Day At The Track
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By Jonny Turner    Driver Mark Hurrell does not plan to leave the fate of his leading hopes to chance at Oamaru on Wednesday. Hurrell will combine again with Jonique, who is out to make it three wins from her last four starts in race 8. Though her recent winning run ended in a last start eighth at Ashburton, the five-year-old still produced a sound effort to finish just over two lengths from the winner, Senorita Margarita. “It didn’t really go how I wanted it to go, just everything went wrong,” Hurrell said. “So we just put a line through it, but she only finished a couple of lengths from the winner after being three-wide for most of the way.” Hurrell has full faith Jonique can bounce back to winning form in Wednesday’s race. “We are pretty confident with her on Wednesday.” “She is probably the best horse in the race and we will probably drive her like that, too.” “She would need some pretty bad luck to stop her I would think.” Hurrell combines with Pete’s Dash in race 6 following his second in an amateur drivers race at Addington. The reinsman hopes the pacer can bring that kind of form to Oamaru after he ran a less impressive fifth in his prior outing at Forbury Park. “He went good in the amateurs’ race last week,” Hurrell said. “He didn’t go as good at Forbury before that, but I probably drove him a bit hard.” “I sort of tried to break the rest of them, but he just got found wanting that last little bit.” Hurrell hopes to make full use of Pete’s Dash’s barrier 2 draw on Wednesday. “He is the same as Jonique, really.” “We will try to be pretty positive, I don’t think anything else would be good enough to take me on too much.” “I would say he is my best chance of the day.” Hurrell again combines with Ultimate Sassenach in race 3. The five-year-old has been a consistent performer over summer and looks set to go another strong race despite clashing with the hot favourite American Lightning. “I think American Lightning would have to do things wrong for me to beat him, to be honest.” “But she is going good races, she ran second to Tres Chic, who has come out and won again.” Hurrell reunites with Owes Me Dough following his second to Magic Sign in his last start at Forbury. The reinsman can not see why the four-year-old will not put in another bold effort in race 5. “He was pretty good at Forbury.” “He was disappointing in his first start, he didn’t appreciate the grit and we changed some things.” “He ran home quite nice at Forbury, he probably lacks a little bit of speed.” “But if he gets the right run he is probably as good as any of them in that field.” “There are probably four or five equal chances in that.” Hurrell also drives Son Of Majestic (race 1) and Deborah’s Gem (race 7), who both look outside place chances.

By Jonny Turner    After notching career victory number 100 at Cromwell last week, Mark Hurrell will start work on his next century of wins at Ashburton on Tuesday. Hurrell reached 99 wins with Aveross Majesty before landing his first ton in the sulky just a few races later with Tad Lincoln. A flourish of his whip near the line showed just how much the milestone meant to the junior driver. “It was good,” Hurrell said. “It was good to get it done straight away after winning the 99th instead of waiting around for weeks on end to try and do it.” Win number 100 has come after Hurrell moved to Waikouaiti to work for trainer Amber Hoffman several months ago. The shift closer to his native Southland after a stint in Canterbury has proven to be a winning one. “It has been a good move for my career, I have come down here and Amber has given me most of the team to drive.” Hurrell and the Hoffman trained Jonique will be out to complete a hat-trick of wins in race 8 at Ashburton on Tuesday. Drawing barrier 8 will not make that assignment easy, but the reinsman still expects the five-year-old to go a big race. “She is going really well, she tries her wee heart out every week and I would say she is a good chance.” “I drove her quite hard last time, we will probably not look to drive her as hard, but she will be there or thereabouts.” The Hoffman stable also has Trinity Star in race 8, who is rated as highly as Jonique. “I would say they are both on par, Trinity Star has got a better draw (6) and I have got a bit of an average draw (8),” Hurrell said. Hurrell combines with longtime maiden Aveross Spitfire, who has his first start for the Hoffman stable in race 3. The way the horse has worked leading into the event suggests he may not be a maiden for much longer. “He is probably my best chance of the day,” Hurrell said. “His work has been really good and it is not a strong field and he has got a good draw (3).” “He is not the worst, he feels like he will win a race or two.” “So in that field, he should be a good chance.” Hurrell drives In Sequence in race 9, a highly competitive middle-grade trot. The six-year-old comes into the race after she peaked after starting what looked to be a winning run in her last start at Winton. “She just got a little bit rough up the straight, they sprinted a 28.6sec quarter (400m) and she probably had to go a little bit fast to catch the leaders.” “So, I had to sit up on her a wee bit.” “But she is pretty genuine and when she trots she is not a bad wee horse.” “It will just depend on how far back we are, we could be last at the 800m.” “But she is pretty versatile all the same, I wouldn’t be afraid to put her in the race.” Ultimate Sassenach disappointed in her last start at Motukarara after footing it with smart types in her prior runs. The five-year-old has been freshened in the hope she will bounce straight back to her good prior form in race 6. “She has been going good, but that last start she didn’t feel 100% so we have backed off her a wee bit,” Hurrell said. “It is her first standing start is the only problem we are going to have.” “But her form behind Ragazzo Mach and Freddiesam stacks up not too bad.” “So, if she can get back to that I’d say she is a place chance in that field.” Hurrell will reunite with To Ri Caitlin in race 10. The reinsman thought he was on a winner in the six-year-old’s last start before she broke at the 600m mark. “She was travelling super and the winner was only two in front of me and I thought I would have been able to run it down.” “She can just do that, she gallops for no reason, she has been there to win a couple of times in her career and she has galloped for no reason.” “If she goes as good as she did at Forbury two starts ago she would be a chance, but cross your finger she does everything right.” Hurrell also combines with Son Of Majestic in race 1, Owes Me Dough in race 4, Jaccka Jeorge in race 5 and Dalness Arizona in race 7 at Ashburton on Tuesday.

Today Waikouaiti horseman Mark Hurrell reached a milestone when he drove his hundredth winner at Cromwell. Driving Tad Lincoln trained by Paul Andrews, the junior reinsman fittingly saluted as he punched out the six year old to win the twelfth race by two and a quarter lengths. “It was Mum (Maria) and Dad’s (Ross) twenty fifth wedding anniversary today so it was a great present for them. They come to every meeting I drive at south of Dunedin. They’re my biggest supporters and told me to chase my dreams,” Hurrell said. Earlier in the day he’d driven talented trotter Aveross Majesty for win number 98. “I was pretty confident I’d get to 100 today but not on Tad Lincoln. My best drive was Aveross Majesty and he won really easily.” Twenty two year old Hurrell started working for Wyndham trainer Brendon McLellan whilst at High School. “He taught me a lot. I didn’t even know which way the hopples went on. He taught me all the basic skills and how to drive. He was really good to me. I was there for four and half years.” Hurrell’s first winner was at the Riverton meeting in October 2016 when he drove the Alan McVicar trained It Ain’t The Money, to win. After working for Brendon McLellan, Hurrell headed north working for Peter and Tom Bagrie for eighteen months. He also did small stints in Canterbury with John Dunn and Regan Todd. “I’ve had some good people to learn off.” Of the one hundred winners, seventeen have been from the stable of Amber Hoffman, his current employer. “I moved down here about ten months ago. I was struggling up in Canterbury, not getting too many drives. It’s hard up there. They want the best drivers all the time and I was at a crossroads. Amber offered me a job – to be her stable driver. It’s been excellent. The beach is real quiet and that’s the lifestyle I like.” Hurrell currently holds second place in the Junior Drivers National Premiership, ten adrift of current leader John Morrison. “I’ll get a good crack at the Premiership once Johnny (Morrison) and Sheree (Tomlinson) finish up at the end of this season. Next year is my last year as a junior.” Hurrell also had success at Syd Breen’s stable at Gore, driving fourteen winners for Syd. “Syd was one of the first trainers to give me a crack. I was driving Sagwitch when he was winning those Country Cups. Syd had faith in me to drive his horses. He’s been a big supporter of mine. He never bags my driving.” Hurrell is sponsored by Gore seed company Kubala Seeds. “Pete’s been my sponsor since day dot. He’s sponsored all my gear and sign writing. He’s a keen follower and likes to have a bet.” Mark’s successful hundredth winner today demonstrates the value of supporting and mentoring young people into the industry.   by Bruce Stewart

Gore trainer Syd Breen had a moment to cherish at Wyndham on Saturday when he prepared Sagwitch and Santanna's Rocket to quinella the MLT/Three Rivers Hotel Wyndham Cup. “I've never had a quinella in a race before,” an excited Breen said “but that's the second time I've had three in a race and Sagwitch has won them both.” “I broke him as a yearling and liked him, Paul Matheson bought him, then as a two-year-old sold him to Australia for $100,000,” explained Breen. “But he didn't pass a vet test so Paul and his wife Nancy carried on with him and gave me 10 percent. He is Nancy's first horse. After training for a period during the 1990s, Breen had a break and described Sagwitch - seven wins - as his best, at least since resuming in 2014. Matheson, who manages the Falls Hotel in Mataura for the race sponsoring Mataura Licensing Trust, also has a share in Santanna's Rocket. So too has Ross Cleland, described by Breen as an integral part of his operation. “Ross has had shares in a lot of good horses, Night Allowance was one of them.” Another enjoying the result was winning driver and former local,but now Rangiora-based Mark Hurrell, who had finished last aboard Sagwitch in the Autumn Cup at Ascot Park a fortnight ago. “He stepped good today, he's not always the best away,” Hurrell said. “He was slow away last time then they went slow and sprinted home, it didn't suit him. He's better if they go hard and he doesn't need to do any work.” Sagwitch settled fifth in line but when the one-out train formed a lap out, the five-year-old was shuffled back. Last from the 1200 to the 600, Hurrell then moved the five-year-old forward four wide and he kept the run going right to the post winning by a length and a quarter in a smart 4:00.9. “I could have moved when they went forward but I didn't want him to do much so waited before I put him in the race, he just kept going,” said Hurrell. Tyler Dewe's joy after winning aboard The Commando in the Lamb Drive/Cattle Graziers Trot at Wyndham on Saturday could well have been ever greater. The Commando was the 599th winner for trainer Phil Williamson who had expected a big run at Addington on Friday night from Ultimate Stride. The abandonment of the meeting, as consequence of the shooting drama in Christchurch, put paid to that. Had the juvenile made a winning debut on Friday, the next day Dewe would have been handed the honour of getting the 600th. However, the win itself was enough for Dewe who joined the staff at Williamsons around Christmas time and has relished his time in Oamaru. “It's good to get the opportunity, I love it there,” said Dewe who was scoring on a Williamson horse for the first time. “Matt helped me get the job and I stay with Brad.” Dewe was also thrilled to get the win for his grandfather Arnold Dewe “He has been one of my biggest supporters and is quite ill,” he said. The Commando was bred by Bev Williamson and passed to her son Matthew who had driven the four-year-old in all but one of his previous starts. Attendance at a birthday party in Australia meant Matthew missed the win. Bev Williamson also featured as the winning breeder of Chinese Whisper, successful in the Neville Cronin Memorial Trot. The three-year-old out of Little Contessa was trained and driven by Bev's son Nathan and is raced by Nathan's wife Katie in partnership with farrier Brendan Franks. A Sundon gelding, Chinese Whisper was racing for just the second time and despite the unruly draw of 13, was comfortable when making it two from two. Back in the field early, he got a drag up on the back of Robbie Royale commencing the last lap, led from the 900 and was too strong. “I've never pulled the plugs on him yet so I don't know what would happen but he is probably doing his best anyway,” Nathan Williamson said. “He's got good breeding, manners, gait, speed, but physically is not ready to do much more. There's a Gold Chip coming up for him so we'll have to make a decision whether to carry on or let him strengthen, he should be a better four-year-old.”   by Mac Henry for Southland Harness Racing

Outsider Sagwitch became the eleventh winner this season for Gore trainer Syd Breen when he won the House of Travel Lakers Summer Cup at Ascot Park today. When talking to Breen early in the season I remember him being quite frustrated as his horses were running lots of placings at the time. But things have certainly changed since the beginning of November, and junior driver Mark Hurrell has been a big part of the success, driving seven of the winners – some penalty free. “Mark went to school with my nieces. He kept ringing me up. I told him to keep ringing. His first drive was on Lorretta Franco. Everything he’s driven for me he’s won on,” said Breen.     Sagwitch is by Lisa Mara out of Shoshoni Sunrise, an OK Bye mare which won six races for trainer Alan Paisley including the 2002 Roxburgh Cup. He’s a half-brother to millionaire Southern Bred Southern Reared pacer Washakie. Breen weaned Sagwitch as a foal and broke him in for breeder Lester Paisley as a yearling. He’s now won six races from thirty five starts and banked $41,678. After running tenth in the Roxburgh Cup six days ago Sagwitch didn’t have today’s Summer Cup on his schedule.   “I only really started him here but the race wasn’t going to get off the ground so I put him and Mucho Macho Man in. It was Santanna’s Rockets (another Breen runner) race to win as far as I was concerned.” Since Roxburgh Sagwitch has had a quiet time. “He hasn’t done much since Roxburgh, just four days jogging round the hill.” In today’s feature pacing race driver Mark Hurrell drove the five year old forward, surprisingly beating out stablemate Santanna’s Rocket which had drawn his inside. Hurrell then let Jonny Cox and Santanna’s Rocket take the lead before Please Shuddup took up the running which left Sagwitch three back on the inside. At the 400 Sagwitch was second last on the inside in the eight horse field. Hurrell plotted a path up the inside and he beat Royal Bengal by a length and a quarter. The overall time for the 2200 metre mobile was 2-42.0. Mark Hurrell driving out Sagwitch                       - Photo Bruce Stewart “He’s just got a wicked quarter on him and saved (for one run) he can go swoosh. Mark was pretty happy with him at Roxburgh and he wanted to drive him today. He was going to go to Wyndham next but he won’t be going there now. That race today was worth two races (in stakes) anyway and he’s got a cup and a dress rug.” Breen owns the gelding with Paul and Nancy Matheson. Winning connection and sponsors                                         - Photo Bruce Stewart  It paid $25.30 to win and $3.90 for a place. “Aaron Swain dropped off a bag of feed I’d won from winning a race at a Sunday meeting (part of the McMillan Equine Feeds promotion) and Sagwitch was out in the paddock just being an absolute clown. Aaron said ‘who’s that? I said it’s Sagwitch.’ He said ‘he’s well and I said yeah he’s paying four (dollars) for a place.’ He went over to his truck got on his phone and backed him. It’s rare, but when he’s right he tells you.”   Bruce Stewart

Tapanui trainer Matt Saunders knows how to turn a horse's formline around and that was demonstrated today at Ascot Park when Pete's Dash beat Doubt Me Not by half a neck. Saunders has had Pete's Dash for about four weeks before which he was raced out of Steve Clarke's barn. The gelding's last start at Forbury when he ran second for Saunders indicated his fortunes were changing. Although he like most trainers likes to train up and coming horses, he also likes the challenge of spotting horses that he thinks he can improve.  "I look for horses that have run between fourth and tenth at Addington, are running good times and are not too far behind the winners. There's a bit of a drop to a rating 40 in Southland. Horses like him are cheap and handy to finish the season down here and improve what has been a pretty average season for me up until now," he said.   Prior to joining the Saunders team the Changeover four year old's best run was a fourth at Banks Peninsula in March.  "I haven't changed anything really. Just a change of scenery. He's bloody fit and in great nick. This week he hadn't done much because it snowed. Maybe he was fresher because I couldn't work him." Driver Mark Hurrell settled Pete's Dash off the pace early until the 1500 metres when he decided to move forward three wide. He was caught wide for the length of the home straight and Hurrell had to rein the gelding up and pull the air plugs with a lap to run. He sat parked for the last lap. And in a hard drive to the line Pete's Dash beat Doubt Me Not by half a neck with another half a head back to Dismara who'd tried to lead all the way.  Pete's Dash (6) and Mark Hurrell getting up to win at Ascot Park - Photo Bruce Stewart. "He's still got quite a bit to learn. Peter Hunter (fellow Southland trainer) said the Changeovers get better with age. They haven't got a lot of speed but they're pretty tough." Today's meeting was the last of the season in Southland and now the focus turns to the Forbury Park Winter season.  "I may take him up to Forbury for a run or two and get rid of him but I may bring him back. I'm not sure."  It was Saunders' twenty fourth career win and his third for this season but he looking forward to the return of some of his better horses such as Betstars Blue Jean. "She's a good horse. She's just taken me a long time to figure out and I did towards the end. Simply Dreaming who was the Southland Two Year Old Of The Year last season has had a long spell because he wasn't right over Christmas. Blarney Babe is a nice maiden." Saunders moved to Tapanui at the start of last year to run the local Four Square store and mixes working in the shop with training horse at the Tapanui Racecourse.  "It's good because it keeps me fresh. The sheep are about to go on the track for a month so it means I can have a holiday because I can't work horses. I'm really enjoying the mix actually." The former Highlander and Southland Stag outside back says there are a few similarities between training for rugby and training race horses.  "The breed has changed and you don't need to work them for so long. I do a bit more speed training and working my horses a bit more like a galloper - sprinting hard at the end of a jog. Its like the back end of footie training where you don't do too much leading into a game." Pete's Dash was bred by Clive and Rona McKay and is out of the Holmes Hanover mare Sensitive Poplar. She has left good types in Nemesis (5 wins), Lauramegan (7 wins) and Clive (6 wins). Pete's Dash is raced by The Sue Ping Syndicate, Bratk Syndicate and Saunder's wife Joleen.    Bruce Stewart Soutland Harness Racing

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