Day At The Track
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I went to school with Graeme Anderson. We were in the same class at James Hargest High School in Invercargill back in the early 70’s. I can tell you first hand that the Turf Digest was the most read book he ever opened in those formative years and I can tell you he was in charge of the sweepstake on Melbourne Cup day – not that he got my money. He always had talent on the sports field too whether it was cricket or rugby and he always had an air of confidence about him. Those attributes have been well utilised to carve out a successful sporting and harness racing career. Graeme caught the racing bug at a young age through his connection to Riverton; his father Bill lived there for some of his life. “Riverton was a big thoroughbred area in those days and Dad’s sister ended up marrying Jack Cleaver. Jack trained a very good mare back in the sixties called Shangri-La. We would always go to the Easter races at Riverton. It was a family thing and mum would buy us new clothes. Other members of the family didn’t love it so much but I got hooked from a young age,” he said. Shangri-La’s many wins included the 1961 Winton 80th Anniversary Cup ridden by Rodney Marsh, the 1961 James Hazlett Gold Cup and the 1962 Wyndham Cup when ridden by Graeme Wright carrying 9lb 6oz. She was by Kurdistan out of Mystic. Kurdistan left 256 winners including Bagdad Note the winner of the Melbourne Cup, and Sydney Cup victor Gay Master. He also left versatile gallopers like Eiffel Tower, Kumai and Koral. Anderson was a pretty good rugby player as well. He played for the first fifteen at Hargest, was part of a successful Star senior side that won a few Galbreith Shields and also played for Central Pirates near the end of his playing career. “It was a bit of a change. Out there, there were Skinners, Browns, Deverys and Hunters. Brent McIntyre also played for us as well as Craig Hamilton. Wayne Adams played and coached us so there were plenty of harness boys.” He also played representative rugby for Southland. “We beat the Aussies in 1978 and French in 1979. Players like Leicester Rutledge, Ken Stewart, Brian McKechnie and Steve Pokere were around. One day we had seven to eight All Blacks playing for Southland so that was a pretty good side. There were also great trips away on the bus and a lot of the boys had a racing connection.” Later on, he had success as a coach, winning three Dunedin Rugby Premierships with the Taieri prems. “We started with nothing. We had a great group of managerial staff. I think fifteen of those boys played for Otago. There was Hayden Parker, Charlie O’Connell and Kieran Moffatt. We had a lot of high class players.” Some of that knowledge he gained throughout his rugby career he adapted in his horse training business. “I use a lot of the sports ideas when training.  I like to keep the legs fresh before playing rugby on Saturday. If you knocked yourself around on a Thursday or Friday you’d have dead legs. So with racehorses you get them fit the week before and just leave them alone. We do heart rates all the time and keep a comprehensive diary.” Although initially interested in gallopers he was also keen on the trotters and ventured into harness racing through Southland trainer Gary McEwan. “He taught me to drive and use a watch properly. He got me a trip to America on the horse plane. I went over with Donny Hayes. We stayed in California back then which was the centre of harness racing. It had three or four tracks. I had about six weeks over there and met a whole lot of people and that started my buying and selling career.” In the early years he also worked with Central Otago trainer Murray Hamilton. “We had a business together which didn’t last long. We shipped horses on the boat out of Bluff.” Early on Anderson also formed a good working relationship with legendary Gore galloping trainer Ted Winsloe. “I was training Standardbreds when I had Whisper Jet (galloper) and Ted had a few Standardbreds as well so I’d train his trotters and he trained my gallopers which was a nice arrangement. I ended up working a few (thoroughbreds) up. We got a few down from the North Island and had a bit of luck with them. It’s a bit tougher now (training gallopers). You can’t get the staff and the horses I used to buy at the South Island Sales have tripled in price. I’m not saying I won’t get another one but you just need to have the right people to work them.” One of the first pacers Anderson owned was the Fernside Bachelor gelding King Red. He was bred by John Higgins and trained by Bryce Buchanan. Fernside Bachelor was an unraced stallion by Bachelor Hanover out of Queen Ngaio. Queen Ngaio left good pacers Waratah (8 wins) and Trio (16 wins). King Red’s win was at Forbury Park in October 1988 and was the first winning drive for Doug Buchanan. “He was a claiming horse. We claimed a few back in those days. We’d take them to Addington because there was no racing down here in the winter. Tank Ellis and Tony Stratford were working for me back in those days. We used to have some great trips and we’d carry on to the Nelson and Blenheim circuits.” Anderson officially started training on his own account in 1998 and his first winner was Connor at Oamaru in October driven by Clark Barron. He also trained Ando’s Prospect to win three races. She later became a good source of winners for him leaving Southern Boy (5 wins), Southern Prospect (5) and Bonvoyage which won two races for him and another nine races in Australia. He ran second to Monkey King in a heat of the Interdominions at Harold Park in 2010. Another horse Anderson owned and trained was Good Prospect. By Son Of Afella out of Majestic Chance mare Karma, Good Prospect won three races and provided junior driver Belinda White with one of her six career winners. At that point he was mixing training with a fair bit of travel. “I was selling a lot of horses to Perth to guys like Greg Harper. One of the Australian guys decided to buy yearlings and leave them with me. I tried to farm them out but ended up buying a property at Rimu and building a big barn and doing them myself for him. Because I was also travelling a bit and selling I was only doing it when I was at home. “ At that point Tony Barron started to work for Anderson after a stint with Barry Purdon. The high point of Anderson’s buying and selling came in 1985 when he purchased Jay Bee’s Fella and Arden Meadow. “They quinellaed the 1986 West Australian Derby. They were two Son Of Afella’s I sent away to Greg Harper. That was the catalyst for me doing a lot of buying and selling of horses in Australia. On my trip to America I met a couple of boys from Perth who were over there trying to do the same thing. They’d run out of money. I didn’t have much but I lent them a couple of hundred bucks to get them home. They said that they would ring me. They did and it was through them that I sold Arden Meadow and Jay Bee’s Fella.” After Rimu, Anderson moved out to Winton where the success continued and he was able to train gallopers there. Xstream was one thoroughbred he trained there. He owned the mare in partnership with another harness trainer Allan Beck. She was good on dead to heavy tracks and won three races (all in a round), ridden each time by Riverton jockey Kerry Taplin. “We had success with Xstream, Carver (3), Feel The Heat (3) and Dusty Girl (5).” Anderson says training thoroughbreds gave him a good insight into training the modern day pacers. “We train pacers like thoroughbreds now. They’ve all got five or six generations of American blood in them and they just don’t take a lot of work.” After Winton he moved to Cambridge where he continued to train gallopers and travelling around Australia and Asia. In 2003 he headed back south and set up at Wingatui and from there re-established himself as a harness trainer at Westward Beach, adding another dimension to his training regime. “We’re lucky we’ve got the beach. It’s almost a three mile straight run. Sometimes it’s very difficult to work there but you’ve just got to get up and do it. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. The other night we got home at 6:30pm in the dark because of a late tide. We don’t have a track so we can’t cheat ourselves. We just have to get out and do it.” He says horses get bored with just running around the same training track and the beach provides a different environment every day as the surfaces and vista changes with each tide. “You can do different things with them. We ride a few and canter a few. We have a couple of secrets when we work them which I’m not going to tell ya. If a horse is on R n R, he may have a paddle or trot in the sea for half an hour rather than work.” His Westward Beach stable isn’t flash – it doesn’t have any barns or boxes so the horses live outside. “They’re all out in the open. They’re all sand yards. It was Brenda Harland’s old place. She hadn’t trained for a long time and it was by fluke that I ended up there and I’ve never left. There are shelter sheds and plenty of trees and loopins to get their bums backed into. They’re all double rugged. With the sand hills around us it’s a lot warmer than you’d think. ” He actually came across the facility when he took a thoroughbred that had cut a leg in a fence to the beach. “I went out there to give it a bit of sea water treatment. That’s how I came to training at Westward Beach.” Since then his success rate in training horses and resurrecting careers has been outstanding. “95% of them you can improve but there’s 5% you can’t help. As long as they want to be with us we can help them.” Despite having a straight line sand surface it’s surprising that Anderson doesn’t train too many trotters. “This is a great environment for straight line training and we should have more trotters. They by pass me a go to Phil Williamson’s (laughter).” Anderson also likes to adopt a completely fresh approach when taking on tried horses. “We take off all the gear, ignore everything they’ve done before and start again. We have our tests. They’ve got to work a certain time and to have a certain heart rate at the end of that to know if they’re any good.” It’s also been noticeable over the years that a lot of his horses run without an over check. “That came from West Australia. I went over there and the great trainers like Fred Kersley, Greg Harper, Ray Duffy and the likes never had over checks and the horses were really relaxed and muscled up in the front. I came home here and saw guys pulling their horse’s heads up and the horses would be throwing themselves on the ground. I got criticised in some quarters when I did it originally because it wasn’t the done thing but there’s a few copying me now so I’m happy about that.” In recent times he’s gathered around him a loyal bunch of owners who have raced some of his better horses. Names like Brian Sceat, Ray Chalklin, Tony Dow, Stephen Pulley, and more recently Pauline Gillan. “They’re loyal but we’ve had a bit of success which helps keep them in.” And in those early years he trained for the much famed Essemdee (Sunday Morning Drinkers) Syndicate who raced gallopers Carver and pacers Ballindooly and Eb’s Fella. “It’s all fun when those guys are on the job.” Two of his best horses have come along in the last five years – Titan Banner and Eamon Maguire. “Titan was a tough horse but wasn’t as fluent in his gate as Eamon. Eamon has that high speed and beautiful gait and that helps you go a long way.” Eamon Maguire after his Supremacy Stakes win at Ascot Park   - Photo Bruce Stewart King Kenny is one of the few trotters he’s trained. “He came to me with a high suspensory problem. Then he went again then I got him back. When he was sound he was just a beast. He could work better than any of the pacers could. He could have been anything if he hadn’t succumb to an injury as a young horse. We never saw the best of him.” King Kenny won nine races from just twenty seven starts – two for Tim Butt and seven for Anderson. Anderson was also one of the first trainers to use World Champion reinsman Dexter Dunn and that partnership has proved formidable particularly at Anderson’s home track Forbury Park. “I remember the first day he drove. It was Front Page Girl. Cran had it and I was looking after it. He said to me he had this boy who had come back from Australia to work for him and the clients won’t put him on so he sent him down. I’d never met him. I said to him this horse will probably win tonight. He said ‘Mr Anderson this horse has been breaking at home.’ Big Stephen (Stephen Pulley one of Andersons owners) said to him ‘listen son, if Mr Anderson says it’ll win it’ll win.’ That’s how it started. He came down here as a junior and had a hell of a strike rate with me. I’m rapt to think that I was one of the catalysts for him being famous. We have that association and understanding and don’t have to say one word.” Dunn’s first winner for Anderson was the aptly named Dayinthepub on 19th June 2008. The winning margin was seven lengths. Dunn has driven 111 winners for Anderson as a solo trainer and 51 for Anderson and training partner for four seasons Amber Hoffman. Included in that tally were five winners on one night – Forbury Park 16th June 2011 when the Anderson/Dunn partnership scored with No Courage Russell, Grace Rex, Terrorway, Raven and Tom and Grace. Terrorway was one of the really good horses Anderson’s trained in the last decade. He bought the colt at the 2008 Sale of the Stars for $26,000 and raced him with Brian Sceat and Wendy Muldrew. He raced five times in New Zealand, winning at every start. He was sold to Aussie in July 2011 and won his first five races there. He went on to win 13 races in Australia including the Group One $100,000 The Blacks A Flake and Group One $100,000 Cranbourne Cup. He ended up posting a 1-52.6 mile. “He was a difficult horse to get going. He never raced until he was a four year old. He was a fizzy horse so we just took our time with him. We’d turn him out, bring him back and didn’t put any pressure on him. He was a good challenge.” Another one that Anderson was able to rejuvenate and get the best out of was Belkmyster. “He arrived as a four win horse and we got him to Cup class. He was one that we had to strip everything off. He was a Mach Three and he was a bit ‘sweaty’. We went back to basics and didn’t over work him. He came from Cran’s in great order but didn’t need to be a number. He just needed a bit of individual treatment. A lot of the Mach Three’s don’t have great feet so that’s where the beach training helped. It takes away a lot of the concussion.” But its Anderson’s UDR rating that is a true testament to his skill as a trainer. In the past five seasons he’s been one of the top three UDR trainers (UDR 20 + wins in the season). In 2017 he topped the UDR rating with .4706. In 2014 he finished third behind Mark Purdon and Geoff Dunn while in 2015, 2016 and 2018 he finished 2nd behind the All Stars stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. Over the years Anderson has been a solid supporter of the national yearling sales. Some haven’t made the grade, but a good portion have. Successful racehorses he bought at the Sales included: Terrorway $26,000 (2008), Highview Anwell $29,000 (2011), Mako Banner $20,000 (2012), Sovereign Banner $13,000 (2013), Titan Banner $80,000 (2013) and Eamon Maguire $34,000 (2015). At this year’s sale he brought Vintage Crop (Mach Three – Queen Of The Crop) for $14,000 and Celebrating (Mach Three – Rejoicing) for $17,000. Anderson still lives at Wingatui but the property has been reduced in size and some of it’s used as an agistment farm. “It was 20 acres when we bought it but we sold 10 acres to a developer about three or four years ago. We have a house there. That’s where the horses go after they’ve raced and need rest and recreation. When they’re ready to go again we take them back to the beach.” Below is a list of wins from his best horses which Anderson trained either on his own or in partnership with Amber Hoffman. Pretty impressive. Titan Banner (13) Starsky’s Dream (9) Eamon Maguire (9) Tartan Rover (8) Yokozuna (8) Ballindooley (8) Highview Anwell (8) Blechnum Grove (7) Expresso Martini (7) King Kenny (7) Belkmyster (7) Sovereign Banner (6) No Courage Russell (6) Ants (5) Motu Moonbeam (5) True Macatross (5) Graeme Anderson has trained some very good horse flesh over the years. He’s had the ability to get the best out of horses that appeared to be at the end of their careers, and he has a good eye for young stock. He’s realised the importance of looking after a core group of owners and he’s been able to provide them with winning racehorses. His record to date is impressive and we expect his UDR to be up there for more years to come.   Bruce Stewart

Gore trainer George Orr never lost faith in his trotter Nottingham K Two. On Saturday at Gore most punters wouldn't have given the horse any chance in a field where other horses had higher ratings. Orr wasn't deterred though, especially since the Simon Roydon seven year old had run a close second to Amabede at Ascot Park last weekend.  Driver Hamish Hunter settled Nottingham K Two at third early, before taking him to the front with two laps to run. With just under 1600 metres to go backmarker Grace O'Malley took over ,giving Nottingham K Two the perfect trail. Majestic Man was sitting parked. At the top of the straight in the run to the finish Majestic Man hit the front but Hunter and Nottingham K Two came resolutely up the passing lane to nab the favourite by a head. Nottingham K Two (5) on the inside getting the better of Majestic Man (13) - Photo Bruce Stewart "I thought there were two or three that would be too good for him but he got away well and got into a good trail. I thought when Grace O'Malley went round that we'd be tough and if she could get us to the passing lane he'd do the rest. He does follow speed good and you saw last week in that race at Invercargill that he had nine horses in front of him at the half (finished second)," said Orr. "He's a horse that's got a lot of ability but it's taken a long time to get it out of him and get all the ringcraft together. It's a great thrill. I've never had many trotters. They're a different ballgame and you've just got to take your time. Hopefully now we've turned the corner and we'll go forward from here." He says it's been a long process to get the horse to this point and he was very complimentary of veteran horseman Gary McEwan.  "I had Gary McEwan driving him and they did a lot of training together. If I hadn't had Gary it's hard to know where he would have finished up because he could have had ten drivers and eight could have said he was a mongrel. Hamish Hunter who drove the horse yesterday, has also played a big part in shaping his career.  Nottingham K Two was bred by Orr who purchased his dam Strawb's K Two off his breeder Brian Wastney in 2008. He was unaware of how the mare got her name until he got a phone call one day from a lady selling raffles.   "The raffle was for a centential jubilee for the Nelson or Blenheim Trotting Club. We got talking and she said 'what have you got going?' I said I had a trotter that was only a two year old that had a bit of ability. She asked me what he was by and out of and I told her. The next thing she was laughing on the end of the phone.  "She said 'I actually broke the horse in. I was working for Martin Denton. I think it was him but I won't guarantee that. It got it's name because it climbed the wall of the shed, jumped out of the yards and did everything it could do to get away.' (K2 is the second highest mountain in the world).    In the early part of his career Nottingham K Two showed raw ability but too often he broke and couldn't make up the ground needed to feature in the finish.  "He's done that all along. If you go back two years he was losing 100 metres at the start and just mowing other horses down. That gave me encouragement all the time." Orr also gained a certain amount of satisfaction winning this race (Colin Baynes Memorial) as he and his father spent a lot of time at Baynes Otama property. "Dad (Len Orr) went to Colin Baynes or Alan Jones (Kina Craig) with five or six mares a year. I would have loved Dad to be here now. He hated trotters."   Orr doesn't train too may horses and the win yesterday was only his sixth. One horse he trained that he reckon's never reached it's potential was Nottingham VC. He won two races here and was placed ten other times on fifty one starts. "He was a Cup horse but he broke two legs; one before he got started and it had to have five screws in it. The other one went after six or seven starts. He was a seven year old maiden and every time I took him to the races he was in the money if he was sound. I ended up selling him to Australia."  Orr trains on a small track at Don Collett's old Thoroughbred stud just out of Gore which was named Nottingham Park - hence the Nottingham name.  The win was Nottingham K Two's second in thirty eight starts.  "He's the type of horse that won't win a million dollars. But we'll have a bit of fun with him and I think he'll go on."    Bruce Stewart

Harness racing trainer Gary McEwan never gave up on trotter Our Budd a longshot winner at Winton yesterday. He was the rank outsider of the thirteen horse field in the Cox Family Trot but the win didn't surprise his trainer.  “He’d been working really well and going some good races but he’s a difficult horse to drive and if you get in behind on the rails anything can happen. You just have to be out in clear air. It just suited him good today. He stepped well in not a very strong field and got it done,” said McEwan. After the horse warmed up McEwan decided that if the seven year old stepped he was going to take the veteran of thirty five starts and just one win straight to the front.  “He warmed up quietly and you could have driven him on a piece of cotton wool. I thought the best option was that if he stepped we’d go to the front and keep rolling along.” The trotter opened by a sizeable lead and clung on to win by a head from Topnotch Eagle. Our Budd holding on to beat Topnotch Eagle       Photo Bruce Stewart Our Budd has had a number of trainers including Leo O'Reilly, Ray Jenkins and Allan Beck with whom he started his career. He's been a tricky character for all his trainers but today was his day and due reward goes to McEwan for his perseverance.  “The other day in town he galloped at the half mile and I couldn’t hang onto him any longer. He would have gone over the horse clean in front of him so I ran the bit through his mouth to try and settle him down and I just exited through the pylons to safety." McEwan says the horse may struggle to take the next step down here and says the geldings future maybe in the North Island where he sees the horse as being much better right handed. The win also triggered memories for McEwan who remembers riding for the late Harry Cox in saddle trots many years ago. In the main trot of the day the Robert Wilson trained Spotlight The Valley broke a track record for mares over 2400 metres from the stand when she beat former record holder Moment Of Sun by half a length. The new record is now 3-02.1 Meanwhile the 'display of the day' in the trotting ranks came from hot favourite War Admiral in the first race when he went into a wild gallop while coming up the main straight. Unfortunately he lost all chance but judging from his trial success he should turn into a nice trotter. War Admiral breaking mid race             Photo by Bruce Stewart Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing      

The patience of Wyndham trainer Gary McEwan was rewarded in spades at Ascot Park today when his diminutive grey trotter Eyre's A Rag Doll cleared maiden ranks at start number forty. The six year old qualified as a two year old and between two, three and four she only had seven starts. So she wasn't over raced early in her career. "She was very spooky and wasn't fluent in her trotting action. The only way I was going to make her a competitive race horse was to keep going back to the races. She's really trotting well now and is fluent in her gait and her manners are pretty much perfect now so it's all been worthwhile," said McEwan whose last training success came with Summit Invasion in October 2005. Eyre's A Rag Doll is by Monkey Bones out of Idle Fiori a Sundon mare which has left good winners Idle Wishes and Idle Bones. Idle Bones won at Alexandra Park on Friday night.  She was bred by Daryl Brown at Wai Eyre Farm in North Canterbury and although she's raced on lease, McEwan said he would like to buy her and breed from her one day.   "She's been part of the place because I've had her since she was a weanling. It's a pretty nice family so I'm hopeful that she'll carry on now and be competitive in the next grade." McEwan has driven Eyre's A Rag Doll in most of her starts but this season he handed the reins over to Hamish Hunter, preferring to handle his other C1 trotter Our Budd. Eyre's A Rag Doll (3) about to challenge for the lead - Photo Bruce Stewart. "I picked him because he's a very talented horseman. I thought he'd tuck her away and put her to sleep somewhere." In today's race Hunter put Eyre's A Rag Doll back on the inside running line and produced her three wide at the top of the straight to win by four lengths from Belmont Invasion.    Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

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