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It’s been called “breathtaking” and one of the Hunter Cup’s greatest ever wins. It was 2005 and Elsu, trained by Geoff Small and driven by David Butcher, overcame a 20 metre handicap, only to be three wide without cover for the last lap and then destroy a top class field in Australia’s most prestigious standing start race. Calling the race Dan Mielicki could barely contain himself at the finish, saying that Elsu has “got to be the best horse in the Southern Hemisphere” and that she was “a star”. “What a win in the Hunter Cup – one of the best ever” It was a defining moment for a horse that won two Auckland Cups and was twice voted New Zealand Horse of the Year. He was also the first New Zealand horse to earn over two million dollars and  had a clean sweep of the 2005  Interdominions,  going through the heats and final unbeaten.  According to David Butcher :  “Elsu is a horse that makes me look good”. At the time of Elsu’s victory the Hunter Cup was held at Moonee Valley before it moved to Tabcorp Park at Melton. Off the backmark, Elsu  had no option but to bide his time. Defending champion Holmes D.G. had broken up and was pretty much out of contention while Young Rufus and Mark Purdon started like a bullet and went to the front. With 1200 metres to go and with favourite and local star The Warp Drive among the leaders, Butcher moved on Elsu.  They were posted three wide for the rest of the trip and despite Young Rufus running a 28-second third quarter Elsu careered away to win by two lengths. Butcher : “This horse is a superstar on his day and today was his day”. The five year old joining the likes of Pure Steel, Preux Chevalier and Blossom Lady to take out Australia’s premier staying race. Knee problems shortened Elsu’s racing career and he ran his last race in May 2005 before heading  off to stud.  He finished with 27 wins from 47 starts, earning more than $2.1m.  $323,018 of that was made on Saturday, February  12 in Melbourne, 15 years ago. Tomorrow it’s  “F” – and some Interdominions  history at an unusual venue.    Harness Racing New Zealand

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk     Alta Christiano,  a Group One winning son of Christian Cullen,  has died in Australia as the result of a colic attack, aged 10. His death occurred at the Tipperary Equine Stud in New South Wales, where he was earmarked as a stallion of immense potential. The first four sires in his pedigree were all champion, premiership-winning sires (Christian Cullen, Fake Left, Vance Hanover and Noodlum) and he had the former NZ Broodmare of the Year, Black Watch as his fourth dam.  In his first season he left 78 foals, among them the talented I'm a Blake, Fake News and While They Pray. Alta Christiano was bought by North Canterbury trainer Paul Kerr Kerr  for $50,000 at the 2011 Australasian Classic sale.  He won his first four races including the Kindergarten Stakes in New Zealand and was sold to clients of high profile Australian trainer Gary Hall in Perth in 2013. Leg injuries were a problem during much of his racing career  though he ended up winning 13 races overall.   Hall had said :  “Of all the top sons of Christian Cullen he had the gait that was closest to ‘Cullen’ himself as I’d seen. He’s got all the attributes you could want in a horse – he’s fast, he can stay and he’s great gaited.” Alta Christiano had just completed his busiest ever season, covering in excess of 160 mares and, according to Tipperary, had advanced bookings for 40 mares next season.​ Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Our industry has responded swiftly to the impact of COVID-19 and in particular, the restrictions that have been in place over the past week. I know from speaking with many of you that you’ve had to move quickly to adapt to the situation, by moving animals, cancelling race meetings, changing your operations and so much more. But the overwhelming message I’ve heard is that the measures in place provide us with the best opportunity to return to normal - even if it’s clearly that it will be a ‘new normal’. Like you, our initial focus was to support a coordinated response across racing to keep people safe and racing running, even if it was behind closed doors. Clearly we now have no NZ racing and limited sport and won’t have for at least a month, so RITA's focus has now moved to maximising the product we have available for punters, reducing costs and preparing our business and our industry for a return to racing. BOARD UPDATE The RITA Board met yesterday and discussed the performance of the business on the back of COVID-19, the steps being taken to mitigate the impact and consider what the TAB and the industry may look like when racing is back up and running.  Despite a better than expected weekend for the TAB (off the back of some quality racing in Australia), unsurprisingly our turnover remains significantly down on the same period last year. Last week, turnover on racing and sport was down 55% and revenue down 51%, against forecast. The Gross Betting Revenue (GBR) for the week was $3.7m, and while this was better than we had anticipated, had we lost Australian racing we would have been left with about $600k GBR. Clearly we want to see Australian racing continuing for as long as possible, but we are also planning for what many see as the inevitable cancellation of racing across the Tasman. We’re down about 75% of available product, which obviously impacts the bets we can sell, and when we can’t sell any bets we can’t make any money and in fact with the fixed costs of the business (rent, insurance etc.) continuing, we are losing money. That’s the dilemma we have and that’s why we are focusing so hard on reducing costs;  not only for the next 3 months but for the period beyond that - the ‘new normal’. That is where the collective focus of the industry must be to ensure our long term survival and future growth.  I've spoken previously of the steps the TAB has taken to cut costs and we continue to maintain this focus. The Board and executive management team have taken pay cuts and a significant number of the organisation's staff are voluntarily taking leave, while in some cases we've had to ask staff with high leave balances to use them. But all these initiatives will only go part-way to closing the gap that we and all other international bookmakers are facing. The Board is steadfastly focused on ensuring the TAB is set up to weather this storm and come out of it with long-term sustainability in mind and continuing to support the 17,000+ Kiwis who depend on it for a livelihood. We are having active conversations with our banks, the Government and the Codes and are reassured by the support our industry has, and by the progress being made, to keep the wheels of commerce turning. LOOKING FORWARD We know this crisis will have a lasting impact on the TAB and the industry. We know a return to 'business as usual' is simply not possible. We know that NZ and the world will be very different when we get on top of the virus and we have begun planning what this means for the TAB, as we know the codes have too.  As you may know, RITA suspended consultation on the 2020/21 draft racing calendar last week and this week, in conjunction with the Codes, we have started working on developing a revised calendar to take account of the impact of COVID-19. This calendar will have the overriding objectives of minimising costs and maximising revenue, underpinned by a continued focus on animal welfare. We’re at an early stage in finalising a revised calendar and no decisions have yet been made. But we expect the reality is we'll be racing at fewer venues to achieve the desired outcomes. This will require difficult and at times, unpopular decisions, but the alternative is stark.  The industry will be consulted on a draft as soon as it is ready to share, albeit, clearly our timeframe for consultation on any changes will be much shorter than usual.  CHALLENGING TIMES The Board also wanted to pass on our thoughts and best wishes to all industry participants and staff of the TAB, the Codes, JCA, RIU and racing industry organisations who are facing stress and hardship as a consequence of this crisis. Please continue to keep safe and well during this period. We'll continue to keep you updated on any important developments.   Sincerely, Dean McKenzie Executive Chair Racing Industry Transition Agency

The death of the New Zealand bred harness racing stallion Alta Christiano was an immense blow to the Australian breeding industry.   Alta Christiano died as the result of a colic attack at Tipperary Equine stud, Young (NSW) last weekend.   The top pacer and sire had just completed his busiest ever season, covering in excess of 160 mares.   “We had already received advanced bookings for 40 mares for next season,” Tipperary Equine studmaster Luke Primmer said.   In a career interrupted by injury, Alta Christian won 13 of his 18 starts and $309,163 in stakes.   He won four races at two years, including the NZ Kindergarten Stakes and NZ Yearling Sales Graduate at Addington.   Among his three wins as a three-year-old were the $200,000 WA Derby and the Western Gateway in a track record 1:55.4 for 2130 metres.   Alta Christiano won six of his seven starts at four including The Johnson, a Listed race.   From his first crop he produced the talented Im Sir Blake, winner of the Northern Region Championship in Victoria and Mildura Guineas, the WA Country Derby winner Fake News and While They Pray (11 wins).   Alta Christiano’s second crop now racing as three-year-olds includes the Battle of Bunbury winner Al Guerrero and Will The Wizard (Queensland Breeders Classic 2YO), while among his current batch of two-year-olds is the Western Crown winner Mighty Ronaldo.   He has sired 48 individual winners from 66 starters and they have amassed $1.17 million. In the current season he has left 40 winners to date.   by Peter Wharton

This is not how winning your first trainer’s premiership is supposed to feel. But it still doesn’t detract from the countless hours of hard work Robert Dunn and son John have put in to almost certainly taking out the title for this strangest of all seasons. The almost certainly part comes from the fact the Dunn stable sits 10 wins clear of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen (79-69) on the premiership table with effectively only two more months of racing to go IF we get back to the track early June. Already the Purdon-Rasmussen stable has declared they are done for the season so that leaves Michael House on 60 wins as the only real danger but he would need to train 20 winners in two months without the Dunns training another one. So take it as done (excuse the pun), Robert Dunn is the premiership winner for 2019-2020. Like all of us Dunn has other things on his mind at the moment but when asked about the premiership he quickly races through the mental steps. “I think we have to go close depending on when racing comes back,” says Dunn. “But you never can be sure with Mark and Nat” Then he pauses, remembers they are done for the season and realises he has won his first title. “I suppose when you think about it like that, we have won it. “Not the way you would want to win it but it is still special to win.” The reality is Dunn would almost certainly have won the premiership even if the world had never heard of Covid-19. He and John had more winter firepower than the All Stars and the latter stable wouldn’t have chased anyway. And nobody can begrudge them their victory, Robert having been an elite level horseman for 40 years and John probably the biggest mover in New Zealand harness racing in the last decade. The win is built on hard work, which starts at the yearling sales and runs through two inter-island stables that race at tracks from Invercargill to Alexandra Park. That is made possible by having the two stables, the main base with John overseeing it in Canterbury and the Auckland base at Franklin which has 14 horses and has become not only an Alexandra Park force but a huge help for making up fields at the Auckland track. All the horses at both barns are spelling at the moment and Dunn isn’t sure when the horses at Pukekohe will be allowed back on the Franklin Park track. But many of the southern horses are spelling on the property so once the country returns to Level 3 and race training is allowed again then the Canterbury stable could have 10-14 horses in work. “We want to support racing when it comes back,” says Dunn. “Our horses have been out for a week but if they (HRNZ) are looking at racing again by late May or early June then we will have horses for then. “We have always been big on supporting racing, we send horses all over the place and we want to support this when it comes back.” Then some time around August, when hopefully racing will be back full time, albeit with many changes, Dunn can raise a glass to what he has achieved. “I have always wanted to win the premiership and a few times in recent years I thought I had a chance but then Mark and Nat would win 10 races in a week or something like that and I would be behind again. “So to maybe finally get it will be special, even if it is not the way I would have liked.”   By Michael Guerin

“Old school” – that was Cecil Charles Devine and he made no apologies for it. "If paying attention to detail is tough, then I am tough,” he said during one interview. A no-nonsense type, Devine was born in Tasmania in 1916 and he only came to New Zealand because his older brother Eric opted not to bring some of his own horses to race here. “Ces” came instead – it was meant to be for a month. He stayed for more than half a century. "I suppose I was about 20 at the time. I took on the job and was supposed to go back when the horses returned. But Wellington looked so good - they had a beautiful six furlong grass track at Hutt Park in those days - I decided to stay on to see if the rest of the country lived up to that early promise." It wasn't long before he was offered a job with Vic Leeming who was training just out of Christchurch and then leased a property at Prebbleton. Over the years he became incredibly successful with some of the best horses of a generation.   To date no one else has ever trained and driven six New Zealand Cup winners. He did it with Van Dieman (1951), Thunder (1956), False Step (1958-59-60), and Lord Module (1979). Only Ricky May has driven more, with seven. When Devine was asked to compare three of his champions he said: “False Step didn't have as much speed as Lord Module, but he was a top racehorse, Van Dieman was probably faster but needed to be covered up. Lord Module can do it from anywhere, over all distances.” Thunder and Devine were involved in an incredible win at Methven, according to various reports. Devine was dislodged at the start, only to then scramble back and take hold of the sulky. Not only did he make up the 100 metres to catch the body of the field but Thunder continued on to win the race to rave reviews for driver and horse. But it was the NZ Flying Stakes at Addington in 1957 that Devine is also remembered for, and not fondly. The great Caduceus was well clear of the field and duly won, with Don Hall (Devine) and False Step (Jack Litten) both vying for the minors. For whatever reason, over the concluding stages Devine and Litten engaged in a whip fight, one suffered cuts to his face, the other to his hands. It prompted outrage at the time and they returned to the birdcage to widespread boos and jeers. Both were suspended from driving at any meetings for six months. Ironically it was Devine who would later take over the training and driving of Litten’s horse False Step and guide it to three consecutive New Zealand Cup wins, and become just the second to do so along with Indianapolis (1934-35-36). Terror to Love became just the third in 2013. When he turned 65 Devine was forced to give up driving on raceday – and no he wasn’t happy about it – but those were the rules at the time. He trained his last winner eight years later in 1988 when Jack Smolenski reined home Cheeky Module at Motukarara. C.C. Devine died in 1990, aged 75. Tomorrow it’s “E” – not so much a horse, but a winning performance.    Harness Racing New Zealand

Making a top-10 list is easy. Until you try and make a top-10 list and show it to other people. Especially when many of the people who are going to see your list know just as much, or more, about the subject than you do. Today HRNZ starts to revisit some of our great races with 10 of their best winners. Now we aren’t going to lie to you, these aren’t lists we compiled this week like the rest of the online content world struggling to fill space. These are lists Greg O’Connor and I came up with over the last couple of years on Trackside for the NZ Cup, Sires’ Stakes and for the Dominion, which we look at today. Going back and looking at some of the great winners of a race is a cool way to build anticipation of what is to come, who is going to add their name to the list so we compiled them to be run close to those iconic races. Initially, when Greg came up with the idea, it sounded easy enough: Name the top 10 Dominion wins of the last 40 years. But that is the key sentence. The top 10 wins, not winners. If the list was just winners then most of us would probably agree Lyell Creek has to top the list because he was almost certainly the best trotter to win the great Addington race in that time frame, and maybe ever. But here is something that will surprise you. When Lyell Creek won the Dominion in 1999 it was in a staggeringly slow 4:14.4, which would have put him almost 200m behind Monbet when he won in 2016. Of course times can be termed irrelevant but in an industry where they are so prominent they at least have to be taken into account right? And if they don’t really what, what else does? The class of horses a winner beat?  The nature of the victory? Did they overcome a handicap, which these days isn’t a factor but was for nine winners in a 13-year period starting in the 1990s. And your list might well be influenced by your heart as much as your head. Did you back a horse? Did somebody you know or like own, train or drive it? Or even something as simple as was that horse from your region. After all, a Southlander might think more fondly of David Moss than the mighty Auckland mare Merinai. Greg and I tried to exclude emotion and go on quality of opposition, the actual performance of the horse itself and with a small dose of times and maybe where the horse actually now sits in our memories. So take a look at one list, by no means definitive, of top of the great Dominion winners of recent decades. Top 10 Dominion Wins - 1 to 5   Top 10 Dominion Wins - 6 to 10   by Michael Guerin

Dave Di Somma from HRNZ catches up with Matt Cross during the lockdown.  Below is the video of Matt doing the Covid - 19 race call.      

The Southern Harness Racing community and the Southern district in general, has lost a very much loved figure with the death earlier this week of Father Dan Cummings. This was a hard story to start, but having spoken to a host of people who knew Fr Dan well, I’ve been given an insight into this man and feel privileged to be able to reflect that to many who will have known him and valued him. He was a loved family member, priest, and good mate. There’s a lot I didn’t know about, particularly Dan’s life outside of the harness breeding and racing world, but luckily plenty of people have been able to fill in some of the gap, not least of these his sister Julie. Father Dan attended St Kevin’s College in Oamaru as a boarder and upon leaving school, he went home to work on the family farm at Lawrence, before heading to Mosgiel to begin his training for the priesthood. Julie said “He was very close to Mum. She started working on breeding thoroughbreds which he enjoyed and continued (with it) quietly as he continued his training.” Dan had also developed a great love for rodeo, especially calf roping and bulldoging. Training for the priesthood didn’t put a damper on competing; he won numerous titles in the late ‘60s, ‘70s and early 1980’s. “He had a tin calf set up out the back of the Seminary, as local Mosgiel people will tell you, so he could practice his calf roping,” said Julie. Follow rodeo competitor Pat McCarthy of Chatto Creek in Central Otago remembers those early days well. “The first trip I can remember with Danny was that I picked him up after the Millers Flat Rodeo and we drove to Waimate. We had one hell of a trip. We sang songs and laughed the whole way. Just the two of us for the best part of five hours.” He also fondly remembers Dan’s ability to improvise in the days when saddles weren’t tailor-made for rodeo events. “There weren’t many western saddles round in those days. Danny had an old stock saddle -not sure whether it was an Australian breaker or what it was. There was no horn on the front so Danny had a bolt stuck in the pommel. He had it braced back round the seat of the saddle. It was really quite something. Danny used to practice in it. Most people wouldn’t have even got into the saddle let alone trying to rope in it.” In the rodeo world there were road trips, banter in abundance and loads of laughs. Pat continued, “I always associate Danny with the Waimate Rodeo because we used to have a hell of a party at Johnsons Pub. Bill Johnson was a great friend of Danny’s. I remember one night we were in the pub and I said to Danny ‘We should sue you because you married me and you married Bill and none of them turned out.’ You could say things like that to Danny.” Dan also had a few party tricks back in those early days. “Danny was a hell of a gymnast and he kept himself in real good shape. He used to have an act he’d put on in the pub where he’d get up on his hands with his feet in the air and walk along the bar. He was a hard thing and he loved a good time.” McCarthy says he had a deep respect for his follow rider. “Before he went away and became a priest he did a bit of living which a lot of these clergymen didn’t do, so he could relate to anything. I was telling someone the other day ‘If every priest or Preacher was like Danny Cummings, religion would be totally different.” Outside of competing he was also the Secretary of the Outram Rodeo Club for thirteen years and Mid-Canterbury horse trainer Simon Adlam remembers him turning up at his stables proudly wearing the Club’s logo. “He used to rock in here on his way to Christchurch wearing a pair of jeans, a denim shirt with Outram Rodeo on it and a red, white and green Tamizhan cap like the old timers used to wear.  I use to say to people that were here, that they better watch themselves because a priest has just turned up,” Adlam said. As a Catholic Priest in the Otago Diocese he spent some time in many parishes, including St Bernadette’s (Forbury – handy to the race track), Mornington, St Mary’s Kaikorai, Port Chalmers and latterly at St Thomas Aquinas in Winton. “Training to become a priest takes seven years but Danny took two years off in the middle to study for an MA at Otago University,” Julie said. Cummings was in Port Charmers during the 1990 Aramoana Massacre when thirteen people were killed including local policeman Stewart Guthrie. “At that time he was also a Police Chaplain because as a priest they all have other wee jobs. He was very close to Stu and his wife.” Other roles that Dan held included being Hospital Chaplin, and he was in charge of Catholic Education in Otago. Father Dan also spent ten years at the Winton Parish of St Thomas Aquinas where he was able to continue training his pacers which were stabled at Derek Dynes stables. “He loved it down there. He had fond memories of being able to train with Derek. He   got very involved with music for the church, while at Winton. He loved the technical challenge of setting up speakers and sound systems,” Julie said. Dynes son in law Trevor Proctor says although pedigrees were talked about regularly, there was always plenty of other chat. “They used to talk about religion and the other religion (the horses). It used to blow my mind when they talked about breeding. They’d go back years and years. It was unbelievable just listening to them,” he said. Dan held an Open Drivers licence for twenty five seasons. He recorded his only ever win driving Tact Hayley Jane for Dynes at the Wairio meeting in December 2004. “He said ‘I don’t think Derek wanted to win the race so that’s why he put me on.’ He said ‘I drew one on the second line and the horse that drew one (on the front) lead all the way. I think I messed it up for him,” Proctor recalls. And the following day spirits were high at St Thomas Aquinas. “When he won that race Dianne and I got a photo of the win, presented it to him, and it was hung in the church at Winton. On the Sunday after the races he joked that there were more losing tickets on his drive than there was money in the plate.” And Proctor said Dynes was always under pressure to head to church but that was something Dan never quite achieved until the very end. In referring to this, Brent McIntyre from Macca Lodge said “When he was at Winton one of the O’Reilly boys rang Derek and said ‘He’ll get you, he’ll have you going to church every Sunday.’  Old Derek used to say the only way they’ll get me in the church is if they carry me in.” Simon Adlam continued the story – “When Derek passed away, Father Dan took the service. “At Derek’s funeral in Winton the first thing Father Dan said was ‘I finally got ya.” As a priest Dan was required to take a number of sabbaticals and one was to England where he was to stay for nine months, attending a university studying a theological paper, the last three months though were spent at a racing stable In France. Julie said “He didn’t see the need to sit the exam because it wasn’t going to mean anything. So he went to a racing stable in France which he thoroughly enjoyed. He didn’t speak much French so there was a barrier there, but I remember him saying ‘If they give me a grooming brush and a hoof pick I’ll know what they’re saying.’ He was basically the boy. I think he got to sit in the cart a couple of times. As a trainer Father Dan held a training licence for twenty nine years, training seven winners including Petra Star and Maureens Dream. Maureen’s Dream was his first winner at the Tuapeka Meeting at Forbury Park in November 1984. Julie says in his later years Dan returned to live at Lawrence on the home farm, and together with Peter, got great satisfaction in breaking in and training the fillies that the lodge kept and in particular seeing Bonnie Joan perform at the highest level. “He got a huge thrill out of Bonnie. Although rodeo and racing were secondary to his priesthood, in the last few years he’s really enjoyed training the horses. He got a great thrill training two and three year old winners Notaword and Tuapeka Jessie. He never boasted but I think he was quite proud of that.” Notaword won as a two year old at Forbury Park in July 2018 and in November 2019 Tuapeka Jessie won at the same venue as a three year old. Kelvin Harrison with Notaword in America West Otago breeder and trainer John Stiven said when it came to training, one of Cumming’s pet subjects was horses tying up. “He often told me that when he was training from Forbury Park where the horses never got out to grass, he never had any problems with tie ups. When he was at Winton and Lawrence they did. He’s been extremely helpful to me in sorting out Countess Of Arden. He analysed the blood tests we had on her in a totally different way.” Tuapeka Lodge Stud was established in 1965 and since 1977 has been run by Dan, his brother Peter and his sister Julie. “Dan was very aware that it had to pay for itself which it has done over the fifty plus years it’s been operating,” Julie said. Dan, who oversaw the preparation of the stud’s yearlings for the National Sale in Christchurch was a pioneer when it came to publicity using the internet and he was the first to introduce videos for prospective buyers to view. “He liked to push the boundaries by making the videos for Tuapeka Lodge and being the first. He filmed and edited them all himself. He was way ahead of his time. It must be twenty years ago that we started making those videos. He would ride my horse and lead the yearling and we would video it so the people could see the legs and the feet of the horse as they were trotting. He loved the challenge of doing that,” Julie said. Over the years Father Dan has built very strong relationships with a number of people. Perhaps one of the longest is with fellow breeder Brian West who met the Cummings family forty years ago through a work colleague who owned a farm next to Tuapeka Lodge. In 1985 West tried to buy Tuapeka Kay (Smooth Fella – Tuapeka Star) from the Cummings as a foal. “It didn’t happen and we had to buy her at the Sales. So that’s when my connection with the Tuapeka horses began and I met Dan after that.” West says Cummings had a vast knowledge of Standardbred pedigree. “He was a star really. We literally spent thousands of hours talking about what was happening overseas. This of course was way before semen transport and shuttle stallions. We had second rate stallions coming here because at that time racing was thriving in North America. It was very expensive compared to here. On one of my early trips over there horses were grazing on a farm at $12.00 US a day and here it was $1 a day. That gives you a comparison as to where we were in terms of money and strength. In the States the old boys looked after what went on and they looked after their own interests first. That’s why it was so difficult to get stallions to shuttle down under. I mean, who would breed today to an unraced stallion like Vance Hanover. He wouldn’t get a shot especially now days when there’s only about 2000 mares being bred from,” West said. West and Fr Dan enjoyed some trips overseas together, one a month long to North America and Canada with bloodstock agent John Curtin. “We realised during the trip that we were way behind in regards to pedigrees. It was also a great learning exercise for Dan and I because we found out what the American farms were feeding their foals to grow them into good strong yearlings. Nobody here had any idea of what we should be feeding young horses in those early days.” West and Cummings also had a close association at Sale time where their yearling were boxed side by side in the same barn for many years. “In 2008 we actually prepared the yearlings for Tuapeka because Julie and Lew’s farm at Mosgiel where the horses were being prepped was flooded out.” West vividly recalls one standout yearling in the draft that year. “When the yearlings arrived here there was one absolute standout so I phoned Dan and asked him how much he had that yearling insured for. He said $50,000. I told him he should double it. The horse (Tuapeka Mariner) sold for $250,000 so it was a wonderful experience going through that with him as well.” West, Father Dan and Braeden and Caroline Whitelock spent lots of time together. “We did a lot of stuff outside the horse world but we always gravitated back to the horses, pedigrees and families.” After trying for a few years, West finally convinced Dan to go with himself and the Whitelocks to the Breeders Crown in Australia. Fr Dan’s connection with Braeden and Caroline Whitelock who live in the Manawatu, goes back a long way, in fact horse wise, right back to the early 1900’s. It transpires that Braeden’s great great grandfather George Craw owned a horse called Nelson Derby which won the 1915 Great Northern Derby. Unfortunately due to the depression Craw had to sell the horse which ultimately went on to win the 1925 Auckland Cup, but for his new owner. As a sire Nelson Derby sired Single Star which was the grand dam of Hindu Star. Hindu Star’s third foal was Sakuntala (Armbro Del) and co-incidentally Dan’s parents Cliff and Joan bought her in 1974. “When Caroline and I got married we went to see Dan at the Catholic Presbytery in Dunedin. We’d never met him before but we asked him if we could buy a filly. It didn’t come to anything but Dan rang us later and said Tuapeka Star was for sale. Ivan Harris had bought the filly off him a few years before but she hadn’t had a foal for three years,” said Braeden. Subsequently the Whitelocks bought Tuapeka Star and have had great success with the family. She left Braeside Star the grand dam of O Baby which won four Group One races. “We’ve been good friends since. We’ve talked about horses, breeding, and life around many things. He’s (Fr Dan) remarkable to me because he put other people first. He’s done that in his work and his life and hasn’t bothered about material things. His priority has always been the people, their hardships and how he can support them.” I get Whitelock says it was Fr Dan who came up with the idea of a horse trek as a way of supporting well known Christchurch vet Bill Bishop and his wife Helen when they lost their house to a fire. “We got a group of twenty people and trekked from Hawarden to Hanmer Springs over three days, staying in woolsheds. We ended up with a priest, a vet and a couple of Americans. It was great.” “Dan rang one day and said he was a bit bored. I told him that wasn’t a problem.” Braeden purchased Avana which was bought at the 2019 Yearling Sales, and the Cummings took a half share. Dan broke Avana in and worked her up before sending her to Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen at Rolleston where she’s currently in work. Mid Canterbury trainer Simon Adlam has also been a big part of Fr Dan’s life, having trained many Tuapeka horses – the first being Tuapeka Wings in 2004. Their association began on the recommendation of Derek Dynes who spent some time in Mid Canterbury training horses down the road from Robert Cameron whom Adlam worked for. “Dan (asked) Derek when they were both down in Winton if he knew a guy called Simon Adlam. Derek said yeah yeah he’s alright, he’s one of you lot, meaning that I was a Catholic,” said Adlam. Tuapeka Lodge started sending some of it’s race mares north to Adlam. “Often I’d race them through the winter, time trial them and send them back to become broodmares.” Adlam trained good mares Raindowne and Wave Runner for Tuapeka, and with his family he visited Lawrence on a number of occasions. “We called in to see him not long after he’d shifted back to the farm and we took the kids down there because they were educated at a Catholic school. They couldn’t believe a priest could train and would ride horses around a farm. He always had an interest in the kids. This year Caitlin prepared a yearling for the sales and he came over and gave her a few pointers on how to lead the horse round the ring.” Adlam looked forward to getting a call from Dan every fortnight. “He knew what was happening breeding wise and what was going on in America. He was just brilliant.” For the last ten years Macca Lodge has looked after the Tuapeka Lodge broodmares in the spring. After the foals are born and the mares are served they all return to Lawrence. Stud master Brent McIntyre says he always enjoyed visits from Father Dan. “Dan was a straight shooter. He was a great thinker when it came to breeding. He’s done it for a long time so he was an interesting guy to have a yarn too. He would often think outside the square,” he said. McIntyre’s association with Tuapeka Lodge began in the early 2000s when he purchased Jamie (Albert Albert – Tuapeka Tango). Her pedigree goes back to Lumber Dream mare Mains Lady which is another family the Lodge has had great success with. “Both sides of their breed have done a hell of a job. There’s always been a superstar. The family has done a great job in making sure it’s gone ahead.” McIntyre says Dan had a special way with the mares and foals. “He was a great man to come round and inspect his foals especially in the first two weeks when (the mares) are really protective of their foals. But with Dan he’d just walk out in the paddock and say ‘woo stand’ and walk round them and inspect them. It was unreal. He’s the only guy I’ve seen doing that. He must have had a few old rodeo tricks up his sleeve.” However, according to Julie there was one mare he never quite mastered; “Maureens Dream. She was a very strong willed mare. For the ten or so foals she had she would chase the stud master out of the paddock. I remember she was at Peter Cowan’s at Mosgiel once. We told Peter not to go in there but he thought he’d go in on a bike. Well she chased the bike, he dumped it, jumped the fence and she kicked the bike. I remember going with Danny to Wai Eyre and he thought he was cocky enough to walk up to her but he didn’t go too close. So Brent may be right with most mares but not with Maureens Dream,” she said. One of the South’s great successes has been the Southern Bred Southern Reared group of breeders who collaborate to promote southern yearlings that have been prepared for the National Sales in Christchurch. McIntyre says Dan was an integral part of that group. “He going to be missed. He was like the wise old owl. Everyone would be away on a tangent and he would bring them back into line. He had a deep respect.” John and Judy Stiven from Arden Lodge in West Otago also had a close relationship with Father Dan. “We’re really going to miss him at Arden Lodge because when he was down this way he’d would call us from the ‘Koi (Waikoikoi) and say ‘I’m fifteen minutes away, get the billy on.’ “He liked Judy’s baking. He would have a yarn about this and that and then say he needed to get going,” Stiven said. Father Dan at Arden Lodge – Photo Judy Stiven John was one of the founders of Southern Bred Southern Reared and he said initially Dan wasn’t part of the group, but once he joined he really enjoyed the company. “He enjoyed working with a positive group. His experience doing banners on the website was great for us but he still liked to have his Tuapeka Lodge banners up first, and he’d always remind us of the extra hits his site got. One of his strengths was to listen and then sum up on everything that had been said. I guess he learn that by being in the Priesthood. He’ll be greatly missed by SBSR.” Over the last few years Tuapeka Lodge has reduced the numbers of mares the stud breeds, and Bloodstock agent John Curtin recently sold their last three race horses. The Stud is the longest continuous vendor at the National Sales in Christchurch and over its fifty five years of operation it produced an incredible ten sales toppers. 1977: Columbus (Bachelor Hanover – Sakuntala colt) $26,000 1979: Young Tala (Young Charles – Sakuntala colt) $20,000 1985: Tuapeka Direct (Smooth Fella – Sakuntala colt) $81,000 1987: Tuapeka Kay (Sooth Fella – Tuapeka Star filly) $180,000 1990: Ermis (Smooth Fella – Tuapeka Star colt) $34,000 1991: Kokona (Vance Hanover – Maureen’s Dream filly) $25,000 1993: Urrain (Vance Hanover – Marsa Star colt) $85,000 1994: Iraklis (Vance Hanover –Tuapeka Star colt) $88,000 1999: Lavros Harrier (Falcon Seelster – Marsa Star colt) $170,000 2008: Tuapeka Mariner (Christian Cullen-Seamoon colt) $250,000 “He got a huge delight out of seeing them well presented and well behaved,” Julie said of Dan who prepared most of the Tuapeka yearlings. Sakuntala (Armbro Del – Hindu Star) bought by Dan’s parents Cliff and Joan in 1974 from Templeton breeder Ted Graham was certainly the backbone to the stud’s success. Julie says Dan got a great thrill out of watching the many yearlings he prepared turn into outstanding racehorses. However in later years it was Bonnie Joan that held a special place for him. The Somebeachsomewhere mare won ten races; seven as a three year old and she earned $210,464. One of the most satisfying wins for the family was her winning of the 2017 Southland Oaks Final. Bonnie Joan and Dexter Dunn after winning the 2017 Southland Oaks -Photo Bruce Stewart. Julie Davie, Peter Cummings, Dan Cummings, Brent McIntyre, Sheree McIntyre and Jed Mooar – Photo Bruce Stewart Dan said after the win, “Even when she qualified on the grass at Balfour she seemed to be stronger. She’s got a great cruising speed and looks relaxed. The other feature she’s got is gait speed, and she doesn’t have to grind to get to the front. She seems to be able to do it, and then they leave her alone which is great.” “She’s the best filly we’ve raced in our own name,” he added. Dan was able to see Bonnie Joan’s first foal after he was born at Macca Lodge, and Julie said when the colt came home to the farm he was right proud. “He’s a cracker, just stunning and Danny was very very proud of him. I’m not on the farm, but he rang me and said the colt was a real beaut. He’ll probably be called Tuapeka Dan but we haven’t done that yet,” she said. Dan loved a feed of oysters and he loved to go skiing with the family. “Dan, Chris, Peter and Jim (their brothers) did like to go fast.” In his last days Fr Dan had many visitors. Along with other friends, the committee of Southern Bred Southern Reared called into the Lodge to say their goodbyes to him as did Brian West and the Whitelocks. “People round New Zealand came to see him in the end. They all had to go and see his foals. He was pretty proud of them,” said Julie. “Caroline, Brian West and I and a few other friends were lucky enough to go and see him a few weeks ago and spend the weekend with him. It was a very unique time to spend with him, just before the lockdown,” said Braeden Whitelock. “It was extremely difficult saying goodbye to him. He was just a lovely kind generous man.” said West. People from all around New Zealand are sad to say goodbye to Dan Cummings. He had a wonderful presence, and he made his mark in the best possible way on all those he encountered, no matter what the circumstances. We were all very fortunate to know him. Rest in peace Father Dan. By Bruce Stewart

Harness Racing New Zealand is working in collaboration with RITA and the other codes to enable a return to racing as soon as is practically possible. The first stage of this process is to design a racing ecosystem that reflects the likelihood that it will be some time before the Government brings New Zealand back to Alert Level One. In practice this means:  Animal welfare, along with the safety of industry people and the wider public, must continue to be paramount.  Racing on a public-excluded basis, as we were before going into the lockdown.  Racing will be conducted on a regional basis; this will see licensees unable to move between regions.  Harness racing will be limited to five to six venues for a minimum of three months to allow the strict enforcement of the necessary protocols under Alert Levels Two and Three.  HRNZ is consulting with clubs/regions on regional racing/venues and will advise the industry on the shape of this once those decisions are finalised.  At this early stage, HRNZ has a target of returning to racing at the end of May or early in June, but we stress there are a number variables that will affect this, the most obvious issues being when New Zealand moves out of Alert Level Four and what is deemed allowable by the Government under Alert Level Three.  Racing cannot resume until there is a sufficient pool of fit horses to enable this. Once we return to racing, the initial focus will be to provide weekly racing opportunities for the majority of the horse population. The draft plan is focussed on the period from June to September with further planning required to redesign the 2020/21 season. The HRNZ board has confirmed that any feature/group races that were due to be held from March 24th through to the end of the 2019/20 season will now not be run and nor will they be rescheduled. As previously advised, this includes the IRT Harness Jewels. The exception to this is those races administered by the New Zealand Sires Stakes Board; we continue to work with the NZSSB on options for the rescheduling to the next season the races/series that they administer. This was a very difficult decision to make, however it is important that we give trainers and owners some certainty as they make plans for their horses. There will be a need to reshape racing across all codes as we develop a clearer picture of what the full impact of COVID-19 will have on the TAB and subsequently funding to the codes. In light of this, HRNZ is vigorously reviewing all costs within the business, including employee/contractor payments. If you have not already done so, please ensure you are applying for the Government wage support for yourself and your staff – information available at the WINZ website or ctrl click on this link - Work and Income. A reminder that you and your staff can continue to access support from the Salvation Army Racing Chaplains (by phone). There is also support available by calling or texting 1737 free anytime, 24/7 where you can speak to a trained counsellor. We would like to take the opportunity to thank all of those involved in harness racing who have been so understanding and supportive or each other through these unprecedented times. Things are moving quickly and we recognise that it is imperative that we communicate as clearly as we can as the situation evolves. The HRNZ team continues to be available to anyone who has questions or suggestions.    Ken Spicer, Chair, & Peter Jensen, CEO, HRNZ

By Dave Di Somma    Like stables all around the country the Dickies have had to re-jig their operation in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Joshua Dickie though knows he’s one of the lucky ones. “We have the luxury of being able to jog them from home.” As the lockdown enters week two, trainers around the country have to adhere to guidelines as to what they can and cannot do. Those guidelines stipulate : “Trainers on their own property can continue to work their team and educate younger horses as long as the horses are already on the property and that no-one (employee, neighbour, friend etc.), has to travel to the property for this purpose” And that’s what Dickie is doing at Rosslands Stud just out of Cleveland in South Auckland where he trains with his father John. Together they’ve produced more than 200 winners headlined by their former trotter of the year “Speeding Spur”.   “It’s mainly early two year olds that we are doing at the moment” Though numbers have halved in the last wee while.   Dickie  : “At the moment we are doing 14,  10 days if not longer ago we had 28  horses so there are quite a few missing from the stable at the moment. Before the coronavirus hit the 2020 season had seen Dickie chalk up his 400th winner, on “Madame Connoistre” at Cambridge on February 9. Just when a return to the track will be possible is far from certain.   “We are finding plenty of ways to fill our time,” he says, “Netflix, Playstation even Monopoly  – we’ve got into that.” This is not Monopoly in the traditional sense, it’s Monopoly Deal played with a deck of 110 cards where players attempt to collect sets of cards representing properties of the original board game. While Alert 4 is unsettling, he is  thinking big picture. “Let’s just hope we can come through the other side and be a better nation for it.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

When All Black star Christian Cullen first met his equine namesake in the 1990s it was awkward to say the least. It was a choreographed rendezvous for the cameras and got a lot of coverage. But it’s fair to say Cullen, the fleet-footed fullback, didn’t have much of a clue. “Had much to do with horses?” he was asked. “Not much,” came the reply. But somehow there was a symmetry between two fine athletes, Cullen the rugby player who scored 46 tries in 58 tests and a majestic pacer that seemed unbeatable at times and was New Zealand harness racing’s biggest star.   Both had dazzling pace, and both brought the crowd to their feet. Trained by Brian O’Meara, Christian Cullen amassed over a million dollar in stakes and it would have been considerably more but for a series of leg injuries. Cullen had his first two wins with Peter Jones in sulky,  but it was  Ricky May (5 wins) and O’Meara’s stable foreman Danny Campbell (15 wins) who were his regular pilots.  In his stellar four-year-old campaign (1998-89) he won 12 from 12, including the New Zealand Cup, the Auckland Cup and the Miracle Mile. . In the 1998 New Zealand Cup May opted to drive defending champion Iraklis, only for 25 year old Campbell to guide the $1.90 hotshot to victory over his arch rival in what was then a record-equalling time (4:00.4). It was driver Campbell’s biggest moment. Tragically, he died five years later after being kicked in the chest while handling a couple of yearlings. Having earned over $1.2 million from 22 wins (31 starts) Christian Cullen was retired to stud, after running third in the Victoria Cup in January 2000.    By boom sire In the Pocket, Christian Cullen was a gun as a stallion as well. His progeny included New Zealand Cup winner Mainland Banner, as well as millionaires , Miracle Mile winner Christen Me and Stunin Cullen. In his prime he was the most sought after stallion in the country.  He also stood in the USA for a year though this was not as successful. In Canterbury, Christian Cullen stood at Wai-Eyre Farm and then Nevele R Stud. Now 25 he is enjoying life at Dancingonmoonlight Farm in North Canterbury, alongside dual New Zealand Cup winner Monkey King.   Tomorrow it’s D – and yet another legend of the sport.     Harness Racing New Zealand

Smart 5yo gelding Love The Blues will do his future harness racing in North America after being sold earlier this month. Love The Blues (Auckland Reactor - Delightful Lover) won impressively by 16 lengths on the 28th February at his first start for new trainer Steve Dolan over 2600m in a slick 3-12.2 a mile rate of 1-58.9 seconds, and then two weeks later backed that up with an even faster 1-57.2 mile rate over 1950m. Bloodstock agent John Curtin is thrilled with the way Love The Blues has been racing. "He will do a fantastic job over in North America. "The mile racing will suit him down to the ground," he said. Sire Auckland Reactor has been producing some good results recently and an interesting stat is that he is sitting third on list on the 5yo and older progeny ahead of top stallions Art Major and American Ideal. Love The Blues winning at Addington earlier this month. Smart Auckland Reactor gelding Baltimore Jack has also been sold and was on the flight along with in form mare Kendra and former All Stars Stables speedy 3yo Flying Even Bettor. Others shipping out were top trotter Valloria, Hereslookingatyou, Shadow Phantasy, Woman In Gold and Need Luck. In the month of March more than 40 horses were exported to Australia where harness racing is still continuing in a restricted capacity due to Covid-19. The Bathurst Harness Racing Club will play host to all meetings in the western zone of NSW due to an initiative from the governing body to contain the spread of the virus.  Prize money is starting to be reduced in some states of Australia with WA reducing prizemoney for all codes by 20 per cent from next Monday as coronavirus containment measures severely hit industry income.  Harnesslink Media

Dave Di Somma from Harness Racing NZ catches up with trainer Cran Dalgety who is currently in isolation in Auckland.   Harness Racing New Zealand

B = Borana It’s been called the biggest New Zealand Cup upset of all time. Borana, the rank outsider of the 14-strong field, produced a withering burst to win the great race in 1985 at odds of 76-to-one, in the hands of Peter Jones. It was his second New Zealand Cup win after earlier guiding Hands Down to a thrilling victory over Delightful Lady. It was one of two Cup winners his dad, the late great Derek Jones would train. The other was with legendary racemare  Blossom Lady in 1992. "It was a thrill to win with Hands Down in 1980," Peter Jones said at the time, "but to win today and also train the winner, well, I can tell you it's an incredible feeling."  Jones was just 30 at the time, and among those celebrating at Addington that day was his son Mark who would go on to become world champion in 2003 and is now a successful trainer in his own right.   The race had been billed as the “Clash of the Century” between hot favourite and Western Australian visitor Preux Chevalier and Roydon Glen (Fred Fletcher). Borana won by 1 ¼ lengths in a time of 4:11.1 with Our Mana second for the second year running after getting the 1-1. He was behind “Our Camelot” in 1984. An unlucky Roydon Glen ran third, ahead of Preux Chevalier, who broke early and then raced in the open. Bought for $2000 when he was just seven months old, Borana was raced by John and Doreen Murray. After starting racing as a two year old he finally retired five years later after having 126 starts in New Zealand, with 20 wins and stake-earnings of nearly $380,000. But it was that performance by a bolter called Borana at Addington in November 35 years ago that he will always be remembered for.     Harness Racing New Zealand

Thoroughbred racing is set to lag behind its sister codes when New Zealand racing finally gets the green light to return. The billion-dollar racing industry has been in lockdown like the rest of the country since last week and faces a rocky resumption even when restrictions are eased. Racing bosses in all three codes — thoroughbred, harness and greyhounds — are confident they can race safely, with strict protocols, if and when the country returns to Covid-19 alert level 3. That would obviously be without crowds but the problem for thoroughbred racing isn't the lack of people, it is the almost certain lack of fit horses. Confusion has reigned in the code since last week when the Ministry of Primary Industries initially ruled that training tracks could stay open for compliant trainers but then changed their mind. But in between those two decisions New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing put out its own conditions for training which were poorly written and saw many trainers and some track bosses think they had to shut down even though the MPI hadn't changed its stance. Some leading trainers had already decided to cease training but others wanted to continue. Once major training tracks like Cambridge closed all but a tiny percentage of the leading stables were automatically closed down. The latest NZTR recommendations suggest people can train at their own properties with people who live there (family or staff who reside on the property) but galloping or fast work is prohibited, although there is no clarification on how that will or can be policed. The spluttering shutdown means even if New Zealand returns to level 3 in late April and racing was technically allowed to go ahead the next day, there will be next to no horses ready to race. Racing's lost month after comeback Senior trainers yesterday estimated it will take at least a month for horses who are being walked, cantered or exercised on treadmills to get up to anything like race fitness. So the new trackwork and training restrictions leave the thoroughbred industry hamstrung to the point that racing may not resume until June even if the country returns to Level 3 by May. That is a month of lost income for not only most people in the racing industry, horse owners through stake money, the TAB through turnover and the Government through the taxes paid by racing, at a time the Government could probably do with very cent. When racing does return there are also grave fears among the thoroughbred industry as to how much money the TAB will be able to contribute to stakes as they have faced the double blow of racing being halted along side almost all sport, the latter a massive provider of revenue for the TAB. When thoroughbred racing resumes it could be with mini meetings of six races of small fields, all over shorter distances than usual because of the horse's lack of recent racing. It will almost certainly be restricted to zones, as most racing in Australia now is, to reduce travel and therefore risk of Covid-19 spread inside the industry. NZTR chief executive Bernard Saundry admits mistakes were made last week and with only a skeleton staff working on extreme pressure some are forgivable. But the trainers spoken to by the Herald yesterday are still largely confused by what lies ahead and are hoping for more direction as New Zealand gets closer to the first lockdown removal deadline, albeit aware that may be extended. Other codes better off Greyhound racing will be the easiest of the three codes to get back on track while harness racing looks set to be well ahead of thoroughbreds because the majority of harness horses are trained on private tracks. The rules sent out by HRNZ yesterday say trainers can work horses at their home properties as long as they don't use staff who live outside the property and working should be kept to half speed. While that will reduce race-ready fitness many harness trainers jog their horses for up to 40 minutes below half speed most days of the week anyway and because they are allowed to do that they could have them ready to race a week or two after a return to Level 3. And harness racing has the added advantage of racing on all-weather tracks so they can race at any level through winter, whereas once the wet weather sets in many galloping trainers will be reluctant to race their better horses. That could see a track like Auckland's Alexandra Park holding meetings as early as mid-May should the country revert to Level 3 when we all hope it does, even if those meetings are only six or seven races containing small fields. Michael Guerin Courtesy of the NZ Herald

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