Day At The Track
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Greg Mitchell's journey into harness racing started through one thing. Value for money.   Twelve years ago Mitchell was a thoroughbred owner with "half a dozen" in work before his first venture at "the trots". A friend offered him a share in a claimer.   He can't remember its name, but he remembers he enjoyed the experience so much that he attended the 2007 APG sale and purchased a yearling.   Trained by Bruce Birch throughout his two and three year old seasons, the Ultimate Falcon colt was named Makin Dough.   He raced 15 times for Birch for three wins and eight placings including a second in the QBRED Breeders final at two.   Transferred to Grant Dixon when Birch stepped away from training, Makin Dough ended up winning 15 times in a 50 start career on his way to banking $85,000. Mitchell was hooked.   "It was a completely different experience from having gallopers," Mitchell said.   "The costs involved were far less and the horses raced more often which meant I became a regular at the trots.   "From a purely entertainment point of view there was no comparison.   "And the more you win, the more you like it," he said.   Nine years and countless wins later, Mitchell is one of Queensland harness racings biggest supporters and owns "about 60" horses.   "There is a band of 10 broodmares and I like to have 20 racehorses in work year round," Mitchell said.   "There is the yearlings and foals and I still buy going horses from New Zealand."   Among the New Zealand imports purchased by Mitchell, and to this day still trained by Dixon, include open class star Alleluia and champion local trotter Our Overanova.   The former won 31 races and over $500,000 while the latter has saluted the judge on 59 occasions and pocketed $480,000 since crossing the ditch.   Whilst those warriors have provided Mitchell with some huge thrills in years gone by, its two of his youngsters that are keeping his silks in the spotlight in recent weeks.   He's Watching winning The Meadowlands Pace   Exciting Mach Three filly Jasper has won four of her six career starts including the $100,000 QBRED final three weeks ago and powerhouse Hes Watching gelding Chamonix has won three of his past five and was a tragedy beaten in his $100,000 QBRED decider.   The pair clash for the first time in the $100,000 APG Brisbane final at Albion Park tomorrow night after clean sweeping last weeks heats, and victory in the final would be the highlight of Mitchell's racing career.   "It virtually started all those years ago at the APG sale so it would be wonderful to share in some of the spoils this weekend," Mitchell said.   "The draws haven't been kind to us that's for sure but I think we have two great chances."   Jasper is the $2.15 TAB fixed odds favourite from the inside of the second line while Chamonix is rated a $10 chance.   And like that first foray into the "forgotten" claimer 12 years earlier, its Mitchell's nous for value for money which leads to the origins of Chamonix.   "In partnership with Burwood Stud I purchased Toute Le Monde and immediately booked her to Hes Watching," Mitchell said.   "In fact, she went to him twice, the results being Chamonix and his yearling sister.   He's Watching p,2, 1:50f, 3, 1:46.4-’14 ($1,129,215)   "He was a stallion who was great value as far as we were concerned and there is little doubt we are very happy with the outcome thus far."   Hes Watching, standing at Tipperary Equine in New South Wales for the first time, is proving himself one of the best stallions in the world with only two crops of racing age.   He sits alongside Bettors Delight, Somebeachsomewhere and Sweet Lou as the only four stallions to be in the top 14 3yo sires average earnings per starter list in Australia, New Zealand and North America.   "Hes Watching is one of the stallions that adds depth to the Australian breeding industry, and he is proving that with results in both hemispheres," Mitchell said.   "I was more that happy to use him when he was standing for $6000, so when he was announced at $2500 and standing in New South Wales I made my bookings immediately.   "With the 150 mare limit introduced for this season I wasn't going to miss out, I'm certain he will cover a full book."   He's Watching - Set five track records and two world records from eight starts as a two-year-old   Like many others, Mitchell is quick to point out the advantages of breeding his Queensland based mares to stallions south of the border.   "A QBRED horse is eligible for $17,500 in bonuses and a New South Wales Breeders Challenge horse is eligible for up to $12,000," Mitchell said.   "Given the opportunity to be able to have horses dual bred and be eligible for both lots of bonuses makes it a logical business choice to capitalise on that.   "It adds great value to them if they are entered at yearling sales, and of course the size of the bonuses makes breeding, either to race or sell, a financial viable option which hasn't always been the case.   "I'm also impressed the stud did what no others will and set a non discounted service fee for the horse.   "He is heavily reduced on previous seasons to be exceptionally affordable for breeders yet still commercially viable to warrant standing him.   "Hopefully going forward there will be more studs to follow suit, because everyone wants the best price, and by setting a non discounted fee, everyone knows they are getting the best price.   "And one thing I've learned in 12 years as a harness racing owner, there is value for money, and it starts by breeding to good stallions at the best price."   Harnesslink Media

The American import He’s Watching (1:46.4), a former world champion and who now stands at Tipperary Equine stud, Young (NSW), sired winners in four different countries in the last fortnight! The two-year-old Chamonix, one of his second Australian crop, led the vanguard with his fighting win in the APG Brisbane Sales Graduate heat at Albion Park, his third success from 10 starts. The gelding will be among the leading fancies for the Group 1 $100,000 Final on Saturday night. To watch the replay of Chamonix winning click here. Another recent Australian-bred winner by He’s Watching was the three-year-old Illbewatching, a 1:58.8 winner at Redcliffe. He’s Watching has the amazing score of having sired 18 individual winners from 57 foals in his first Australian crop – a 30 percent strike rate. In New Zealand, He’s Watching was represented by the recent three-year-old winners Sophia Bromac (Addington) and Miss Impression (Invercargill). Hereslookinatyou, a NZ bred three-year-old filly, made it four wins from five starts in America when she scored at in 1:57.2 at Saratoga, New York. Other recent winners by He’s Watching in North America have been the two-year-old colt Saratoga Blue Chip (1:53.2) and the three-year-olds Kendall’s Cousin (1:55.4), Baywatching (1:55.6), Watch Me Boogie (1:55.8 and 1:56), Kat (1:56), Lil Screamer (1:58) and Shesaprivatedancer (1:59.8). Peter Wharton

TIPPERARY Equine studmaster and principle Luke Primmer has experienced a roller coaster of emotions over the last 48 hours. Firstly, the tingles of excitement and anticipation. This season Primmer will stand former USTA two year old of the year and Meadowlands Pace winner Hes Watching at his Young, New South Wales, stud. In a coup for Australian breeders, Hes Watching will stand his debut season at a heavily reduced service fee of just $2500. Hes Watching, who retired the equal fastest horse in history, has two crops of racing age and since his announcement as Tipperary’s flagship stallion, his results have been nothing short of mind blowing. And this is where Primmer’s roller coaster roll started. Hes Watching showed he has what it takes to be elite when his star son Tattoo Artist took the mantle as Canada's best with a 1.48.2 seasons record at Mowhawk in a $107,000 divison of the sires stakes. He is on his way to the $1m North America Cup eliminations on Aug 22 before the rich final a week later. Then today at Mowhawk, Saratoga Blue Chip, a 2yo from Hes Watching's 2nd crop made a winning 1.53.3 debut in a heat of the OSS. The same race Tattoo Artist made a winning debut 12 months earlier.  “It is amazing to watch the progeny of Hes Watching racing in Australia, New Zealand and also in North America,” Primmer said. “His first crop did a good job last season as two year olds but they have really came of age this time around.” “Tattoo Artist is a beast. He has won his last three and he just keeps getting better.” “He went 1.50 winning three starts back, 1.49.3 two back and then on Sunday he went 1.48.2... he is the fastest horse in Canada and he is yet to be challenged.” “Really does make the hair stand up on the back of my neck knowing that Hes Watching is on his way here!” Hes Watching goes into quarantine on Thursday for two weeks before making Tipperary Equine his home for the southern hemisphere breeding season. “The support he has received from breeders all over the country has been amazing with over 100 confirmed bookings,” Primmer said. “And it’s not hard to see why.” “He has the best 3yo in Canada, he is one of the leading sires of three year olds in both Australia and New Zealand and his two year olds are off and running and racking up the wins worldwide.” “New South Wales has been crying out for a stallion of the calibre of this guy.” “He was a champion racehorse and is now proving himself as sire of elite level performers.” “Given his unique breeding it has been a real eye opener to see the pedigrees of his best performers.” “He is a near perfect match for most Australian mares and this shows in how well booked he has been without even getting into quarantine!” Primmer said. While the impending arrival is filling Primmer with excitement, it is with a heavy heart. Tipperary Equine made its debut last season with Alta Christiano as the flagship stallion. Alta Christiano (Monte) was exceptionally well received by breeders and covered 160 mares but tragedy struck in March when he suffered a colic attack and was unable to be saved. “There is a lot of pain and sorrow,  but also amazing pride in watching the performances of Alta Christiano's progeny,” Primmer said. “Yesterday was one of those days.” “Ronaldo started the day with a solid front running display digging deep for a 1.53.5 Menangle win.” “Monte then reminded everyone why he was on his way to being on of the best stallions in the country when Alta Engen and Alta Blues went to war at Bunbury. What a race.” “On not only a personal level, but also as a harness racing fan, Monte's loss was tragic.” Thankfully for the industry, he has one more crop of foals on their way to remind us of his greatness for years to come.  Hes Watching has some giant shoes to fill, but his record to date is proof he may just be one capable of filling them.  

The progeny of former USA 2YO Colt of the Year and dual harness racing world champion He’s Watching 1:46.4 fifths ($1.1 million) are firing on all cyclinders in both hemispheres! In Canada, the talented He’s Watching three-year-old Night Watchman showed he is genuine candidate for the $1 million North America Cup with his second straight win in 1:52.2 at Woodbine Mohawk Park. To watch the video replay of Night Watchman click here. A number of He’s Watching’s babies qualified in Canada over the weekend. They included Watch My Beverage (1:57.2), Always Watching (1:57.6), Sono Bella (1:58), Siri Blue Chip (1:58), Socrates Blue Chip (1:58.2) and Winsun Gaga (2:00). On the home front, the brilliant He’s Watching three-year-old Watchmylips led most of the way to score at Launceston, his fourth success from six lifetime starts. To watch the video replay of Watchmylips click here. Chamonix, a two-year-old by He’s Watching, overcame a difficult draw and a torrid passage to post his first win at Albion Park, rating 1:57.1 over 1660 metres. To watch the video replay click on this link He’s Watching is now standing at Tipperary Equine, Young (NSW) of well known studmaster Luke Primmer. To refresh your minds of just how fast this horse was, watch this video below of He's Watching winning The Meadowlands Pace in 1:46.4 still the fastest mile ever at The Meadowlands. He had explosive speed with Tim Tetrick declaring that he is the fastest horse he has ever sat behind. Remember also that when He's Watching won the Meadowlands Pace he was only one month into his three-year-old season as he was a very late foal been born in June of his year.   Peter Wharton

A harness racing two-year-old filly to take high ranking in South Australia is Mostpeculiarmumma, one of the second crop sired by He’s Watching, who is now at Luke Primmer’s Tipperary Equine stud, Young (NSW). She has won two races and been twice placed from nine starts. She won the SA Ladyship Stakes at Globe Derby Park last weekend after leading, then handing up and sprinting strongly along the passing lane. She is a very smart youngster. To watch the video replay click here. Mostpeculiarmumma is out of Jane Crothers (2:00.7), an Armbro Operative mare whose dam, Memories Galore, is a half-sister to the SA Sires Stakes 2YO champion Tora Tora Rose. He’s Watching has left some promising sorts in Canada since the return to racing this week. Ozzie Magic, a three-year-old colt, and She’s Magic, a three-year-old filly, won at Grand River Raceway in 1:56 and 1:59.2 respectively. Peter Wharton  

There is no doubt covid-19 has left an indelible mark on the entire world. Firstly its shattering infection and death rate sent tremors through every country, no matter how big or powerful. Then came something equally as shattering... the economical trail of destruction. Like most businesses, harness racing was always going to wear financial implications. Already West Australia and New South Wales have applied 20% cuts to stake money and it is logical  to think other states will not be spared a similar fate in the not too distant future. Given everyone is or will be taking a financial hit at some stage, it is refreshing to see instances where people are willing to forgo for the long term health of an industry set to struggle through the foreseeable future. Last season Tipperary Equine was established by Luke Primmer at Young, with Alta Christiano the stallion tasked with the headline act. What an act he proved to be, serving over 160 mares as his progeny Australia wide racked up win after win. However, tragedy struck and Alta Christiano lost his battle with colic at the Wagga University in late March. Whilst Alta Christiano may be gone, his siring feats will be heralded in years to come with his 2020/2021 foals sure to dominate the headlines when they hit the track. Tipperary Equine's establishment was a breath of fresh air, especially for breeders in New South Wales, and it appears once again it is the stud that will be on most people’s minds this coming season. He’s Watching, who retired as the equal fastest three year old of all time, is the studs new headline act. This horse brings everything to the table. He was undefeated in eight two year old starts with a season’s best 1.50 to be named USTA 2yo of the year. He set his world record lifetime mark of 1.46.4 winning the million dollar Meadowlands Pace for three year olds, leaving horses of the llke of Always Be Miki in his rear view mirror. World record lifetime mark of 1.46.4 in The Meadowlands Pace He is a son of the great American Ideal and has bloodlines to dream of, he carries no fewer than four strains of the outstanding mare K Nora. He has the score on the board already as a sire, 15 winners in New Zealand and 16 in Australia this season alone. His first crop in Canada raced in 2019 and He's Watching sired the quinella in the Two-Year-Old $225,000 Ontario Sire Stakes Super Final with just the two starters in the race. The very good Tattoo Artist with Dexter Diunn driving for the first time, won from Examiner Hanover in a time of 1:52. Tattoo Artist has had 8 starts for 5 wins and a third for $240,405 in earnings. Here is that race. With his oldest progeny just three years of age, He’s Watching has plenty of upside. And he makes his New South Wales debut with a hugely reduced fee of $2500 inc gst.  “Obviously it was devastating to lose Alta Christiano, and to be honest, I couldn’t see us standing a stallion for some time,” Primmer said. “Horses like him don’t come along very often, he was well on his way to establishing himself as one of the best stallions in the country and I just couldn’t see how I would want to have a stallion that wasn’t in the same class as him”. “Then it became apparent the connections of He's Watching were interested in standing him at Tipperary and with a few conditions met a deal was done”. One of the “few conditions" was that He’s Watching would be made affordable to every breeder. “Coronavirus was destroying the world economy and given the amazing support breeders showed us last season it was essential we were able to offer those people a quality horse at a fee that was inline with what was happening around the world” Primmer said. “His northern hemisphere connections were very understanding, which was an amazing gesture by them to agree to setting his fee so low given he had over 130 foals standing at $6000 and then $5000 for his first four seasons down under.” “They are leaving a lot of money on the table to stand him in New South Wales this season, and I know the breeders will appreciate that.” “One of the things I have always been mindful of as a breeder is the discounts available to stallions for multiple mare bookings and the like.” “Not everyone has multiple mares to send to stud, and obviously we expect everyone is going to be doing it tougher this breeding season so we decided that everyone would be equal.” “The biggest breeder or the little one mare man, no one would be better off than the other with He's Watching.” “We cut his fee in half.” “He is discounted for everyone.” So whilst covid-19 is playing havoc around the globe, it has also given something back. The opportunity for breeders, big and small alike, to access a horse of the calibre of He's Watching, at an unheard of service fee and an equal footing for all breeders. Alta Christiano may be gone, but his replacement is just arriving.  

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