Day At The Track

Grayling bound for Australia

10:38 AM 30 Sep 2016 NZDT
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Sean Grayling.png
Sean Grayling

The continuing trend of junior drivers wanting to pursue their careers across the Tasman has hit again – this time with the North Island’s leading junior, Sean Grayling.

The 20-year-old, who has been with Barry Purdon for the last five years, will start working with New South Wales trainer Paul Fitzpatrick at his Camden Stables on October 10.

Grayling will leave Purdon on October 7 and will have his last New Zealand drives at the Auckland Trotting Club’s meeting later that night.

He said he was excited about the prospect of working in a new country. Grayling also liked the idea that there were up to eight meetings a week in New South Wales compared to one, maybe two per week, in the North Island.

Fitzpatrick is a top Australian harness racing trainer with experience dating back several decades. He is a member of the exclusive five-strong 'Harold Park Living Legends Club'. He also raced Australian Horse-of-the-Year Lombo Pocket Watch and currently works a team of 35 south-west of Sydney.

“I mentioned it to Paul in passing when I was over there with Sky Major and Start Dreaming in February. It’s something I have always wanted to do.

“Then Gavin (Fitzpatrick) rang me out of the blue last month saying one of their staff had left and the opportunity had come up.

“I’ve thought long and hard about it and I spoke to Dad (Tony) and Barry about the move and they agreed with my decision. I felt the time was right to do it. I came straight from school to Barry and Katrina’s and I have learnt so much working at their stable. I am forever grateful,” Grayling said.

Grayling, who has never driven better than what he has this season, looked destined to beat his personal best tally of 15 wins this season. He achieved his first driving double at ‘The Park’ on August 26.

But instead Grayling is now one of several New Zealand junior drivers who have made the move across the ditch in recent years, and one of dozens in years gone by who have preceded him.

More recently Joe Moka, Jacob Wallace, Dylan Ferguson, Fergus Schumacher, Shane Butcher, Nathan Purdon, Emmett Brosnan, Michael Purdon and Michael Blakemore are just some Kiwi juniors who have either departed these shores for Australia, and have remained there, or have returned.

Even Dexter Dunn did a stint in Australia and then returned home. Matty White went to Perth and stayed there so what does Hall-Of-Famer Purdon think of Grayling’s move?

“I’ll miss him when he’s gone but it’s something he’s been wanting to do for a while now. It will be good for him to experience something new especially now that he’s going to a very good stable.

“Sean thinks there will be a few more opportunities for his driving over there and I hope there is. He is driving well now and getting out on track more which certainly helps improve his driving. But this has been on his mind for a while now and it’s best he gets out of his system and gets over there and give it a real crack. He can always come home again,” Purdon said.

“Sean worked hard for us and I wish him all the best and hope he does really well,” he added.

Heading into this Friday’s (September 30) meeting at Alexandra Park. Grayling was the leading North Island junior driver this season with four wins and two seconds from 20 drives – two clear of Andrew Drake.

It was his best start to a season and even he admits it is going to be hard saying goodbye to ‘Northern Headquarters’ on Friday week.

“The junior claiming rule helped a little bit, and even though it was hard to get outside drives at Alexandra Park and Cambridge, it’s still going to be hard leaving Auckland. It’s all I’ve known really, but when I was in Australia I absolutely loved it,” Grayling said.

Grayling gets his chance to drive in his first Spring Cup on Friday night when he will steer the Purdon trained The Faithful. He also has a drive behind the Ray Darby trained Bro Fawkes S in the first race.

They were the two horses that provided him with his first and only ‘driving double’ last month.

“It’s an honour to drive in a big race for Barry. In fact driving in any race in his colours was big for me. The Faithful is so honest and you can never write him off.

“I am thankful for all the drives Barry has given me. I’m also thankful to Zac (Butcher) for his driving advice as well. You never stop learning at that place,” Grayling said.

The former Pukekohe High School student said he was looking forward to working with the Fitzpatricks' and their 35-strong team.

“I’m excited because it is something new and something different. The stable is only 15 minutes away from Menangle and that’s the top track in New South Wales.

“I really liked what I saw when I went over there. I’m going to another top stable. They have their own track as well. It will be a real learning curve there as well. I think the experience will do me the world of good,” Grayling said.

Grayling paid a tribute to all those who had supported him especially his father, Amanda Kiddie, and his sponsor who would continue to support him in Australia - John Harris from JGH Chartered Accountants.

Grayling has achieved 19 winners, 19 seconds, and 20 thirds ($177,411) from 187 starters since getting his licence in 2013-2014. His URD strike-rate is 0.1937.

 

Duane Ranger

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