David Butcher trained his first group winner in 24 years at Alexandra Park tonight (Friday) and then quickly deflected the praise on Sunny Ruby’s South Island trainer, Sam Smolenski. “All I did was put the colours on. The mare has only been with me 10 days and I haven’t done much really. All the hard yards have been done by Sam. All the credit goes to him,” the ever-modest Butcher said. The 52-year-old Waikato horseman drove Sunny Ruby a treat in the Group Two $40,000 Rosslands Lyell Creek Stakes Trotters Free-For-All. Sure they got the cosy trip, but it was Butcher’s timely drive that got the daughter of Sundon home in New Zealand record time. Sunny Ruby trotted the 2200m mobile in 2:42.9 – 1.8 seconds faster than Belle Galleon’s long-time New Zealand mares record set at Alexandra Park back in June 1991. The 5-year-old’s time was only 0.5 of a second outside Sheemon’s national record set in last year’s Group One Anzac Cup, also at ‘The Park’. The Group Two victory was Butcher’s first major training triumph since he and his late father John trained Abdias to win the Group One New Zealand Messenger Championship in April 1992. The father and son duo also trained Abdias to win the Group One Noel Taylor Mile and the Group Three Cambridge 4yo Classic that year. “I’m always thinking of Dad, but more so after tonight’s win. It was a bit special. It would have been nice to have his name in the racebook as well. I’m sure he was with me,” Butcher said. Butcher Senior passed away in early September after battling illness. The duo trained with 343 winners and won just under $2.5m in stakes since joining forces in 1989. Butcher provided Sunny Ruby with her 15th win in 52 starts and took her stake earnings past the $210,000 mark. They drew six and Butcher situated the mare in the trail behind Idle Bones and Brent Mangos. They were then three deep when Marcoola and Ken Ford took the lead at the bell. In the lane Butcher threaded his way through the pacemakers to win by three quarters of a length and a head from the 11th and ninth favourites - Belle's Son (Tony Herlihy MNZM) and Idle Bones (Brent Mangos). Sunny Ruby was the $22.70 sixth favourite. The trifecta paid a whopping $7,489.90. She trotted a 1:59.1 mile rate and came home in 58.4 and 30 even. Butcher said the mare would have four races in the North Island and then he would talk to Smolenski about her future. "She will have races at Cambridge on Christmas Eve and January 6 and in between them she will target the (Group One) National Trot here (Alexandra Park) on December 31. "She felt real relaxed before the start of tonight's race and at the time I didn't know if it was a good or a bad thing. She's a quality trotter and I'm just rapt to have her in my stable," said Butcher who works a team of eight at Cambridge. “She had to be good to come over the top of them in record time. I’m delighted for all the connections,” he added. Sunny Ruby is owned by Smolenski and Fred Fletcher, and was bred by the latter. The $1.35 favourite Marcoola would have lost no admirers after copping a flat tyre 100 metres into the race. He then recovered to finish a one-and-three-quarter length fourth after going around to the lead at the bell. Duane Ranger
The equation with Sunny Ruby these days is pretty simple, be patient and then be patient a little bit longer. Do that and the camp behind arguably the fastest trotter over 100 metres in the country is going to be a big force in any race she lines up in for the remainder of the season. Don’t do it though and you run the risk of things going wrong. “Not much seems to go right for us when we drive her different than with a sit,” trainer Sam Smolenski said. “But her speed is her best weapon so we better utilise it.” A stunning fresh up winner earlier in the season, Sunny Ruby went off the boil slightly in her next three starts but it was more Smolenski trying to figure out a few things than the horse not putting in 100 per cent. He changed her work schedule at home, increasing the tempo of her work which seems to be doing the trick. “I’ve been working her pretty hard, just to take that freshness out of her that can often see her get pretty keen. “We seem to be getting somewhere which is good.” Sunny Ruby put all her eggs in a row on Friday night at Addington when she burst over the top of Alley Way and Amaretto Sun to win the Group Three Canterbury Park Trotting Cup. It was vintage Sunny Ruby combined with a heady drive from Gavin Smith who waited until almost the last possible moment to get her into the clear before she charged to the line. Smolenski is looking at both Cup Week features with the mare and all going well she will contest both. He’s also got the advantage of the pull down blinds up his sleeve which he’s quite keen to keep in ice until the Dominion Handicap. Meanwhile, Jack Harrington’s short, but impressive, training career may complete another first this season. The rising star of the training ranks may make his North Island debut later in the season with his exciting trotter Hey Yo who was victorious again on Friday night. The Northern Breeders Trotting Stakes later on in the year is on the agenda for the deceptively fast wee trotter. “I’d love to take her up there, it’s a good option because there won’t be a lot down here for her at that time of the year,” Harrington said. “We probably won’t see her until Cup Day now, she’s had a pretty busy time of it so we will just take it easy and maybe look to a trial.” Harrington watched from the stand as Robbie Holmes handled the driving duties on Friday night and Holmes timed his run to perfection after copping a bit of a shuffle up the markers with plenty of lead changes. But once clear she stormed to the line to win with a plenty in store. Matt Markham
A victory at Addington’s premier meeting on Friday night may have just been the start of a good weekend for Sam Smolenski. The Weedons horseman will take a strong looking line up to Timaru today with three each way chances to follow on from the stunning victory in the Group Three Canterbury Park Trotting Cup of Sunny Ruby on Friday night. With four wins on the board this season from just 23 starts, it’s been a solid start to the term for the young horseman off the back of a breakthrough debut season in the training ranks. Today he holds strong chances with Don Pierre and last start winner Jonty James while Spinnaker could be an upset chance in an even looking line up late in the day. Don Pierre will go around in the amateur driver’s event after a valiant effort to finish second behind Easy Rider last Sunday at Oamaru. The former trotter has the services of well qualified reinsman Todd Woodward today which should see him given every opportunity to the grab the third win of his career. Jonty James broke maidens at his sixth career start last Sunday at Motukarara and although arriving in the traditionally tough C1 grade the Real Desire four-year-old looks more than capable of going back to back. “He’s got a few more wins left in him yet I think,” Smolenski said. Dexter Dunn will continue his association with the pacer today and with good manners once again there is every chance they may look to dictate terms from the front of the field and make everything else try and run them down. Spinnaker has been out of form so far this campaign but only returned to Smolenski’s stable after a stint with Graeme Anderson a few weeks ago. Drawn to do not work from one of the second line today might be the day for the speedster to recapture her best form. Smolenski will also have another strong hope on the float in Mikey Maguire who is trained by his grandfather, Fred Fletcher. The Mach Three three-year-old was an impressive third last week on debut behind the very talented Yankee Tara. Colin DeFilippi will take the drive on the gelding today in what looks a very winnable race based on the gelding’s debut effort. Brent White, who won a Super Series Final with Lindsay Castleton on Friday night, will also be looking for a strong day on what is now, effectively, his home track. He lines up debut runner, Trouble Giero who heads to the races unbeaten in two appearances. Purchased from the stable of Michael Heenan after qualifying at Ashburton at his first time away from home the son of Great Success then won a grass track workout at Orari last weekend. Expected to benefit from the experience, Trouble Giero has without doubt the talent to win on debut. Stephen McNally will take the drive. McNally is also on board White’s other runner for the day, Run To Hide. A last start winner at Rangiora courtesy of an absolute peach of a drive from McNally, the well tried pacer seems to be enjoying life at Temuka and with the right run again will be a major player. Super Selector - By Matt Markham Race 1: Trouble Giero, Another Chapter, Shona Mary, Anse Vata Race 2: Don Pierre, Waihemo Art, Onedin Highlander, Bettor Backim Race 3: Likely Jereme, Fatima Siad, Linda’s Cullen, Nimisha Franco Race 4: Beaudiene Delightful, Beautiful Mind, Maw Of A Woman, Delishka Race 5: Black Regal Princess, Happy Heidi, Run To Hide, Ballymore Boy Race 6: Mikey Maguire, Micky Flynn, Willedu, Cobra Banner Race 7: Ella Abbe, Debaneyre, Solar Storm, Redwood Invasion Race 8: Jonty James, Danny Del Vito, Hard Day’s Night, Precious Sara Race 9: Hopes And Dreams, Mighty Empire, Gotta Del, Jewelz Best Bet: Mikey Maguire (Race 6) Value: Likely Jereme (Race 3)
Woodend based trainer and advanced amateur driver Miranda Hallett had 3x the number of reasons to celebrate last night after she was successful behind Tufflittlerooster. Not only did Hallett train and drive the 5yo Live Or Die gelding she also lease’s him. Drawn nicely in barrier 3, Miranda quickly had her charge in front where she was able to rate her drive to absolute perfection. While amateur racing is widely known to be run at fast speeds, Tufflittlerooster was able to get away with cheap sectionals thanks to the unusual lack of attackers. Striding down the back in 29.5, Tufflittlerooster always looked to have plenty in the bag winning by a nose over Red River Lochee (John McDermott) with ½ neck back to Cimarron (Wayne Low) in 3rd. The overall time of 3:16.6 and mile rate of 2:01.6 further kicked home how well the winner was rated by Hallett and the fight shown by the well named Tufflittlerooster should see these two visit the winners circle again. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Sunny Ruby and Sam Smolenski continue their path towards the Cambridge Jewels with a handy win in last night’s feature trot. Kept away from the Rowe Cup, Smolenski has kept his star mare ticking along down south. Known for her incredible high speed, Sunny Ruby looks the main danger to superstar trotter Monbet at the Jewels and is likely to start 2nd favourite. A comfortable winner by 1 ¼ lengths last night in a handy field, the 4yo Sundon mare cut out her last 800m in 58.2 with the last 400 in a slick 27.8. While from her 40m back mark she trotted the overall 2600m trip in 3.18. Le Lievre’s Gift finished runner up for trainer/driver Jim Curtin, with a further 5 ¾ lengths to Arran Chief in 3rd place for another trainer/driver Andrew Faulks. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Ray Green caused one of the upsets of the night when his smart 2yo Art Major colt Vasari won heat 3 of the Garrards Sire Stakes Series no33. Driven aggressively by David Butcher from a wide barrier draw, Vasari found himself in front after 400m and Butcher was able to dictate as he does best. With Mark Purdon launching More The Better around the field to find the parked spot at the 1000m, these two talented colts went to war, cutting out the last quarter in 26.7. Butcher was at his absolute best, stealing a cheap 31.2 quarter between the 800 and 400 which ultimately set up his 26.7 quarter and the winning of the race, being able to hold More The Better out by a head. Mongolian Storm finished 3rd beaten 2 ¼ lengths with a further ¾ lengths back to the 4th placed Pacing Major. Paying $10.10 and $2.30 on the tote, Vasari got value punters off to a great start and with Golden Goddess causing the major upset of the night, punters who love to stay away from the short prized favourites would have been laughing to themselves. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Golden Goddess and Michelle Neilson provided the most unexpected upset when they won heat 7 of the Nevele R Fillies Series by 3 lengths. While not a surprise to see an All Stars runner winning by such a large margin, it was the fact that the 3yo Art Major filly, owned by Merv and Meg Butterworth beat previously unbeaten and highly talented Dream About Me. Sent forward by Neilson, Golden Goddess was another allowed to dictate in front and with sectionals of 56 and 25.9, she was never in doubt. While beaten into 2nd and never looking likely, Dream About Me would have lost no admirers considering she was first up for 8 weeks and likely to improve off the back of a sharp 1950m event cut out in 2:22.4, with the last mile recorded in 1:57.4. The next up assignment for both fillies and Vic Oaks winner Piccadilly Princess is the Nevele R Fillies Series Final on the 14th May. These 3 smart fillies are set to clash 3 times over the following 5 weeks. There doesn’t appear to be much between the fillies with draws likely to dictate the result. Andrew Fitzgerald
The harness racing trials at Rangiora Raceway today were full of quality bloodstock, especially in the qualifying and juvenile heats that were run. It is hard to comprehend how the juvenile fields have been so small this season and races unable to be held when you witness the depth of talent on show today. Star Qualifiers Heaven Rocks - 3 year old gelding by Rock N Roll Heaven from Mendecilo Purchased out of the APG Melbourne sale in 2014 by Kennard Bloodstock, Heaven Rocks produced a qualifying run right out of the top draw. Settling fourth for Tim Williams, Heaven Rocks was still there at the 800 metres but then unleashed a final 800 metres of 55.2 and a 400 metres of 26.8 (privately timed) to flash past them late for an easy win. His overall time of 2:29.5 for the 2000 metres from the mobile equates to a mile rate of 2:00.2 and was nearly seven seconds under qualifying time. The run of Heaven Rocks overshadowed the smart performances returned by both One Big Fella (Mister Big - Killarney) and Donegal Rundlescreek (Bettors Delight- Boyd's Creek) who finished second and third and who both look capable of winning a race at short notice. Don Pierre - 4 year old by Diedre Don from Paris Belle Don Pierre was successful twice back in October as a pacer but lined up today in the qualifying heat for trotters and put up a performance that suggests he has a big future in the trotting ranks. He trotted away safely for trainer driver Sam Smolenski who immediately set a tempo not often seen in a qualifying heat for trotters. The further they went, the further Don Pierre went clear and he eventually stopped the timer for the 2600 metres at 3:25.8, a mile rate of 2:07.3 which is nearly 14 seconds under the required time. The official winning margin was 20 lengths and Sam let him ease down the last bit which explains the 31.6 last quarter. Don Pierre looked to have a bit in reserve in our view at the finish Sam Smolenski enjoyed some success earlier in the season with Don Pierre's full sister Paris Princess who won four races in a short space of time before being sold to North America and Don Pierre looks to have the ability to follow in her footsteps. Vincent - 2 year old colt by Art Major from Kept For Pleasure A $130,000 purchase out of the 2015 APG Sydney sale by longtime All Star client, Jean Feiss, Vincent showed today that he has the talent to go with the price tag. Allowed to settle back in the field by Tim Williams, Vincent was still near last last on the final bend. Eased to the outside, he just went straight past them for an outstanding win over a couple of more than handy two year olds. Vincent cut out the 2000 metres in 2:32.5, a mile rate of 2:02.6 with his closing sectionals a very quick 55.3 and 27 and he ran through the line really strongly. Ready To Fire - 2 year old filly by Somebeachsomewhere from Fight Fire With Fire A $37,000 purchase by Graham Rogerson at last years Australasian Classic Yearling Sale, Ready To Fire looks the part and has the motor to go with it. Allowed to settle in midfield by Tim Williams, she quickly ranged up to them on the last corner and then proved too strong in the run to the line. Ready To Fire paced the 2000 metres in 2:30.3, a smart mile rate of 2:00.9 while her closing sections were 57.2 and 27.9. Delightful Memphis - 2 year old filly by Bettor's Delight from Memphis Melody A $46,000 purchase at the 2015 New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale by Wayne Higgs, Delightful Memphis lined up in a nine horse maiden heat today. Mark Jones was content to sit last with her the whole way before unleashing her as they turned for home. She just swept on by for an emphatic win that stamped her as a filly of real ability. She paced the 2000 metres in 2:30.4, a mile rate of 2:00.9 and we timed her over her last 800 metres in 57.4 and 27.6 and she seemed to do it with plenty in reserve. Already the subject of a six figure offer, Delightful Memphis is targeting the next Young Guns heat at Alexandra Park on March 4th. Mr Kalypso - 2 year old colt by Art Major from Kalypso A $90,000 purchase at the Sydney Apg Sale in 2015 by Mark Purdon, Mr Kalypso only ran fifth in his heat today but it was a top effort and stamped him as a colt to watch. Caught behind a tiring runner at the 600 metres,Mr Kalypso lost contact with the leading group but at the finish he was right up with them again,making up a lot of ground late. We timed him to run his last 800 in 56.9 and 400 metres in 27 even and Tim Williams was letting him do it under his own steam. One to watch where ever he goes. Harnesslink Media
Harness racing trainer Sam Smolenski is a newcomer to the training ranks in New Zealand but it hasn't taken him long to chalk up his first training win. Last night in the maiden 1950 mobile trot at Addington Raceway, Sam had two runners and both were well supported in the market. Paris Princess and Gleneleven were both given a big rap by Sam when he spoke to Harnesslink earlier on Friday. Sam thought they were both in the right shape to win if things went their way but found it hard to favour one over the other. As the gate went, Gavin Smith sent Paris Princess forward with purpose but it took him nearly 400 metres to grab the lead from Dragon Sun. Gleneleven in the meantime had gone off stride out wide and took little further part in proceedings. After the early burn, Gavin was able to button off the speed with Paris Princess and got away with a couple of cheap quarters. The warm favourite Cuddly Jess with Jonny Cox in the bike had worked forward to the death seat outside Paris Princess with a lap to travel and it was clear a long way from home that these two would fight out the finish. Paris Princess started to really up the tempo from the 500 metres mark and although Cuddly Jess stayed with her, Paris Princess had her covered in the home straight. Paris Princess trotted the 1950 metres in 2:30.5 with closing sectionals of 60 and 28.8. One group who were more than happy with the result was the TAB who had taken several large four figure bets on Cuddly Jess. Training trotters is a specialized part of harness racing but Sam's mentor Fred Fletcher has long been recognized as one of the best exponents at it in New Zealand and Sam seems set to follow in his footsteps. Harnesslink Media
One of the newest harness racing trainers on the New Zealand scene is Sam Smolenski who to date has only lined up three runners since taking out a trainers license late last season. On Friday night at Addington Raceway, Sam has two runners engaged in the maiden mobile trot over 1950 metres. Paris Princess, to be driven by Gavin Smith has drawn nicely at barrier five and although the form line may look a bit bleak, there is no doubting the ability. The daughter of Diedre Don won a recent trial at Ashburton over 2400 metres in a smart 3:08.9 with terrific closing sectionals of 57.7 and 27.7 and if she was to bring that form to Addington tonight she would be incredibly hard to hold out. Sams other runner is Gleneleven who has drawn barrier seven and is to be driven by Blair Orange. A smart second on debut, Gleneleven looked out of sorts at his next start at Rangiora in the slush last Sunday, breaking early and again in the home straight which ended up in him being disqualified. With the aid of the mobile the son of Monkey Bones rates as a big winning chance tonight. Sam found it hard to separate the pair when speaking to Harnesslink earlier today. " I am expecting a big run from both of them tonight and there is not that much between them at this stage." " Paris Princess will really appreciate the mobile." " She just doesn't concentrate when in standing starts but she will be fine behind the mobile and I would be surprised if she galloped tonight." " Gleneleven had an issue in his neck at Rangiora, getting on one rein the whole way and that is why he broke." " I have had him treated post race and his work this week has been great so I am expecting him to go a big race tonight." "Long term I think Gleneleven will be the better of the two horses and I think he will go a fair way," Sam said. With any kind of luck, Sam looks a big chance to have his first winner as a trainer in race 1 at Addington tonight. Harnesslink Media
One of the more promising trotters recently on the harness racing scene in Canterbury is the Kevin Fairbairn trained Commander Paris. After breaking at his debut, Commander Paris had strung together three second placings which suggested a maiden win was at hand when he lined up in the Robbies Bar and Bistro trot at Addington Raceway tonight. (August 22nd) Away well from barrier 12 in the 2600 meters standing start race, driver John Dunn worked Commander Paris forward towards the lead but took nearly 800 meters to find the front. No sooner had Commander Paris reached the lead with 1800 meters to go than Diedrez Pearl and Sam Smolenski who had followed him through applied the blow torch to the leader. The two of them eyeballed each other for the next round with each quarter being covered in 30 and change and neither driver yielding an inch. As they reached the home corner Commander Paris finally shook off Diedrez Pearl but was instantly challenged by Davey's Gift on his outside and Ethelsville on his inner and just when you thought he would yield, he dug in like a smart horse and held on for a head victory over Davey's Gift with Ethelsville a further head away in third. It was an outstanding win in the circumstances and suggested Commander Paris has a big future in front of him. Commander Paris trotted the 2600 meters from a stand in 3:23.6 with closing sectionals of 60.3 and 29.8 By The Royal Troubador sire CR Commando, Commander In Paris is the fourth foal and the fourth winner from the Safely Kept mare in Paris Metro. The Pearl of Paris ($56,887) Palais Royale ($30,864) and Sundown In Paris ($25,087) have all done a good job to date for Paris Metro and Commander Paris looks capable of adding to that this season They really should show ability at the trotting game as their dam Paris Metro was a quality trotting mare in the early 2000s winning $120,606 on the track. Harnesslink Media
Harness racing reinsman Sam Smolenski has good and bad news for the connections of his arch-rival Blitzthemcalder in the ultimate two-horse race at the Harness Jewels on Saturday.
What a difference a week can make in harness racing. Last week after virtually pulling himself into the ground, Royal Aspirations finished 82.4 metres behind Blitzthemcalder in the Great Northern Trotting Derby.
That man Fred Fletcher has done it again. Thanks to a wonderful drive from his grandson Sam Smolenski Fletcher has claimed yet another Group Two harness racing event.
You know you're talking about a pretty special horse, when the driver tells you he is nowhere near his best after having just won a $75,000 race. That was the case with Royal Aspirations and Sam Smolenski after taking out last night's (Thursday February 28) harness racing feature at Addington, the PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales Series Trotters Final.
Today (Friday February 8) the harness racing community mourn the loss of one of the industries greats. John Joseph (Jack) Warren Smolenski sadly passed away last night (Thursday February 7) at Diana Isaac retirement home aged 78 after a series of strokes.
Royal Aspirations not only broke the New Zealand record in today's (Saturday June 2) harness racing Group One $100,000 Mitre 10 Cambridge Ruby for 2yo trotters, he absolutely obliterated it. The Monarchy colt stopped the clock in 1:56.5 - beating Flying Isa's national record of 1:59.3 set last year.
The rocky road to success got a little less bumpy for the connections of Jinja Gal when the former Two Year Old Harness Jewels Ruby winner made her way back into the harness racing winners circle at the Banks Peninsula Trotting Club meeting held today (Sunday November 28).
Training legend Fred Fletcher and his junior driver grandson Sam Smolenski kept in the family when they combined their talents to score an upset win with Jinja Gal in the $100,000 Gr 2 Seelite Windows and Doors 2YO Ruby Mobile Trot (1 mile) at Ashburton today.