was placed four times. Vera’s Dream after winning the 1996 Nevele R Stakes Chiavelli was another good mare. “I bought her for an Australian owner out of the calendar. I asked Kerry O’Reilly who was my blacksmith at the time, whether she was worth buying. He said yes because he had driven the mother Assisi.  I bought Chiavelli to be a broodmare. I actually time trialed her (1-55.6). In her races she had to be locked away because she was a nervous type and pulled. He wanted to take her over for the fillies’ races in Brisbane so we went. While she was over there a yearling ran into her on the Albion Park track. She got away and onto the main highway and was killed. The worst thing ever.” Chiavelli won six races for Swain. Her dam Assisi won four races for Paul Newton and also left Scorching (11 wins) and Roman Gladiator which won nineteen races for Robin Swain. Chiavelli winning at Addington Smart two year old Oneinamillion bred by Robin and Mandy was another horse Denice enjoyed success with. “Robin said ‘I’ve got a nice two year old here and can you sell him for me because Mandy wants a new kitchen’ (laughter). He ran a good time with Bob Beck driving and I didn’t know what price to put on him. Any rate I put seventy on him. I told Robin and he couldn’t believe it. I sold him for seventy to an Aussie guy.” Oneinamillion won his first two starts as a two year old, and subsequently went to Australia where he won another thirty four races. Oneinamillion winning his first start at Addington Swain developed The Orator, a Talk About Class gelding out of broodmare gem Sakuntala. “People said I was wasting my time with him. He was erratic but turned into a successful racehorse.” He won five races including the Supremacy Stakes and Four Year Old Superstars Championship. That was my favourite win. He beat some nice horses (OK Tiger, Vanderel and Il Vicolo).” Swain believed the Holmes Hanover gelding Out Of Africa was going to be a topliner. “I thought that was going to be my next cup horse. He started to blow a bit so I turned him out for a spell. They rang me up and said he was going backwards. It turned out he had blimmin cancer all through him.” Out Of Africa was out of Rhodesian Lilly and a half-brother to the John Lischner trained Tartan Clansman which won nine races. The Vance Hanover gelding Milton Vance unfortunately never reached his potential either. “He won at Cup time after breaking at the start and losing a heap (of ground) but he still won. He was a top wee horse but the next year when I brought him in he wasn’t himself and I think he bled.” Milton Vance winning on cup day. He won his first five starts but never recaptured winning form in his subsequent starts and was exported to America where he paced a mile in 1-52.8.  “He was my favourite horse.” Swain also remembers breaking in quality gelding Bogan Fella owned by Ashburton businessman Peter Cates. “I was breaking him in and I remember Peter saying that he needed to pay up for the Sires Stakes. I said ‘oh god I haven’t got that far with the horse yet.’ I said to him that I’d run him over a mile which he ran in 2-04 so I rang Peter and he went and paid up. Then Mark Purdon came down and took the horse off me (laughter).” Bogan Fella went on to win sixteen races and $691,518. Swain also broke in Desperate Comment who proved to be a bit of a problem child. “He was the worst one I ever broke in. He booted in the cart for two weeks.” In the end Swain called on the services of another Southlander Bob Beck who was also training at Ashburton at the time. “I decided I needed a heavy cart so I borrowed one off Bob. The cart had car tyres. I was on the tractor and Bob was in the cart and it (Desperate Comment) just kept on booting. It took another two weeks before it stopped. He turned out to be a top horse.” Desperate Comment went on to win twenty races (his first three for Robert Cameron) and $788,617. While in Ashburton Swain was surrounded by horsemen with a wealth of knowledge, and over the years she listened and learned. “Old fellas used to tell me that if you see a horse all muscled up and looking great don’t go to the races because it’s double the time for the ligaments and tendons to strengthen. It’s the things you can’t see.” And a lot of that wisdom has been passed on to the next generation. “I tell my young relations ‘make sure you’ve got your horse healthy, learn to read them and go with your gut feeling.” Denice usually limited her team to about a dozen so she could give each horse plenty of attention. “I had twenty two once which was far too many. I don’t like horses becoming numbers. I liked to treat them one on one so you could read them properly.” Denice was a real pioneer in the harness industry but it wasn’t an easy road in the male dominated industry. “I was pretty quiet and wouldn’t say too much. I had to harden up or wouldn’t have made it. I learned to stick up for myself.” She said it was the love of horses that kept her going through those tough times. Of the 124 winners Denice Swain trained in her career, 54 were driven by Ashburton reinsman John Hay. The pair formed a formidable combination in the mid and late 1990s. Hay says of Swain’s training approach, “Very thorough. The horses didn’t go without anything and she had them very healthy. She could have them pretty ready on race day and they could win at Addington without a trial.” And he was impressed with her attention to detail. “When you went to her place everything was immaculate – the stables, smoko room. There wasn’t a bit of dirt on the gear or the horses.” Hay said Denice also liked to celebrate the many wins she had in Mid-Canterbury, and that she enjoyed the odd rum. Denice says she had a great respect for Hay and his driving skills. “Old Hay boy. What can I say about him? I used to get him to drive at workouts and trials and I liked to keep him on for race day because he knew your horse. He was a very good driver then and still is because there was no pushout rule and nine times out of ten he would get out. He was very good at reading a race.” There was the odd time when a few tricks were pulled between the pair. Hay says “We rang her up at 3am one morning and said ‘the cars in the ditch’ and asked if she could bring a rope and come down and pull us out. She came down in her nightie. We were having her on, we didn’t think she’d turn up. That’s the sort of person she was. She’d come to your aid.” Swain remembers the incident. “Him, Brian O’Meara and someone else. They were all full as I recall,” she said. Swain remembers a particular game of golf at Methven with her sister Dianne, John Hay and the farrier Lin Trotter (Trot). “Hay boy was the first to tee off. The green keeper came out of his shed and Hay Boy’s ball took a right turn, he hooked it, it went straight over the fairway and just about took the Greenkeeper out. Trot was on a four handicap. He did the big back swing which looked beautiful but it plopped three feet in front of the tee. It was meant to be a drive not a chip.” Swain said progress was slow after that and some foreign golfers were hard on their heels.“I said we better move over and let them through and Hay Boy said no. He was like a horse with a bad attitude. You can’t bloody shift him once he’s got a bee in his bonnet. Those two were my partners in crime most of the time. I think I ended up winning the match (laughter). I had a good swing and could whack it a fair way because I played hockey. It was a slow game but it was a crack up.” “She calls a spade a spade. It was never the horse’s fault. It was either the blacksmith or the driver (laughter),” said Hay. Denice’s Diary: First season: 1986 First winner: Sweet Song at Forbury Park in April 1986 Final training season: 2012 Last winner: Don’t Be Cruel at Ascot Park 25th January 2010 Group One placings: Clancy (1991), Just Royce (twice in 1995). Group Two winners: Vera’s Dream (1996), The Orator (twice in 1995). Group Three winners: Tricky Bachelor (1992), Clancy (twice in 1991) and Tricky Bachelor (1991). Leading man: (driver) John Hay (54) Groomsmen: Mike De Filippi (11) and Robin Swain (10). Total stats: 736-124-100-69 UDR .2752 Best season 1992 89-17-5-3 UDR .2335, 1995 65-12-11-8 UDR .3197 and 2000 66-12-6-7 UDR .2677. The last word is given to John Hay. “She was a very good horsewoman,” he said.   Bruce Stewart

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