Day At The Track
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It it is easy to make the mistake of thinking the All Star’s domination of Jewels Day is boringly repetitive. Just like last year the harness racing super stable --- surely New Zealand’s greatest ever of either code --- won five of the Jewels races at Cambridge.   The stats are hard to comprehend. Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained not only the five winners but seven other placegetters, including two trifectas. They have won nearly $4million in stakes in New Zealand alone this season and every group one pacing race for two and three-year-olds held in this country. But it was fitting the five winners wore four different sets of colours because while whether the All Stars monopoly is good for the industry is open to debate, the diversity of their winners is not. Each of the five winners has a different story of joy, battles won and lost and memories that will last forever. Here they are: Custodian, 2YO Ruby: Roddy Butt sometimes feels guilty about inheriting his grandfather’s racing colours. Because the red and gold silks of seven-time premiership winner Wes Butt deserve to be on show behind good horses more often. “But I chose a different career path so they don’t get shown off very often,” says Roddy, a former professional rugby player and now development officer. Roddy used and train and still shares in the ownership of Custodian so to see those colours he inherited 20 years ago win a Jewels race will forever be special. “When I asked Mark to wear them he was great about it and it means a lot to our family,” says Roddy. Partyon, 2YO Diamond: Jeff Wilson’s timing was perfect as usual. The face of New Zealand rugby broadcasting had a rare winter weekend off and spent some of it watching the Jewels with good mate John Hart. The pair are in the Breckon Farms syndicates which not only won with Partyon but the Victoria Trotting Oaks on Friday with High Gait. “There is nothing like owning a racehorse, even if you only have a small share,” said the dual international. “It is a different type of nerves from when you play because it is out of your control. “So John and I watched it and had a couple of wines to celebrate. “Then we started discussing why the All Stars are so good. They are like the All Blacks, they are the best but keep innovating to improve.”
 Piccadilly Princess, 3YO Diamond: As 50th wedding anniversary presents go, a Jewels win takes some beating. The Patterson boys from Christchurch are well known in harness racing, they run the Commodore Hotel where so many racing visitors to the city stay. But while some of them who own Piccadilly Princess were at their parents 50th anniversary, watching en masse in Queenstown, Thomas Patterson was trackside at Cambridge. “It is pretty special to have her win against those two other fillies, even if it means my Uncle Mike and I, who got us into racing, were a day late for the anniversary celebrations. “They all loved it down there, so I am sure they won’t mind.” More The Better, 2YO Emerald: Roy Purdon doesn’t get to the races as much as he used to. The legend of New Zealand racing -- how he hasn’t been knighted is baffling --- says the cold doesn’t agree with his arthritis. “But I watched it at home and loved it. I celebrated with a whiskey and water, mainly water these day,” laughs the 89-year-old. Roy has raced some great horses, including Sole Command, but this is his first group one winner in a long time.  “It’s special to race it with Mark (son) and see what they did yesterday. Mark is a superstar.”
 Heaven Rocks, 3YO Emerald:  He is very big, very fast and very dumb. But what Heaven Rocks lacks in experience, one of his owners makes up for. Kevin Riseley may live in Victoria but like so many Australian harness fans he loves having some of his horses trained here because of the standard of racing, trainers and the greater industry profile. “We love coming to the races here,” says Riseley, who also owns Inter Dominion champ Lennytheshark. He and dozens of Australians like him, are huge contributors to the yearling sales here, without which the whole industry grinds to a halt. Michael Guerin

The old trotting warrior Vulcan has run his last race after pulling up sore at the Oamaru Harness Racing Club meeting at Oamaru Raceway last Thursday. A star from the time he hit the track at three, Vulcan was brilliant winning the Harness Jewels at Cambridge at that age before going on to win most of the major trotting races on both sides of the Tasman in a career that spanned seven seasons on the track. Vulcan won the Harness Jewels for a second time at Ashburton as a four year old and from that point on was a constant threat in all the major races. Consistency would become his forte as he went through his career as he built up a record that places him right up there with New Zealand's best ever trotters. Vulcan reached the peak of the career in his 2013 campaign in Australia when he won four Group 1 races in the space of a fortnight including the heat and final of the Great Southern Star, Australian Grand Prix and the Knight Pistol. With the wear and tear of such a long and successful career affecting his performance in the last eighteen months, Vulcan had been under the care of Roddy Butt at the beach at Woodend from where he reached the $1,000,000 in earnings when winning at Omakau in January 2015. That saw him join a very select club of New Zealand bred trotters to have earned seven figures including such greats as Lyell Creek, I Can Doosit, Take A Moment, Stent and One Over Kenny  Subsequently he was transferred to the Amber Hoffman stable last October so he could take in racing in the Southland/Otago region where he could still be competitive.  Vulcan's career came to an end last Thursday at career start number 127 during which the son of Earl saluted the judge 20 times as well as placing on a further 45 occasions on his way to earning $1,025,892 in stakes. Harnesslink Media

The first of this season's non tote races for two year old trotters in the South Island was held at the harness racing meeting at Addington this evening and as expected a couple of the stock of Muscle Mass ran the quinella though maybe not in the order that most pundits had expected. The filly Willie McGoogan in the hands of part owner Matthew Williamson led early from barrier one as most of the rest of the field trotted rough or broke. The Roddy Butt trained Custodian had a short gallop early with driver David Butt letting him find his feet before settling third in the running line. Willie McGoogan looked to have them in trouble across the top but when Custodian was switched back to the passing lane in the straight, he quickly got on terms and was half a head to the good at the finish. Five and a half lengths away Eyrish Mist and Dexter Dunn held on well for third in front of another daughter of Muscle Mass in Needle. Roddy Butt was impressed with the effort from his inexperienced young trotter. " He has never galloped at trials or workouts but most of those around him were offstride tonight and I think he just reacted to what was happening around him." " After that he has trotted really well and it was a good effort to pick the leader up," Roddy Butt. Plans are in place for the gelding to take on the better two year old trotters later in the season but first he is due a short break. " If we don't give him a couple of weeks off now, then he won't get a break for the rest of the season." " I think he is good enough to be competitive against the good ones later on if I look after him now," Roddy said. Willie McGoogan was game in second and was fighting back strongly at the finishing line. Matthew Williamson was happy with the run but not so much his own drive. " She has done everything right and was coming again at the finishing line but maybe I have driven her a bit quiet." " I think if I had put the pressure on a lot further out, she may have won the race." " Having said that, Roddy's horse has gone great because we have got home in 28.1 off the front and he has come from off the pace," Matthew said. With a couple from the All Star barn going super at the trials as well as a Love You colt from the Paul Nairn barn, suggests that this years two year trotters division looks to have a lot of depth to it. Harnesslink Media

Prominent Canterbury harness horseman Roddy Butt has opted for a career change of course and is to put most of his energies into a challenging position as Rugby Development Officer for the major New Brighton club in Christchurch.

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