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Three years ago Nathan Williamson was watching a racing show on television, turned to his wife Katie and said the words that changed his career. “We got to change the way we go about this,” said the now 32-year-old horseman. Williamson was watching a discussion about the dominance of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen and how the challenge was for other trainers to raise to their standards, not complain about the All Stars success. The words hit the talented young harness horseman like a mallet. “We were going ok at that time, training winners and had a good-sized team but we weren’t going to go to that next level and not to the top,” says Williamson. “That show really made me think about how we were running the business and I decided we should have less horses but better bred ones and have a plan.” That plan in involved getting successful owners to re-invest and trust Williamson’s judgement, buying better-bred yearlings and then target carnivals at the major tracks while establishing a professional base in Southland. The Williamson’s plan has worked and now the young gun trainer is one of the most feared in the South Island with ambitions of northern raids and buying even better horseflesh at the yearling sales, which start this Sunday. But first he heads to Addington tonight with the tangible results of his new, improved training programme, four horses good enough to compete against the best and maybe beat them. He has exciting three-year-old Ragazzo Mach up against Sires’ Stakes winner It’s All About Faith in race two, stable star Dark Horse in the main trot, Pembrook Playboy taking on NZ Cup winner Self Assured in the Summer Cup and stable newcomer Yankee Party in the group one $100,000 Breeders Stakes. He realises Yankee Party can’t beat Amazing Dream in the last of those races and even though his other three will be among the favourites they may not win either. But Williamson is now in the big time and loving it. “This was part of the plan way back then and Friday is an important night for us,” he offers. “With the sales starting this weekend we want to show people we can train in the big time, especially with Mark and Natalie taking a break. That has changed the industry and maybe the dynamic of the sales.”Pembrook Playboy (R7, No.2) has been in scintillating form in the deep south and has an open class motor but taking on a New Zealand and Auckland Cup winner in Self Assured is a step up so big he might need a pole vault. “He is still a big baby of a horse but I will put him in the race and give him his chance. But I don’t think he can beat Self Assured,” says Williamson. Dark Horse is a wonderful follower of speed with a sprint to match most open class trotters in the country but tonight’s Summer Trotting Free-For-All will require early pressure that doesn’t relent to see her at her best. “I used to think she had a top trotter’s sprint but after a few injuries I think she is a very good group two or three horse away from the very best. “So she can win this week but Muscle Mountain will be hard to beat and it might come down to the tempo.” Ragazzo Mach (R2, No.9) may be the best of Williamson’s new generation and as a pre-Christmas three-year-old beat good older horses in the Wairio Cup and then slayed his last-start opponents by almost 10 lengths. In an open year for three-year-olds he is a legitimate NZ Derby hope but finds himself in a wonderful intermediate grade field tonight containing four or five future open class horses. “You wouldn’t believe he could end up in a field this strong and from the outside barrier I can’t go rushing off the gate (at the start),” says Williamson. “So in reality it might be a race where he hits the line hard and we are happy with that if we don’t get the right luck. “But he is the real deal and I think he has a Derby chance. He is the sort of horse we wanted to be training by now when we made those tough calls three years ago.”   By Michael Guerin

Manners were the key to the harness racing Gold Chip Final at Winton today (New Years Eve). On one hand favourite Love N The Port broke and missed his chance to win, and on the other, Kiwitrix was on his best behaviour. It was a quick turnaround for Kiwitrix who was pulled up after breaking at Gore four days ago. “He was down on the inside and hit a bit of a soft patch and didn’t enjoy it,” said trainer driver Nathan Williamson. After sitting fourth early in the running Williamson progressed forward to take the lead with a lap to run, while Love N The Port was making up lost ground. “I wasn’t aware of where he was but I did have a look round once I got to the lead at the 1000 and I couldn’t see him. That was quite good because I expected him to be around if he was trotting.” As Kiwitrix headed for home Williamson hardly had to move and he trotted to the line faultlessly to win by two and three quarter lengths from Miss Crazed. Both Love N The Port and Aveross Majesty stormed home late. “I was pretty impressed with him today. He felt a lot sharper and he’s starting to switch on.” Kiwitrix beating his rivals in the Gold Chip Final – Photo Bruce Stewart The close up action – Photo Bruce Stewart Sponsor Michelle Caig, Nichol Gray, Dave Henley, Kiwitrix and Nathan Williamson. Dave Henley, Michelle Caig and Nicol Gray with the Jimmy Dillion trophy won by Kiwitrix – Photo Bruce Stewart The key to the four year old’s improved performances this season have been the inclusion of half-hopples along with other minor gear changes. “He doesn’t concentrate that well. I put a blind on his other side today to go with the Murphy Blind. He loses focus at times so the half-hopples help him focus. At Tuapeka he led early and went off stride early for no reason. He’s a big green horse and we won’t see the best of him until another twelve months.” Williamson says the half-hopples will eventually come off. “He can work as well as anything at home without them. The half hopples will come off again but not just yet.” The Gold Chip Series which give horses the chance to qualify for a $12,000 final is in its third season. “It’s a great concept. Dad’s good trotters were in today and I’ve always tried to support it. It helps those progressive horses. The rating system looks after the older horses. The Nuggets, The Ladyship and The Gold Chip series are important for Southland. Clark Barron came up with the concepts and I’m right behind them.” Kiwitrix was bred by Williamson, Brian McCully and Hugh Catto. McCully raced her dam Kylie Ree which won four of her eleven starts including the Group One Harness Jewels Two Year Old Ruby and the Group Three Hambletonian at Ashburton. As a broodmare Kylie Ree has an impressive CV, having left five foals of racing age, all of whom have been winners, including She’s Allthe Craze, the winner of eight races and the highly promising Son Of Patrick which was placed in the Harness Million 1 Trot his season. Katie Williamson, McCully and Catto own one of Kylie Ree’s daughters Hawaiian Hula. She showed a lot of promise as a young horse but unfortunately injury curtailed her career. Today’s win was Kiwitrix’s fourth in seventeen starts. He’s owned by Katie Williamson, her parents Ross and Robyn Jones, Nicol Gray, Dave Henley and the Triple R Sulkys Syndicate which is made up of members of the Riversdale Senior Rugby team. Kiwitrix Williamson now moves his focus to Omakau on Saturday where he has Pembrook Playboy in the Free For All. “I’m really happy with him. He’s fresh so anything he does he’ll improve on. I’m pretty happy with his training so he’ll be pretty hard to beat. It’s a small field so it’ll be interesting to see how things pan out, but I’m very confident with him.” Quality three year old Croesus returns to the track in the R40-R54 Junior Drivers race after a short break. He’ll be driven by stable junior Ollie Kite. “He’s fresh and he’s had a couple of workouts that have just been okay. He’s got a good draw so hopefully he can use it. I think he’s good enough to win.” Dark Horse runs in the main trotting race of the afternoon and she too faces a small quality field. “She’s racing really well. She’s got a tricky draw which will make it more difficult but it’s not a big field so that’s a real assist for her. If there’s a heap of pace on I think she’ll be running on at the finish.” Bruce Stewart

We’ve asked trainers up and down the country where their horses are at as we prepare for the return to harness racing! First up is ... Nathan Williamson  At his Branxholme stables in Southland , Nathan Williamson has 20 in work. He plans to race six or so over the winter months but the majority of his team have been put out, awaiting races in the spring. First out of the gates will be Delightful Deal. “She’s an under-rated mare who hasn't shown her best form this season. Her work has been super since lockdown. Will be ready for the 30th of May.” That’s the meeting at Ascot Park, the day after racing resumes at Addington. June will most likely see the return of two others. “Ruby Seddon is a lovely wee trotter who is one from one for the stable. Will be ready to race again late June.” “Flight Crew is a newcomer to the stable just before lockdown. Her work has been pleasing. I think she will be one to follow.” The three year old filly’s been transferred after just one start for Lauren Pearson while Pembrook Playboy (4 wins – 9 starts) has just resumed work. “He looks great and will be ready in August. He is a nice horse in the making.” Nine-win trotting mare Dark Horse will be back probably a bit later,  with Williamson saying the seven-year-old is  “the best horse in the stable and has just resumed jogging. If she holds together we will target Cup Week.” So far this season the Williamson barn has had 24 wins from 122 starts  ($223,165). His best year was in 2018, with 224 winners.   Harness Racing New Zealand

Sixteen year old Ollie Kite, works for Branxholme harness racing trainer Nathan Williamson and is on a bit of a high at the moment. Last week he was announced as the Southern representative in the Catch Driver Cadet of the Year Final which will be held in Christchurch on Wednesday 24th July. The winner will be announced at the 2019 Annual Harness Racing Awards on Saturday the 28th September. “It’s great to represent Southland. I won the local competition by a good 50 points. I’m pretty happy with that,” he said. Kite says the Cadet of the Year competition is not just about Standardbreds. “From the videos from the last two years it’s been very out there. They’ve done rock climbing, dancing and commentating. I’d like to say I’ll go pretty well at dancing but you never know.” Southlanders have a very good record at the Cadet of the Year with Ellie Barron winning last year’s final and Kieran McNaught the previous year. Kite, who has no family involved in the industry, became involved in Harness Racing when he lived at Makarewa. “I used to live over the back of Tony Barron’s and I’d watch the jogger going round. I thought that looks cool. I went over and met them and that’s how it all started.” He was also part of the Kidz Kartz. “I asked Mum if I could do Kidz Kartz on a Wednesday night at Wyndham when I was seven. She thought I was talking about Go Karts. After doing a year of Kidz Kartz I wanted to work with the big horses.” So he started worked for Tony and Cheryl Barron on Saturday mornings. When the Barron’s moved to Christchurch he started working at the weekends and during the holidays at Nathan Williamson’s barn. He left school last year and took up full-time work with Williamson. “I love working full time with Nath. I learnt a lot at Nathan’s especially with the driving side of things. I’ll hopefully stay with him throughout my junior drivers career. There’ll be a lot of good opportunities down here as there’s always a shortage of juniors.” He says he enjoys being involved in the industry and has taken up the challenge of breaking in yearlings. “I like working with young stock; seeing yearling coming from nothing, winning a race or trialling and selling for good money. It’s a thrill.” He’s already broken in three young horses. “I’ve been pretty lucky really. They’ve all been quiet and I haven’t had any difficult ones yet. I’m sure they’re coming.” The first horse he broke in was Sunday Invasion, a rising three year old trotter out of the unbroken stallion Majestic Invasion (Armbro Invasion). He’s owned by Grant Sim. “Nathan got him for me for a wee challenge. I was lucky he was really quiet.” He’s also broken in a Bettor’s Delight filly out of Bootie Bromac. Bootie Bromac, a McArdle mare, won six races and won a mile in 1-56.8 at her first start as a two year old. She was also placed in 1-54.8. This is her first foal. Another to have his early education part supervised by Kite is a Bettors Delight colt out of Wanaka Bay. He’s a brother to Mr Mojito (8 New Zealand wins and 5 Australian wins) and Mr Kiwi (4 wins). Another is rising two year old filly Pop Denario (Rocknroll Heaven – Southern Delight). Owned by Pauline and Mark O’Connor Southern Delight won three races from just nine starts and was placed in four other starts. “She’s only a yearling so it’s hard to really tell but I think she should be pretty good.” Kite says he’s sent away his application for a trials licence and hopes to get his junior driver’s license at the beginning of the 2020-2021 season. His favourite drivers are Nathan Williamson and Mark Purdon and the best horse he’s driven is Tasman Bromac.   Bruce Stewart

Sekkie Monkey upset a strong field of maiden trotters at Ascot Park today. The four year old daughter of Monkey Bones was the sixth favourite in a race that was expected to be dominated by well bred Jaccka Jeorge and Liberty Stride. “That was a good maiden field and I wasn’t sure how we would go. But she went well,” said trainer driver Nathan Williamson. Both Liberty Stride and Jaccka Jeorge broke with Jaccka Jeorge losing all chance. Liberty Stride made ground late for fourth. All the honours went to Sekkie Monkey which led early before handing up to Cuchulainn. “She’s just a bit lazy in front so I was quite happy to hand up. She was pretty strong at the finish. I was pretty happy with her. She’s just getting used to the tighter circuits.” At the top of the straight Williamson pushed Sekkie Monkey up the passing lane and she trotted home nicely to beat Cuchulainn by three quarters of a length.   Sekkie Monkey on the inside gets the winning call - Photo Bruce Stewart. The four year old was initially prepared for racing at Waikouaiti Beach by Amber Hoffman. She was sent to Williamson in December. The Branxholme trainer qualified her at Gore in February. “We had to put a lot of miles into her just to get her trotting solid but she’s pretty solid now. I don’t think she’s made a break off the place.” Sekkie Monkey is out of the Sundon mare Sekkie and is owned by Kevin Strong. “I was on the lookout for a Sundon mare after I lost one. She was advertised by Michael House in foal to Monarchy. That horse was no good so I put her in foal to Monkey Bones and that’s turned up trumps,” Strong said. Sekkie is no longer alive but Strong does have a three year old by Superfast Stuart named Super Sekkie out of the mare. Sekkie is a half-sister to Avatar (7 NZ and 5 AUS wins) and What Ever You Like (7 NZ and 16 AUS wins). “I’ve had a few horses over the years but never a good one by myself. The best one I raced with Neville Cleaver was Hopes And Dreams.” Strong and Cleaver are currently breeding from Sunrise Delight but unfortunately her first two foals have died. Currently they have two fillies out of the mare by Repeat Love and Peak. Nathan Williamson, Sekkie Monkey, Kevin Strong, Invercargill President Barry McCulloch and Trevor Little - Photo Bruce Stewart. Strong’s horses are now managed by former Gore trainer Trevor Little. “I’m retired and I thought I was out of it. Kevin had thirty odd horses. We’ve just worked our way through them. We’ve leased a few and kept a few of the trotters. We’re still breeding from Sunrise Delight (Sundon – Little Miss Watch) and Easy Option (Great Success – Sunrise Girl). ” Little trained Fakes Dream to win for Strong and Cleaver at Invercargill in February 2005.   Bruce Stewart  

The drive by Brad Williamson set up the win for talented trotter Majestic Man in the Group Three Southern Lights at Ascot Park today (Saturday). When fthe avourite Kings Landing made the lead, his driver Tim Williams put the brakes on and Williamson was having none of that. With 2000 metres to run, in the lightning move, he shot Majestic Man forward and challenged the leader. “To be honest he’s a bit more of a speed horse but when Tim got to the front he backed off the tempo. I couldn’t allow that to happen. We had to get in a positive position,” he said. With 1400 metres to run Williamson was on top with the Majestic Son four year old and at the finish had half a neck to spare on Kings Landing which ran home up the passing lane. Williamson says there was confidence around the stable that the four year old would perform well despite  having been away from racing for 65 days. He trialled at Oamaru last Saturday winning his heat by six lengths. “He trialled exceptional. If you’d seen it you would have thought he was in with a very good show. He got home in 27 seconds and change, and was hard held. We had a lot of confidence that he was fit and ready.” It was a super effort by his trainer Phil Williamson to get Majestic Man ready. And it was a bit of a case of revenge as Kings Landing had beaten Majestic Man on Show Day at Addington. “A similar thing happened on Show Day. The speed wasn’t overly hot. Mark (Purdon) was up parked and he sprinted home and beat me. Today was the opposite.” The win was Majestic Man’s eighth in only nineteen starts. Back to the birdcage after win number eight - Photo Bruce Stewart. “We thought a bit of him as a young horse and he won the Two Year Old Sires Stakes Final but weakened right off quite badly after the run. He’s strengthening up and with hard racing he's got better as he’s got older. He’s still got to step up to the open graders yet.” The Jewels is well and truly on Majestic Man’s radar and another target is also possible.       “The Rowe Cup's been mentioned if he’s going good enough.” Majestic Man is raced by the Griffin Syndicate. Winning connections and sponsor - Photo Bruce Stewart  It was the fourth time Phil Williamson has won the Southern Lights. His previous winners were; Mystic Son (2009), Springbank Sam (2013) and Monty Python (2017). He brought his team south early this week, starting two well-bred two year old trotters Cracker Hill and Ultimate Stride at the Winton Workouts on Friday. Cracker Hill is a Muscle Hill – Juneamy Castleton gelding which is trained by Brad. It  beat Ultimate Stride, a Love You colt out of the millionaire trotter One Over Kenny. The winning margin was a nose but both horses we’re extended. Cracker Hill (8) just gets there from Ultimate Stride at the Winton Workouts - Photo Bruce Stewart Ultimate Stride was sold by Lex and Heather Williams of One Over Lodge in Waimate for $160,000 at the 2018 National Sales in Christchurch. He was bought by Australian’s Emilio and Mary Rosati and left with Williamson. Cracker Hill, which was also bred by the Williams, was passed in for $40,000 at the same sale.  Another impressive trotter that had a win on Friday was the Brent McIntyre trained Cuchulainn: a full-brother to the quality trotter Pickett’s Ridge the winner of four of his ten starts. Both are by Skyvalley out the Sundon mare Come Follow Me. Meanwhile Nathan Williamson’s classy trotter Chinese Whisper is staying put for the time being. He was under offer during the week but the deal fell through and he’s expected to have his next start in the province at Wyndham on Saturday.   Bruce Stewart

The much anticipated debut of Chinese Whisper ended the right way when he impressively won the first race at Ascot Park today. The three year old had been given a methodical preparation and he’s been unbeaten. He’s won six workouts and two trials. He qualified at Wyndham on November 21st running 3-14.5 - seven seconds inside the qualifying time. “It’s all about his education. He was pretty fractious and he’s been a work in progress all the time. He’s done a ton of miles and he still has a long way to go. He’s always had the ability but it was all about the manners,” said Williamson. After beginning well trainer driver Nathan Williamson settled the horse in the one one. With 400 metres to run he launched the gelding three wide and he trotted down the middle of the track to win by a length and a quarter with The Commando in second. There were a further ten lengths back to the third horse Gazza Galleon.  “He trotted pretty well. There were a couple of long ones there today. The style of impressive first starter Chinese Whisper - Photo Bruce Stewart Although HRNZ Website says Nathan’s mother Bev bred the horse he was actually bred by this trainer. “I had a mare I was trying to get in foal to Sundon and couldn’t. Mum said she would lend me a mare and I ended up getting Little Contessa so I was pretty lucky there. I was a bit slow in getting the paper work in so that’s why it’s got Mum down as the breeder. This breeding game is a long time in the making. ” And the name?  “I made it up just because the rest of them are named Whisper. I was trying to think about something with whisper and Chinese Whisper came up.” Williamson originally owned Chinese Whisper with his wife Katie but his share is now owned by local farrier Brendon Franks who shoes Williamson’s horses. “Franksie wanted to race a horse with us and it just happened to be this one and he goes okay.” Hawaiian Hula is also in the Williamson stable and was educated with Chinese Whisper. She showed promise last season but has had to be put aside. “She got chips taken out of her knee in the spring otherwise she would have been racing before him, as she was a bit more advanced. It was nothing major so she’ll be a nice four year old next year.” Ella Franks, Julie McEwan-Franks, Laura Franks, Millie and Katie Williamson, Nathan Williamson, Brendon Franks, Ollie Kite and Shane Phillips - Photo Bruce Stewart. Williamson reports that star trotter Dark Horse is back in the stable after having had two leg injuries. “She’s back in work and it’s the long road back again I suppose. It’ll be next season for her but we’ll put a good foundation into her and hopefully the leg will stand up.” Chinese Whisper is a well related gelding, being a full brother to Irish Whisper which won eleven races. He’s (Chinese Whisper) one of a talented and well-bred bunch of three year old trotters in the province which include Full Noise, Get Lucky, Tolkien, Big Iron and Jaccka Jeorge. Meanwhile one of the most talked about maiden pacers in commission, Slate, looks set to head to the races after an impressive win at the Winton Workouts on Friday. Slate winning his Winton Workout on Friday - Photo Bruce Stewart Browns trainer Des Baynes has turned has back on offers for the Changeover gelding preferring to race him at this stage. The four year old qualified impressively in 3-04.6 over 2400 metres, winning by six and a half lengths.   Bruce Stewart

It appears that Riversdale trainer Brent McIntyre was meant to hang onto giant American Ideal pacer Huntaway. As an unraced horse he could easily have slipped through his fingers on a number of occasions. “I originally bred him for the sales but he was such a big lanky skinny thing that I was actually going to put him down. He was awful. In the end we tossed up whether or not to break him in and when we did he actually went all right,” he said. Roxburgh trainer Rory McIIwrick then leased him.                                        “I think he took him to the trials but he got lame in the back leg so he pulled the pin. A couple of other guys wanted to lease him but they never turned up so we started working the bugger and today’s the end result.” Huntaway is out of the qualified but unraced Christian Cullen mare Holly Marie. She’s only left four foals of racing age, one being Annajodi which won three races for Murray Brown and another seven in Australia. Huntaway’s third dam is the 1987 New Zealand Oaks winner Young Eden. “He’s five, so old enough to go to school but he’s just needed to mature. At home he’s a handful but he is getting better. The family leaves a lot of good horses, Ken Barron has had a few of them.” Wanting for his return, Trainer Brent McIntyre, son Kane who part owns Huntaway and good stable client Neil Timms - Photo Bruce Stewart Barron trained Ewie Duncan (8 New Zealand wins and 11 USA), Kenny The Cowboy (2 New Zealand wins and 18 USA wins), Roland John (6 New Zealand wins and 8 USA) and Captain Crazy (6 New Zealand and 8 USA wins). The timing of the win was perfect for McIntyre as he has Huntaway’s half-brother by Bettor’s Delight in this week’s NZB Standardbred Sale in Christchurch. The colt is owned by his breeder Ken Milne. “That’s one of the reasons I started him today.” From the outside of the second row driver Nathan Williamson settled Huntaway well off the pace. At the 1200 metres Williamson flushed out favourite Valiant Charger and got onto its back, progressing forward. At the 600 Williamson decided to go round Valiant Charger and in a good burst of speed was up challenging for the lead. He had hit the front with 400 metres to run and at the finish he had a three and a quarter length buffer on the second horse Hans Ideal. The winning time was 2-57.5. “He’s a nice horse. How good I don’t know but we’ll find out. I think he will progress. He didn’t even pull the plugs on him today. I’ll enjoy a beer on him.” Earlier this month McIntyre decided to sell his unbeaten three year old filly Balcatherine which was also by American Ideal so today’s win helped in a way, to ease the pain. “It was very hard to let her go.” Meanwhile Ashburton trainer Brent White’s hot Southland form continued when quality trotter One Apollo in only his third start overcame a rocky passage to impressively win the Gold Chip Trotters Final. The win was one of four for the country’s leading reinman Blair Orange who now sits on 100 wins for the current season. One Apollo winning for Blair Orange - Photo Bruce Stewart. One Apollo looked to be out of contention when turning in after Whatwillbeewillbee broke in front of him, forcing him to go off stride. He picked himself up off the canvas and started to trot again but was seven lengths from the leader Somethings Burning. In a phenomenal burst of speed One Apollo trotted down the middle of the track to win impressively by three lengths. He seems destined to win a big race at some point of his career.   by Bruce Stewart

Star Ruler finally got his maiden win at Gore today (Saturday) and co-trainer Geoff Knight was happy about that. The most consistent non-win horse running round in the south, held on to beat Futura Easton by three quarters of a length for Knight, his wife and co-trainer Jude, and the Corner Shop Syndicate. It was a winning ‘double’ as the syndicate is headed by race sponsor Brian Pitcher; the Gore representative for AON Insurance. “We’ve made him the patron of the syndicate because he’s only ever missed one of his horses’ races,” said Geoff. Today was the Washington VC gelding's twenty third start and before today’s win he’d recorded six seconds and five thirds. “He’s a great syndicate horse because he’s run a lot of places and today in a $10,000 maiden he’s got the job done. I’m rapt for the horse because he’s finally won a race.” Hanging on to beat Futura Easton - Photo Bruce Stewart  Star Ruler was driven by Canterbury driver Tim Williams. “Really grateful to Tim because he’s stuck with him all the way through. He liked him because he always tries.” Co-trainer Geoff Knight watching the mobile dispatch with Star Ruler second on the outside and heading to the front - Photo Bruce Stewart. Over the years the Knights have been great advocates of syndicate racing and the Corner Shop Syndicate is one of their oldest groups. “Central Courage Syndicate is the oldest and the Corner Shop Syndicate is the second oldest. They’ve probably been with us for fourteen years. It was called the Corner Shop Syndicate because in Oturehua near Poolburn there’s a new pub that started up. It used to be the old Poolburn Pub and the boys used to say 'let’s go down to the corner shop for a beer on Friday night.” The syndicate have raced a number of horses including Lionels Meddle which won four races for the group and Valhalla which won two races and was placed numerous times. “We’ll look for a junior driver’s race next. He loves the grass so maybe we’ll go to Oamaru while he’s in the zone because the one win horses get preference up there.” Wayne Huddleston, Geoff Knight, Jude Knight, Tim Williams and Brian Pitcher - Photo Bruce Stewart  After years of racing a big team the Knights are looking to scale down their Roxburgh operation to concentrate on race horses rather than young stock. “We’ve got the RD 1 and RD 2 mail runs now so we’ve scaled down and we're only going to work ten to twelve horses. A lot of the younger horses will go south to Nathan Williamson and Craig Ferguson for their early education and some of them may even stay there. We’re just at a time in our lives where we want to spend time with our grandkids and do a few more trips. Working racehorses is quite easy but young ones are a big commitment. Unless you give them a 100% the horses (young ones) need to be somewhere else.” They have five grandchildren – four in New Zealand and one overseas. “We’re heading to Perth in March for my sixtieth birthday. We’re all going to catch up with my brother over there and my sister’s coming over too.” Geoff has always been a forward thinker when it comes to the harness industry and he says the wider harness family needs to help boost the diminishing horse population. “We’re at the crossroads really. Most of the owners that are still in the industry are still breeding but I reckon if every trainer bred one horse it would make a huge difference.” Today’s stake was $10,000 for non-win horses after Southern Harness announced last week that all maiden races were going to carry that stake level. “It’s unbelievable. Southern Harness should be really commended because they’re putting the industry money back into the industry. There’s a few clubs that aren’t.” As a footnote one of the Corner Dairy Syndicate members was course photographer Wayne Huddleston. For this race he had to get Kirsty Adams to take the winning photo. Meanwhile Lady Zara capped off a consistent formline when she came down the middle of the track to win the Hokonui Honda Trot for Winton trainer/driver Alister Kyle. The Pegasus Spur four year old had recorded two thirds prior to today’s race and the win was her first in eight starts. Ellie Barron did the right thing for the Teal Pants Campaign when she won the Gore Town and Country Club Trot on Nottingham K Two. Nottingham K Two on the inside winning for Ellie Barron - Photo Bruce Stewart  Barron is the local Ambassador for the Teal Pants Campaign. The win means Harness Racing New Zealand ($200), Woodlands Stud ($100), Gore HRC ($100) and Southern Harness ($100) donate money to the Australian New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group for help with research into ovarian cancer. Later in the day other Teal drivers Sarah O’Reilly (Bigandme), Kim Butt (Sheeza Sport) and Sheree Tomlinson (Hurricane Banner), added to the fundraiser. A great day for the cause. Another Teal win - Bigandme winning for Sarah O'Reilly - Photo Bruce Stewart    Bruce Stewart

Rangiora trainer Mitchell Kerr won back to back races at the Wairio Trotting Club Meeting at Winton's Central Southland Raceway today. Zinny Mach made it two wins from two starts in six days when he impressively won the Net Ten EOM at Macca Lodge Mobile Pace. Driver Nathan Williamson got a nice run through from the second row and ended up three back on the inside. When Ideal Draw moved out of the one one and progressed forward, Williamson followed him round and with 1700 metres to run he was in front. The winning margin was one and a quarter lengths from I’m Trouble with third taken by Governor’s Bay. “He’s a lovely wee horse. Good gate speed and he loves rolling in front. He's had two good wins (in Southland). Hopefully he can make it three next week,” said driver Nathan Williamson in referring to the $12,000 Nuggets Final at the Winton meeting Monday week.  “He’s got the Nuggets on the 31st and he’ll be coming home after that.” Today’s winning time was 2-57.0. Zinny Mach stretching out at the finish                     - Photo Bruce Stewart. Zinny Mach is out of the Christian Cullen mare Zingara who's part of the famed Black Watch family. He was bought for $50,000 by part owner Ray Fleetwood at the 2017 Australasian Classic Yearling Sales in Auckland. In the following race it was a very similar scenario for the Kerr Wairio Cup runner Smokin By. After beginning well, Williamson had the four year old; four back on the inside before moving him forward with a lap to run. At the 600 metres he was travelling well when second favourite Nearis Green which had led and then trailed, started to fall away from Smokin By’s back. At the foot of the lane Smokin By was off and gone and commentator Dave McDonald aptly called it ‘a demolition job.’ The winning margin was six and a half-lengths and Williamson didn’t have to pull the ear plugs. Stablemates Shezacullengirl and Mach’s Back filled the minor places. “He’s going to be a really good horse one day. He’s got a massive motor,” Williamson said after the run. Trainer Mitchell Kerr also thinks the four year old has a future but that he’s still on a learning curve. “He’s got all the ability in the world. He’s just needs things to go his way. When he winds up he’s got amazing speed.”  The Cup had two false starts before it finally got underway and Williamson said Smokin By got better with each one. “That was really good. I was really pleased. It opens more races up for us now. That was probably the biggest take out of the day,” said Kerr. He says Smokin By will have a break now and come back and race through March and April. “I’d love to sneak him in to some of those nicer races later on.” Mitchell’s father Paul bought Smokin By for $30,000 at the 2016 New Zealand Premier Sales in Christchurch. He has a host of great winners in his immediate pedigree including Venus Serena, Gail Devers and Rona Lorraine. Smokin By winning the Wairio Cup Bruce Stewart

Branxholme trainer Nathan Williamson is hopeful that quality trotting mare Dark Horse will make it back to the race track but he also knows there are no guarantees. The Bacardi Lindy mare got injured in the paddock the day before she was due to race in the Southern Lights at the Northern Southland meeting in March last year. “I noticed a wee bit of swelling in the leg. I trotted her up and she was feeling it a bit. Brendon Bell (vet) came and he scanned it and she had an injury to her suspensory. We’re not really sure how it happened,” he said. She had two weeks off before having an operation and had stem cell treatment which helps the healing process. She was then boxed for a period of time. “We then began walking her, starting off slowly at five minutes a day. We ended up walking her an hour a day. With a suspensory it’s got to be stretched and walking is the only way to do that.” The walks were done by Williamson’s father-in-law Ross Jones. “Ross ended up building a special frame on his vehicle. She was so fresh and well being couped up in the box all day that she’d get away from you if you were leading her. She liked the routine of following the truck and walked for an hour every day.” A five minute jog was introduced to her routine and this was slowly lengthened. “She’s doing fast work now. She’s had a month of fast work but she’s still quite a wee way away. She’s carrying a lot of condition and she’s going to take a while to come up. I’m not going to put any undue pressure on her especially when she’s on the way up.” Williamson says the rehabilitation for a suspensory injury normally takes eleven months from when the injury occurred. “With the stem cell treatment Brendon said you may be able to trim a month off. I don’t think we need too. We’ll just let her tell us. She seems good to go now but we just need to take it quietly.” One thing you do notice with Dark Horse is that she is bigger in condition than she’s ever been in her career. Since the injury she’s been scanned three times. “The last time was before I started jogging her so that gave me the all clear. I’ll get Brendon to come and rescan before Christmas just to make sure everything is looking really good before I step her training up. You only get one chance to get her back so you have to make sure its right.” The six year old mare is raced on lease by the Griffin Syndicate and the Seafield Trotting Syndicate and from twenty starts she’s won nine races receiving $84,541 in stakes. “What I’ve heard from certain trainers is that if they make it back to a certain stage they’re right. If we can race through the winter then give her a break I think I could say the leg’s okay. But you never can be too sure.” Delightful Deal in the cart with Ollie Kite with Chinese Whisper (far side) and Dark Horse on the lead - Photo Bruce Stewart  “One good thing is that she’s put the condition on. If her leg holds strong it’ll be a good thing. As I increase her work load I’ll put solution on and wrap her leg just to keep everything nice and tight.” Williamson says the 2019 edition of the Southern Lights in March is her main target. “Last year there were good races for those higher graded trotters. If she can get a few races down here that’ll be vital. If she comes up as well as we hope there could be a trip to Addington or Auckland later in the season.” He says she may have to go into the Southern Lights fresh. ‘She’ll have to go to at least two workouts to get her match fit, carrying a bit more condition it may have to be more. In the past she’s been one of those horses you could just tick over and she’d produce on the day but this time she’s going to have to put in some hard training miles just to get that condition off.” Although cautious Williamson is also excited about getting the mare back onto the racetrack and has given her every chance to do that. “She definitely feels a lot more powerful and stronger than she did before.”   Bruce Stewart

Well bred Delson surprisingly paid $8.00 when he won easily at Wyndham on Sunday. Trained by Nathan Williamson he boasted a good workout and trial grounding and he certainly has pedigree on his side. From a second row draw Williamson had little option but to settle Delson back on the inside. With 1600 metres to run he was able to move the gelding off the running line. At the 1000 metres he was still at least twelve lengths off the leader Star Dude but started to make up ground. In the home straight trotting out in the centre of the track Delson went to the lead with 200 metres to run, travelling so easy he had time to prick up his ears. It was a performance that might remind us of the easy wins Dark Horse recorded when she was trotting through the grades. “He wasn’t trotting real smoothly for the first lap of the race,” said Williamson. “Once I got him out and moving he was a lot better. He evened up and went nice.” Prior to Sunday’s debut Delson had been to five workouts and a qualifying trial so he was well schooled for his debut. “He’s been a work in progress. I’ve just been concentrating on his manners but he’s got a lot of ability.” He was bred by and is owned by Ian Hunter who’s on the committee of the Wyndham Trotting Club. “We’re just going to take our time with him. It’ll be three or four weeks before he starts again. Nathan says he takes a bit of teaching but he’s got a motor. We’ll keep him to the big tracks for now,” he said. Williamson was quick to confirm the horse’s potential. “I’ve never really opened him up yet but he feels like a nice horse and he’s very willing.” Delson is a full brother to Delestic and a half to Splash Cola. Both started their careers with Williamson, and Splash Cola is now trained at Woodend Beach by Regan Todd. “She’s seems to be thriving up there. Her feet are good. She got gifted a fourth on Show Day (promoted). We were quite happy with that run,” said Hunter. Delson is out of Delcola. Hunter bought Aran Del the dam of Delcola in foal to Chiola Cola in 2000. “We got a bonus off her. The first five two and three year old winners by Chiola Cola got a bonus of five thousand dollars. There weren’t many two year old winners but we just squeezed in and got the three year old bonus.” Delcola’s last three foals have been via embryo transplant. “The last foal we bred was by Andover Hall which she carried herself. She had a big rupture and we weren’t too sure if we were going to get a foal or not. She foaled okay and we got a colt (Andy Hall). He’s a three year old and is in work now. He’d be sixteen plus hands and I doubt whether he will race as a three year old. Nathan likes him, he could be the best one.” The other ET foals are by Pegasus Spur and Creatine. “I’ve sent her back to Andover Hall. There’s a bit of a risk in that because they don’t like frozen semen when they’re doing embryo transplants.” Hunter is also breeding from another branch of the family; Aron Del’s half-sister Delivion (Oblivion II) which was bought by Hunter in the early 1990s.                                                                                                  Her Son Of Afella foal Delamaid is still being bred from by Hunter with her best foal to date being Gotta Del - the winner of four races.      Bruce Stewart

The half-sister to Chicago Bull, Rockabilly Blues, lived up to her breeding when she won on debut at the Young Quinn Raceway at Wyndham today. The giant four year old mare by Rock N Roll Heaven is owned by her trainers Katrina and John Price and prior to today's race had had six workouts and a trial. She qualified at Ascot Park in September and has been given plenty of time to mature.  Rockabilly Blues drew four on the second line and driver Nathan Williamson settled her three back on the outside. At the 450 metre mark Williamson sent her forward and she was five wide at the 400. She came down the middle of the track resolutely and held on to beat Miss VC by three quarters of a length. Her winning mile time was 1-56.5. "I had to start my run a wee bit before I wanted because there was a bit of cat and mouse in front and I didn't want to be left with a 200 metre sprint. I came out early and forced their hand. She probably peaked on her run but she should improve. She lugged in a wee bit when I came wide on the track but that was expected because I was coming so wide," said Williamson. He also noted the mare was a bit more fired up today. "She's been good at the workouts but she was a lot more worked up today being her first race start. When she gets more seasoned she'll get better. She's not as good when she gets worked up. She's a very high speed mare."  Returning to the winners circle - Photo Bruce Stewart Rockabilly Blues is the third foal out of the three win Christian Cullen mare Chicago Blues. The first foal Chicago Bull, won two races as a two year old for the Price's before he was sold to Western Australia. There he has become a millionaire pacer for trainer Gary Hall Senior and has now won 40 races and $1,820,709. He was one of the early favourites for this Tuesday's New Zealand Cup but had to be withdrawn after suffering from fractures to his whither region. Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart  The mare's next foal Chicago Cub was sold at last year's yearling sales for the top price of $190,000. He was bought by Emilio and Mary Rosati and renamed Perfect Stride. He's won two of his three workouts for Ray Green in Auckland.  The Rosatis were on-course today and won the first race with their Muscles Yankee mare Zoey's Gift. Meanwhile maiden trotter Superfast Pat finally got his complete trotting game together when he won the Leithfield Nursery Gold Chip Final by an amazing thirty and a half lengths. The four year old Lauren Pearson trained trotter got away nicely and was taken straight to the front by driver Brent Barclay. The previous week at the Riverton meeting Missy Moo won by twenty three and three quarter lengths. Records suggest that David Moss's win by forty one lengths at Ascot Park in September 1990 is the widest winning margin ever recorded by a trotter in the south.    Bruce Stewart

Picketts Ridge won his fourth race at the Riverton meeting on Sunday and Gore trainer John Ryan realises he's going to have to travel with him.  The Skyvalley gelding, owned by Ryan and Tony and Philippa Holland is now rated R75 and his days of racing consistently in the province may be numbered. "He's going to get handicapped out of it shortly. We won't be going to the Cup meeting or anything like that. We may have to take a wee trip up there at some stage to see how he can handle those trotters," said Ryan after the five year old came off 30 metres to beat King Cassidy by a head in the Neville Cleaver Fishing Aparima Handicap Trot. Picketts Ridge, in only his second season of racing is one of the province's most promising squaregaiters. At the end of last season he was starting to show his qualities and the rate of improvement has continued this season.  "He's developed a wee bit more. Last year he couldn't handle a 1000 metre track. At his first start at Gore he'd just break round the corners but that was also because he was recovering from injury. Last season we stuck to the big tracks." Ryan says he's trotting a lot better this season and is more relaxed on race day.  "This season he's working 10 seconds quicker on the Gore track and he's handling the bends a lot better. He's had three runs on a 1000 metre track now...... I'm real happy with the way he comes to the races. He goes to sleep in his stall and is more relaxed about it all." Driven by regular driver Nathan Williamson, Picketts Ridge settled midfield early before following King Cassidy forward with just over a lap to run. At the 550 metres mark King Cassidy took over from pacemaker Grace O'Malley with Picketts Ridge up challenging. King Cassidy and Picketts Ridge set down to fight out the finish and there was a head between them at the line. "He (Williamson) said he didn't trot as good today. I put it down to leaving the old shoes on. I should have perhaps reshod him. It's been a bit of an experiment in the last couple of weeks. I went from a mid weight heavy shoe with him to aluminiums and he won two races. The old saying is weight takes away the speed. He's handled the transition (shoe changes) well in that respect," stated Ryan. Ryan is a dab hand with trotters, he previously trained ten win mare Golden Gate.  "She had sheer speed. I'm not sure whether he'll get to that speed but he's only had ten starts." Sunday was a good day for Ryan with Golden Gate producing her first foal at Macca Lodge - a colt by Love You. "I got a photo from Brent (McIntyre). The mare's looking happy and the foal looks a bit bedraggled." Meanwhile it was a good day for good mates Alan Lindsay and Cleland Murdoch. The Invercargill based owners who have a share in quality pacer Swamp Major won with separate horse yesterday. Zenola's Art at odds of 14 to 1 won the Ryder Plumbing and Roofing Mobile Pace for Kirstin Barclay and Paul Ellis, while in the next race Triple VC owned by Murdoch and the Fanny Allen Trust overcame recent bad luck when he won the SBS Bank Mobile Pace. Ryder Plumbing principle Trevor Ryder also bred and shares in the ownership of Swamp Major.  Meanwhile Murray Little in partnership with his nephew Malcolm and Malcolm's wife Sarndra won the Fillies and Mares Feature with Excellent, while Allaboutdreams owned by Malcolm and Sarndra came in a half a length back in second place   Bruce Stewart

Branxholme trainer driver Nathan Williamson has always had a high opinion of Bettor's Delight mare Delightful Deal and yesterday she vindicated his opinion when she beat The Empress in the Jaccka Lodge Ladyship Stakes Final at Gore. This was the four year old's fourth start and she had the draw (1) to work with. When favourite The Empress was taken to the front the perfect scenario fell into place for Williamson.  "Yep it worked out well from the draw. She went out well and we were just tracking the right horse all the way. She had come on a bit after her first up run which you'd have to expect," said Williamson. Delightful Deal qualified last year but the season didn't pan out as well as Williamson had hoped. "It was unfortunate but she got kicked in the back leg. It cost her because we were thinking she was good enough to have a crack at the Southland Oaks series. I'm not saying she was good enough to win it. Marty has been real patient." Owned by Winton plumber Marty Fairbairn, Delightful Deal was down to start her four year old season last month on this track but had to be scratched.  "The morning of the race she was holding her foot off the ground. She had an abcess burst out of her foot. But since then she's been good and it's just a matter of waiting on her." With win number one on the board Williamson is contemplating some bigger goals.  "We might give her another start down here in a fortnight, maybe look at going to Addington and look at the South Of The Waitaki race if she goes well." The win was one of four for Williamson who also won on Wayward Roc, Stay Aboard and Please Shuddup. His brothers Brad and Matty also won races on Mr Handleman (Brad) and Matinee Idol (Matty).  Craig Ferguson also drove two winners; Cool Scooter for Greg Hunter and Bridesdale Robyn for Ross Wilson. It's was Wilson's one hundredth training success. His first was with Mister Majestic at Roxburgh in April 1980.    Bruce Stewart

“Like I said to you during the week it’s the only way he could have won today,” said Nathan Williamson after Franco Santino won the Heartland Hotel Mobile Pace at Gore. It couldn’t have panned out better, with a fresh Benio Ben and driver Dexter Dunn setting a very solid clip in front. Dunn had his charge humming with 400 metres to run and Franco Santino was off the speed by seven lengths. “They went fast up front and got (they) tired in the straight and they came back to me.” The winning margin was half a length with Franco Huntington up close in third, three quarters of a length back.  The time was a respectable 2-42.5 on a track that had a new sand surface put down during the week. “There’s plenty of nice races coming up with the Cup races around Christmas time. He’s not too bad off in the ratings being 78 after today. We’ll try and pick up a junior drivers race. He’s going to keep working through the grades hopefully.” With the Cup races on the radar Williamson was asked about Franco Santino’s standing start ability. “He’s only had one start from the stand which he won at Oamaru. He was safe away. He's so sensible and doesn’t have any hype or get wound up. Starting off those handicaps sometimes can be quite good. You can go in and be away and it gives them good confidence.” The win today was the entire's fifth in only nine starts. He’s owned by Riverton fisherman Neville Cleaver. Franco Santino, Nathan Williamson, Oliver Kite and Neville Cleaver - Photo Bruce Stewart.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

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