Chris Lang Harness racing closed it's doors for the last time with the retirement of Chris and Sharon. End of an era in Australian Harness Racing!
The weather in Australia may be getting colder in May but the racing
calendar certainly starts to warm up, especially for the juvenile trotters.
She's An Image, last seasons premier 2 year old filly went on the road to
Sydney to contest the NSW Trotters Oaks (Group 1) on the 19th. It was a
gruelling 2400 metre journey on the expansive Menangle track and "Immy" had
to dig deep to win. She was aided by a brilliantly executed tactical drive
from Chris Jnr and in winning she became the fourth winner of the NSW Oaks
prepared by the team Lang at Nagambie in the last 7 years. The replay can be
You can never rest on your laurels for long in Harness Racing as there is
always another race to try and win and only seven days after the "Oaks" was
the running of the Group One NSW Trotters Derby. This was a race we had
won twice before and interestingly enough with 2 fillies, Jauriol (2005),
and Right Interest (2006). This year though we had set our favourite 3 year
old boy, Aldebaran Shades for the event. Shades had won 2 lead up races
during May in preparation for the Derby, and didn't let us down on the
night. Well driven again by Chris Jnr, he coasted to quite a comfortable
win, and made it 2 Group Ones in 8 days for the stable. You can view the
Also run in May is a race close to my heart, the "Sundons Gift" FFA, a Group
3 event. First run in 2010, to honour the stable champ, "Bernie" who
incidentally won it himself last year, (a big thrill to win his own race).
This year it was with great satisfaction we watched our problem horse,
Aleppo Sunrise win. A satisfying result on many levels. Dealornodeal also
won a city class race at Melton and I See Icy Earl put up a terrific
performance to run 3rd in the Group One Vicbred Final for 4 year olds.
The horses were not the only ones travelling in May though, Sharon and
I also racked up a few miles in the sky as well. The last Sunday in May
is also the most significant date on the Swedish trotting calendar, as every
year that is when the internationally acclaimed, "Elitlopp" is run. When
Sundons Gift was lucky enough to get an invitation to the 2009 running, we
had no idea what a fantastic carnival it was and how it would change our
lives forever. After learning so much the first time around, we decided it
was time for a refresher course. Swedish trainers are considered the best
trainers of trotters in the world so we took the opportunity to spend a few
days with Ake Svanstedt, the number one trainer in Sweden. He has an
unimaginable 200 trotters in training so the scope of the overall
operation is incredible for us in "Aus".
After the "Elitlopp", we then flew to France to train with one of the
leading French trainers, Anders Lindquist, who trains at Grobois,
the harness racing training centre in Paris. In depth accounts of both, Ake
and Anders' operation can be found in the Europe news on our website. A high
point of our time in France was having lunch with the legendary, and
internationally acclaimed, french horseman, Jean Pierre Dubois, who actually
likes watching our trotters when our races are telecast over there. Overall
the trip was a great learning experience and, hopefully we can put into
practise some new and productive methods and continue with more Group One
March and April have been a very eventful time, which has seen the rise of
(hopefully) a future star (Aldebaran Shades), and the official retirement of
our grand trotter, Sundons Gift. "Bernie" as Sundons Gift is known to his
friends had his send off on the 23rd March at Harness Racing Headquarters,
Melton. This was an important night for the square gaiters as it was the
running of the rapidly evolving Breed For Speed Finals night. Bernie retired
the fastest trotter ever in this part of the world (1.54.3), and the richest
ever trotter from Australia, winning 41 races with stakes of $1,274,000. We
are sure going to miss him.
In all there were 6 trot races up for decision and Team Lang were able to
win 4 and finish 2nd and 3rd in the two others. The night started well, Class
Of Her Own was successful in the Bronze Final for TO class trotters. She
went on to win a further 2 races in April, including a heat of the rich
Vicbred Sires Series. She's An Image was successful in the Princess of Speed
for 3 year old fillies, making it 4 wins from 4 starts this campaign and
will now be aimed at the Group One features in the coming months.
Aldebaran Shades made a one act affair of the Prince Of Speed for 3 year old
colts and geldings, leading all the way and then Amelia Darling rounded out
the quartet when leading and putting in an authoritative performance to win
the Silver Final.
Dealornodeal who has been a revelation since crossing the ditch from the
Graeme Rogerson harness racing stables in New Zealand, was unlucky running
2nd in the Gold final. The start before she was triumphant in the inaugural
Girls On Fire Time Trial series at Bendigo setting a new Australasian speed
record for mares running an amazing 1.55.5 over the flying mile.
Coincidently breaking the great Scotch Notch's record which had stood for 26
years, she in turn had been trained by Chris's father, Graeme. We are not
sure if Graeme was happy or not !!!
When Dealornodeal became the fastest female trotter ever in this country,
she completed an amazing treble for the stable, insofar as this meant that
the fastest stallion, Skyvalley was trained by us, Sundons Gift, the fastest
gelding and completing the trio, Dealornodeal. Deal reconfirmed her status
as the best current female trotter in Australia when she won the Group 2, La
Coocharacha at Coolamonon on Anzac day.
Victorian Horse Of The Year Awards.
And the Winner is ....
26 October 2011
Each year, individual awards for our equine heroes, always creates a lot of interest. Some categories can have what appear to be clear cut winners whilst other categories are very hard to call and cause many spirited arguments, both for and against. This year we had both.
Our stable was fortunate to have four horses nominated in four different categories. Our two headline trotters in Sundons Gift and Let Me Thru in the aged trotter category. Aldebaran Shades in the Two Year old Male category and Class of Her Own in the Three Year old Fillies division. Aldebaran Shades was successful in what I would have thought, a clear cut win, and the "old boy" Sundons Gift edged out the new "gun" Let Me Thru in what must have been a very close contest. So bragging rights for now belong with Bernie.
It was a significant win for Bernie as it meant that for the fourth year in a row, he was judged best Victorian trotter, a feat that has never been achieved before in the history of the sport, another first for the horse that is rapidly building a CV incomparable to any other, and another reason why he can lay claim to being the best trotter "ever" in Australia
Ridden Trotters !!!! What the #@!!...
22nd October 2011
The 22nd of October 2011 was a significant date in harness racing in Ballarat Victoria as it was the 150th anniversary of the first meeting held there. To help celebrate and to make the event more memorable the Ballarat Club decided to have an event for "ridden" trotters. This was how many horses raced in the early days and even competed in the same race against horses that were driven. These events for ridden only horses are common in Europe and are known as "Monte" races, (meaning mounted). Simply put, instead of attaching a sulky and driving the horse in a race, you put on a saddle and ride them.
In our travels to Europe in recent years we have been lucky to witness first hand the broad appeal and interest that these events generate. Looking ahead it is our belief that "Monte" racing should be a permanent and regular fixture on race days. In France, for instance, one in four races are Monte races. These ridden races attract participants that may not be as interested in driving but love to compete under saddle and any extra participation can only be beneficial for the whole industry.
With this belief, we hooked up the float on a chilly Saturday evening and made the 3 hour journey to Ballarat. We had 2 horses engaged, Kyvalley Mac and Aldebaran Illusion. As Junior was suspended from driving a few days before the event it meant I would have the honour of riding Kyvalley Mac. As I had not been riding for about the last ten years, or more, I was not in the shape that the overseas Monte riders are and if you view the replay you may notice that my condition gave out before Kyvalley Mac's.
The race created an amazing amount of interest on the night and was considered an overwhelming success. This success has paved the way for further development and we will be doing our best to advance the concept at every opportunity. Our horses went very well considering they had only been ridden about 6 times each and were able to finish 2nd and 3rd in what was a keenly contested race. You can view it HERE Race 3. After watching the replay though I think I will stick to driving!!!!
SUNDONS GIFT - Another chapter in the amazing career of...
16th Sept, 2011.
Just when we thinking that as a now 10 year old, Bernie had done it all, he again amazes us. For the fourth consecutive year Sundons Gift has been voted the "Australian Trotter of the Year". A feat never before achieved. His latest accomplishment highlights that he is not one of the greatest trotters ever in this country........ but THE greatest trotter we have ever known (in my opinion).
In this day and age when a lot of horses careers are shortened by the emphasis being placed on juvenile racing, not a lot of horses get the opportunity to develop naturally to reach their full potential at 7, 8 or 9 years of age, which coincidently have been Sundons Gift's best years (to date). This mentality, I believe, is short sighted and as an individual and trainer, I would much prefer to see less emphasis on 2 and 3 year old racing and more emphasis being placed on 4 year old racing and beyond. We only need to look at examples of this overseas where in Europe the industry prospers (aged racing) and in the US (juvenile racing), the industry struggles. Sundons Gift's own career is a great example.
It would be interesting to know how close the voting was for this title, considering Let Me Thru also had a great season and must have come close to snatching the title from the "Old Boy". It will also be an intriguing battle for Victorian Trotter of the Year, so stay tuned.
Another season comes to a close and on reflection it seemed a bit of a mixed bag but I suppose this is true for every season. Overall we trained 65 winners, with a winning percentage of 27%, and a whopping 60% strike rate for finishing in the top four, considering the amount of times we have 2 and 3 runners in a single event, I think this is a great stable effort. Amongst the 65 wins were some amazing performances, again, our stable hero, the evergreen and seemingly timeless, Sundons Gift, kept the stable in the limelight in the first half of the season before his heir apparent, Let Me Thru stepped up and took all before him in the second part of the season.
Before we start with individual performances, the stable achieved some pretty significant milestones through the year, namely training the winners of every Trotting Grand Circuit event in Australia, (5 in all), which in my opinion will be a very hard act to follow. For the third year in a row, we were the leading metropolitan stable on stakemoney earnt, which considering we only train trotters, so can only compete in about 20% of the total races is pretty amazing. We trained 6 Group One winners for the season and when the season closed the stable had the honor of having not only the two highest ranked trotters in Australia but also the number one ranked 2 year old trotter in Aldebaran Shades.
Sundons Gift continued with his devasting form through the first part of the season when in only a 4 week period won the NSW Trotters Mile in the fastest time ever trotted in the Southern Hemishere, (1.54.3), taking a whopping 1.8 seconds off the previous mark. Two weeks later he won the Bill Collins Sprint and did so running the fastest last 800 metres ever trotted "Down Under" in (56.1). Then just to prove his immortality in this part of the world, one week later and for an incredible 4th year in succession, he triumphed in our premier race , the Australasian Trotting Grand Prix. All three races were at Grand Circuit level and meant he would also be crowned Australasian Grand Circuit Champion for the second year running. Then after being scratched from the Inter Dominion series when he contracted a virus, he was able to bounce back in June and win his own race, the "Sundons Gift" FFA. In the years to come it will be nice to see his own name on the honour roll for the race named in his honour.
Not to be outdone by the "older" statesman, the young gun "Let Me Thru" returned from a spell after his 4 year old Breeders Crown victory in devastating form. Even though he was competing against the older more seasoned horses for the first time in his career, he showed he was up to the challenge and after 5 months off the racetrack was able to win his first 8 starts. These wins included the Australasian Trotting Championship and the V L Dullard Cup, both Group 1, Grand Circuit events. Very rarely does a horse make the transition to elite level racing so quickly and with the authority that he did. Such was his amazing transition that to win the Dullard Cup, he was able to beat Sundons Gift. The full story on the "clash" can be read in our news section, dated Feb 18th. The Big fella, Let Me Thru, then carried on his winning way across the Tasman when he was able to win the time honoured, City of Sails Trot, in Auckland, beating the best trotters in New Zealand at his first attempt. He then won 2 heats of the Inter Dominion and was a fantastic 2nd in the final. On the strength of his performances he was then honoured with an invitation to the worlds greatest trotting race, "the ELITLOPP", in Sweden. An invitation which we decided was possibly a year to soon, hopefully we can secure another invitation next year as I would love to venture half way around the world with him and take on the best in the world. In my opinion he is better suited to there racing than what Sundons Gift was when he went.
Not to be outdone by her big brother, Miss Bullion, an Earl sister to Let Me Thru, was able to bring up her first career Group 1 success in the 4 year old Vicbred Sires Stakes Final in May, which Let Me Thru, himself had won a year earlier. There were many other Group and feature race successes during the season from horses like, Go Ahead Makemyday, Class of Her Own, Miss Warbucks, Aldebaran Maori, Justa Phoenix and although not winning a classic, Aldebaran Shades, a NZ yearling sales purchase, won 4 of 6 starts and was runner up in the Redwood and 2yo Breeders Crown finals and looks a star in the making.
There was also great news from an industry perspective during the season, with the announcement that Harness Racing Victoria has committed to the development of the trotter with stakes increases across all race types and the development of an International race for squaregaiters worth $500,000 AUD by 2015, to be run in Victoria each year, ironically the same year Aldebaran Shades will be reaching his peak!!! We all need our dreams. Also the split of sexes in the Sires Stakes and lucrative Breeders Crown series means that whether you have a colt or filly you can not only race for big money, but against your own sex. Never before has there been a better time time to get a trotter in this country.
We thank our Sponsors, namely Pro Dosa Boost paste, and Equissage, whose products we use on a daily basis and thoroughly recommend for their effectiveness and positive impact that using them has on all our horses and helps ensure success on race day.
On the home front, we have commenced works on further development and refinement of our 6 kms of training tracks. Looking forward, these upgrades, I believe, will take our equine athletes to an even higher degree of competitiveness. Our breeding operation next door, Aldebaran Park, with Sharon at the helm, has also undergone massive expansion in the last 12 months, (read all about it at www.aldebaranpark.com) so if you haven't already jumped on the trotting bandwagon, you need to NOW!!
The GIFT Keeps Giving.
Even while the stable champ, Sundons Gift is out running around his paddock enjoying himself, he was still able to add another accolade to his already bulging "CV". For the second year in a row, he has been crowned, Australasia's GRAND CIRCUIT Champion. Not bad for the rising 10 year old who was one week off his 5th birthday before he won his first race!!
He has been a wonder horse to us and although retirement seems a long way off, ( I hope), when the day does come, it will leave a huge void in our life. The news story can be read by clicking HERE.
Miss Bullion Strikes It Rich
May 13th, 2011
With our stable stars, Sundons Gift and Let Me Thru off the racing scene enjoying a well earned break, the spotlight turned to Let Me Thru's little sister, Miss Bullion. The race was the Group 1, 4yo Vic Bred Sires Final. Group one races are never easy to win and when you have a mare that has to take on the boys, head to head, it is not often that the girls come out on top.
Miss Bullion had been in good form though and was fresh from winning the heat and final of the prestigious, Breed For Speed, Silver Division, a race for lightly graded mares, so was expected to do well. What wasn't that well known, was that after her previous wins she had encountered a few problems which had put her well behind in her preparations. She had developed a mystery lameness, which we were never able to diagnose, and because of the lameness she had to be kept confined to be on the safe side in case it became serious. Because of her confinement, she gained too much weight. Because she gained too much weight, when we started training her she developed tying up syndrome, which is essentially the muscles inability to rid themselves of lactic acid efficiently, which in turn causes muscle damage. So with 3 weeks to prepare her for the final, her prospects looked slim.
Before you can win the final though, you have to qualify by competing in the heats, which are conducted at various country tracks in the lead up to the final. Although the final is unisex, fortunately for anyone with a mare, there is at least one mares only heat, and if you have a mare, ideally that is the heat you target. By the time the heat came around, Miss Bullion was still a way off being fully fit, but with a good draw and a good run in front, she was still able to win. And with there being 10 days between the heat and the final, I felt she would almost be right by final night.
Final night came around very quickly, and with the help of another favourable barrier draw and her having such a good attitude, she was able to do what her more illustrious big brother had done 12 months prior and win the final. It was a huge feat by her mum, Invasions Pride, who now has left the past 2 winners of the 4yo Vic Bred Final. Class Of Her Own, the younger sister of the two had also been able to win a heat of the 3yo Division only 2 weeks prior.
To view the replay, click HERE. The news article can be viewed by clicking HERE.
April 8th 2011.
The final countdown to the "BIG ONE" is always an interesting time. There is the usual banter in the press of hope and expectation, joy and disappointments. Emotions that had been experienced by many people during the carnival, including ourselves. Our week did not get off to the best of starts when "Let Me Thru" drew barrier 14 for the final. Not exactly what we were looking for but I firmly believe that until a race has been run and won, you dont know if your barrier is good or bad.
Let Me Thru had seemed to come through his heats in good order so when we arrived at Alexandra Park on final night we were quite happy with where he was at. Inter Dominions have long been considered the "Holy Grail" for any harness racing enthusiast, for the simple reason they are so hard to win. Even though the stable was attempting to win it for an amazing 4th year in a row, we knew it would not be easy. As it turned out it was not to be. After enduring a torrid run, Let Me Thru finished second. He was clearly the best run in the race and lost no admirers. So much so that he was subsequently extended an invitation to follow in the hoof prints of Sundons Gift and compete in the world famous "Elitlopp' in Sweden.
To recieve the invitation was an honor in itself, but after a lot of discussion and opinions, we decided that we would not go. A difficult decision to make as these invitations can be a once in a lifetime opportunity, but as Let Me Thru is only a 5 year old, we expect he will be a much stronger horse next year. So for the next 12 months his racing program will be centred around having him competing in next years "Elitlopp". In the meantime we will keep him wrapped in "cotton wool".
Inter Doms Round 2
April 1st, 2011.
The week leading up to the second round of heats seemed a long one. After Sundons Gift's first round failure, we had spent a lot of time of time trying to pinpoint the problem. This meant lameness exams, blood tests and consultations with many specialists. But with nothing coming to light that pinpointed the cause of his poor performance, and the fact he looked well, was eating well and definately had a lot of energy in the paddock, we gave "Bernie" a relatively normal week of work. He had drawn number 1 in his heat, which was a good start. Let Me Thru and Kyvalley Mac had had a good week and both appeared to come through there first heats well. So off we went to Alexandra Park. We didnt know it but we were in for a surprise......a rather nasty surprise.
Sundons Gift was first cab off the rank competing in the same race as Kyvalley Mac and Let Me Thru was in the later race. As everyone knows we always take our horses out forty five minutes before the race for a pre-race warm up........this was no different on Friday night.....what was VERY different was the way Sundons Gift presented on returning to the barn....We took off his sulky and loosened his boots and girth and USUALLY rug him and walk him......it was all going to plan until the walking part where the poor fellow shuffled out of his stall completely "tied up".....a syndrome which occurs when the horse cannot clear the lactic acid from his muscles and they become tight and very stiff. There was no question at all and we knew that he could not race......his Interdominion campaign was over.
Devastated and bewildered as to the cause of this problem the team had to soldier on with the other two horses. Kyvalley Mac ran a good race after getting dragged back behind a tiring horse in the back straight, but finished well for a 5th placing. Let Me Thru had drawn barrier 13 which meant his task was going to be a difficult one. After being restrained early and having a runner trapped 3 wide in front of him, at the 400 metre mark he was still at the tail of the field and winning looked impossible. But when Junior angled him deep on the track, his barnstorming finish to grab victory in the shadows of the post was later described by many locals as the most amazing win they had ever experienced at Alexandra Park.
So after another night of experiencing the highs and the low's we went home to ponder what was to come and what was lost. There is no doubt that the win of Let Me Thru was a great tonic for everyone and made the devastation of having to scratch Sundons Gift a lot more palatable.
The Inter - Round ONE
25th March, 2011
After many months waiting and countless hours of hard work from everyone connected with the stable, the day for the first round of the Inter Dominion Trotting heats finally arrived. The build up to the first round of heats is all part of the experience and if you are lucky enough to be a part of it then you should enjoy the feeling as much as possible. At this stage of the series, we are all living the "dream". The dream being that anyone or any horse can still win the "BIG" one, so long as they turn up on night one. It is worth remembering that just to get a horse into the series is an achievement as there are many others who will have wanted to be there but for one reason or another have not made it, so at this stage we are just enjoying being part of the "Dream".
With horses though, dreams can turn into nightmares very quickly and that is exactly what happened to us in the first heat. It all started when Sundons Gift, (the stable flagship for many years and who is also trying to create history by being the first trotter to win three Grand Finals) drew horribly in barrier 9. This meant he had to start from inside of the second line. After the start, I decided to pull back and get him into the running line. A decision I would later regret. But that is always easy to say later and after a little battle with Bernie to get him onto the running line, we were able to work our way around the field into the position outside the leader at the 1500 metre mark. Bernie was never really travelling well during the race and tired badly in the run home to finish at the tail of the field. This meant that not only did we not earn any points toward getting into the final, but we would have a huge task on our hands to turn things around before the second round of heats, next week. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty sick after heat 1.
Even though having another of the major players in the series is a good thing (Let Me Thru), it means having twice the pressure and expectation but it also means you have a second chance to perform well. So when the fields were released for Heat 2, our other stable star fared a lot better and came up with number 3, which on paper looked a perfect draw. Let Me Thru looked a good thing and punters agreed and sent him out a short priced favourite. Our third stable runner runner, Kyvalley Mac drew barrier 6 which probably was a bit wide on the track for him.
Someone said to me on the night after our dismal first heat that, things could only get better, but I knew things could always get worse as there are no guarantees in racing and more so at the elite level. Indeed after the race had gone half a lap, things were looking ugly. Jnr aboard Let Me Thru was having a hellish time trying to get the lead. He eventually was able to work to the lead but not before using up quite a bit of fuel. His main dangers meanwhile were enjoying cosy runs back in the field. At the 400 metre mark, Let Me Thru was pressured again and looked vulnerable but he rallied strongly and was still able to win. It was, in my opinion, his best effort to date and meant we could breath a sigh of relief. To view the race replay, click HERE
Let Me Thru's win guaranteed him a start in the final, but for Sundons Gift it is a far different story. He will need a top two finish in the second round of heats to get into the final field. With Alexandra Park being a very leader biased track it may all come down to the barrier draw. So....... fingers crossed!!!!!!!!!!
Why We Race Horses
Thursday afternoon 24th of March we went with our host Bernie Hackett to race some horses at Cambridge.
We took three horses, two trotters and one pacer. The pacer was in an amateur race. These races are non betting and dont hold any prizemoney, the amateurs are for people that have an interest in harness raceing and want to have a go. The amateur drivers are not allowed to carry whips and during the race are not to push out or push down, they are watched closely by the stewards.
The amateur competetors can have their own horse or they can ring around to trainers for "drives". The trainers are given an incentive of two hundred dollars from the trotting association to supply horses for these races.
The bubbly and enthusiastic lady that drove Bernies horse "Hunuahoney" only STARTED driving at the youthful age of SIXTY. This was Sally Yoakley's very first outside drive as she had previously had her own horse "Alfie" who has been retired after teaching Sally the ropes. Sally was telling us that she has ridden and evented in equestrian disciplines during her adult life but has only discovered harness racing later. Sally thought this a real pity as with her competitive nature she thinks she would have been a great catch driver if she had started a little earlier.
Sally is a really petite woman and was thrilled when she could reach the footrests easily in Bernies sulky and also that the race colours didnt look like a tent on her tiny frame !!!!
Sally handled Honey easily. As the mobile sped away Sally had Honey pushing forward to lead from number two on the gate, this end achieved, Sally cunningly slowed the field which were all in single file to a slow middle half. No one pulled out to challenge her until down the back stretch. This horse stode up fairly confidently and actually shadowed Honey midway around the corner....Sally did not panic but held her ground...with the earplugs released Honey reached full flight and toughly held off challenges from both outside and inside along the sprint lane. Sally and Hunuahoney won!!!!!
Sometimes a gift is received from a moment....we were there to experience Sally's very first win ever at Harness Racing at the very young age of 63. Sally's face lit up the entire stable block. Honey was patted and kissed and generally treated as if she had just won the Interdominion. Sally washed her, or we should say lovingly bathed her, walked her, grazed her and would only let the lead go when she was loaded on the truck to travel home.
We would like to thank Sally for reminding us WHY we race horses.
Some Pics From NZ:
click to enlarge
Bernies Evergreen Adventure Tours....
12th March 2011
Well off we go again to seek the holy grail of trotting....The Interdominion Trotting Championship..... this year run in New Zealand. The series was supposed to be conducted in Christchurch but due to the horrible and destructive earthquakes in early February, they were moved to Auckland. We had the unfortunate experience of being present for the 6.3 quake as we were at the annual New Zealand yearling sales.....a terrifying and unsettleing moment in our lives....the poor residents have a huge summit to overcome both mentally and financially, we wish them well. Moving the championship meant we had to re arrange our plans for the series as racing at Alexandra Park is run in a clockwise direction, the opposite way to Christchurch and other than Bernie, our other contenders had no experience in that direction. So about 2 weeks earlier than planned, Sharon and the Team jetted off to Auckland.
Bernie has this time some company, as we have taken, Let Me Thru and Kyvalley Mac on tour with us. Sharon flew out with the three boys on Saturday the 6th of March. The flight (thankfully) was uneventful, again the horses were rugged in light cotton sheets and all bandaged thickly as well as wearing thick bell boots to protect their coronet band. It never ceases to amaze me how often we are told to leave them naked and with no leg protection......and as always, we are glad that we didnt listen!!!!!! It is cold up in the air in a freight plane, even with three sharing the same crate, and there is not much leg space .......a knock is sometimes all it takes to end your campaign before it starts, which is every trainers nightmare. We stick to the tried and true adage............. prevention is better than cure.
Jeffrey ( Let Me Thru ) has never flown before, but was no trouble at all. Noddy ( Kyvalley Mac ) flew to Aussie as a yearling, he was purchased at the Christchurch Sales in 2005, and this is his first big trip as well, and he was also excellent. Bernie of course went to sleep and didnt get fussed at all as he is now a "world traveller ". We arrived at Auckland airport and after clearing quarantine, ( no easy thing here !!!), off we went to Michelle Wallis and Bernie ( no relation to the famous horse !!!) Hacketts property. It was as most will remember the same place where we stayed for Bernie's successful Rowe Cup campaign in May last year. They have about twenty rolling acres of horse heaven near the beach in Waiuku. Although Bernie and Michelle have their own track, most of the work is done on the nearby Karioitahi Beach.
This beach is on the west coast and is composed of BLACK sand, due to the iron ore content and it glitters like "fools gold" when the sun is shining on it. It has quite good surf and if the conditions are right, surfers are a common sight. The waves roll in angry and bubbling, eating the beach and reaching toward the dunes, thundering as they peak and brake, sighing as they retreat back to sea. The horses ( apart from Bernie the world traveller ) have never been trained on the beach, and found this quite an ordeal the first couple of days....not only the sound of the waves crashing on the beach, but also the thunder of hooves along the sand from the gallopers who share these amazing facilities. But being essentially sensible individuals there was not too much snorting and prancing going on !!!!!!!! After a few days of patting and reassurance ( and the odd hit on the bum ) they are all well behaved and loving it, nothing like a jog along on the perfectly groomed sand, breathing fresh sea air and then a splash and paddle in the water, to raise your spirits ( not to mention tighten and rejuvenate your legs ).
The main reason we packed up and got to Auckland quickly was so our "boys" could have a race start before the Inter series got underway and got some much needed experience going "backwards". The first start they had was in the City of Sails Trot on Friday the 11th. of March, this was Jeffrey's and Noddy's first race in the "wrong" direction. Bernie has won the Rowe Cup here in Auckland so has some experience of this way of going. Bernie was a little short of fitness, he was having his second start in a three month period, and after working to get to the front, fought on to finish 4th, so will improve from the run. Noddy travelled well in running and thankfully doesnt hang at all in this direction and finished nicely in sixth place. Jeffrey surprised us all by not only handling the right handed way of going but winning the race with a tough run where he raced outside the leader for the last 1000 metres. This was a stunning result and a good way to launch our assault for the Inter title BUT as we know from past experience, beating the Kiwi's on their own turf, will be no easy feat.
The BIG Clash
February 18th, 2011
Well it had to happen, the day our two stable stars went head to head on the racetrack. Fittingly it was in a Group One, Grand Circuit race, every horse off the same mark and a random barrier draw. The only type of race you can truly call a Grand Circuit race or International as it is known in Europe.
The V L Dullard Cup was the race and this year was run over the marathon 2760 metres from behind the mobile. It is a race that holds a special significance for me, as it was the first really big race that we won. Back on Valentines Day in 1998, our first really talented horse, and still one of my favourites, National Interest was able to upstage the best trotters of his time and win at the big odds of 28/1. It was a golden era for trotters, and to win, National Interest, had to beat 2 Inter Dominion winners, Pride of Petite (she won 2 Inters),and Buster Hanover. The field also included the great Wagon Apollo. I will never forget the raw emotion that I felt that night, I was so excited I nearly fell out of the cart after the finish. Tony Herhily who ran second on the favourite, Buster Hanover, thought I had gone mad.
It is always interesting to reflect on lifes journey's from time to time, and I can tell you that during the late '90's and early 2000's, the Kiwi's set the standard for trotters in this part of the world and I got a lot of practise watching them win our biggest races, virtually as they liked. During this time, thanks to being able to travel with National Interest to New Zealand on a regular basis, I was able to learn a lot from them. In particular, Barry Purdon as we stayed at his farm near Auckland. The Purdons are considered one of harness racing's leading dynasties and have been for more than 50 years, and are still leading the way today.
Fast forward to the 2011 running of the Dullard Cup and the world has changed, we had the two favourites, not the Kiwi's, Sundon's Gift (the Champ) and Let Me Thru (the Challenger). There were not even any kiwi's present this year which is a far cry from earlier years when they would always have the favourites. A good sign for Harness Racing in Australia, I would say!
It was a very strong race though with all the best Aussie trotters going around and our two drawing the worst barriers in number 11, Let Me Thru and 12 for Sundon's Gift, which is positions 4 and 5 on the second row behind the mobile. The race was a fantastic contest and lived up to all the pre race hype with it being a two horse war up the straight between our two champs. Let Me Thru was able to get up by a small margin to nose out Sundon's Gift. While it was a great result for the stable (a Grand Circuit quinella), I have to admit to having mixed emotions after the race. You can view the race replay by clicking HERE
We have known for quite a while that Let Me Thru was a genuine contender but I still felt for Sundon's Gift. It is impossible to have achieved what we have with Bernie and not develop a very strong emotional attachment, but as they say in the classics, there is very little room for sentiment in racing. Jeffrey, as Let Me Thru is known around the stable, was well driven again by Junior and thoroughly deserved his win. Jeffrey is building up an amazing record in a very short career so far, he has raced only 23 times for 16 wins, 6 at Group 1 level and 2 Grand Circuit victories in his last 2 starts.
It was the Stable's 5th Grand Circuit win this season and considering that there are only 5 Grand Circuit races run in Australia each year, it is a great achievement to make a clean sweep of them all. Special thanks to all at home who make it possible to achieve these sorts of results.
The focus now shifts to the Holy Grail of harness racing in this part of the world, the Inter Dominion. Only a few weeks away and this year run in New Zealand. The Kiwi's are hard enough to beat on our home soil, let alone when they have a home track advantage, so it will be a tough assignment for both our "champs". And for the first time we have a northern hemisphere trotter to contend with as well. Annicka, a Swedish mare has made the long journey down under so will add a lot of interest as well as some strong opposition. So here we go........ AGAIN. And loving It !!!
LET ME THRU TAKES THE NEXT STEP
5TH Feb, 2011.
The boy becomes a man. The simplest but best way to descibe Let Me Thru's win in Australasia's richest race. Having only his second start in the elite class and his first start in a Grand Circuit event, Let Me Thru further cemented his claim as Australia's second best trotter by comfortably disposing of all challengers in the Australasian Trotters Championship. Beginning beautifully from the standing start in the 2760 metre distance event, Let Me Thru was able to dictate the terms of the race from the front. Very well handled by Chris Jnr, and after enjoying a cosy lead time, the opposition, which included New Zealands best trotter in, I Can Doosit, was always going find it difficult to run down the pacemaker.
All the pre race hype was centred around the Kiwi, I Can Doosit, who had won his last 2 starts and was a very easy heat winner the week before, but after working to the spot outside the leader at the 1200 metre mark, he was in trouble at the 400 and eventually finished 4th. Let Me Thru ran his last mile in 2.00.6 and the last 800 metres in 57.5, and won untouched by 6 metres. It was a satisfying result for the stable as a blood test after his lack lustre heat win 7 days prior had revealed a viral infection. Plenty of work during the week though paid handsome dividends for all at home. You can view the last lap replay by clicking HERE. And the news article by clicking HERE.
It was Let Me Thru's 15th win from just 22 starts. He has amassed already $322,000 and was his 5th Group 1 success. The stage is now set for him to clash with his illustrious stablemate, Sundons Gift. This could be as early as next week in the Group 1, Grand Circuit event, the V L Dullard Trotters Cup. So stay tuned............
1..2..3..4.. GRAND PRIX'S IN A ROW
Our stable hero, SUNDONS GIFT, created even more history when he won the AUSTRALIAN TROTTING GRAND PRIX for the 4th year in a row. The Grand Prix is the richest and most sought after mobile event on the Victorian calender and it is hard to believe that for 4 years in a row, Bernie has been able to take on (and beat) the best trotters from both sides of the Tasman. It is a credit to everyone at home who cares for him as he is obviously thriving on the attention.
When Bernie first won the Grand Prix in 2007, it was also his first Grand Circuit victory (or International as called in Europe), and after winning for the 4th year in a row it became his 9th Grand Circuit win. It was the culmination of a incredible 4 weeks as it was his 3rd win in 4 weeks, all at Grand Circuit level. Firstly it was the NSW mile in Australasian record time, (view previous story), then 2 weeks later the Bill Collins Sprint, (sponsored by Aldebaran Park) where he ran the fastest official last 800 metres ever in Australia (56.1). Then to show what an absolute champion he is, a week later he backed up to win his 4th Grand Prix.
It was not as easy as everyone told me it was going to be though. After drawing barrier 4, all the pre race hype gave nothing else a chance of winning, which made it a long week for me because at this level anything can happen and every horse is a good one. You can judge for yourself by reading an article written just after the barrier draw by clicking here http://www.harness.org.au/news-article.cfm?news_id=15091 After being headed off at the start and having to do a fair amount of work in the run he was still able hold off the fast finishing, La Mosca in a mile rate of 1.59.1, in what was the fastest running of the Grand Prix. In 3rd place was Bernie's stablemate, Kyvalley Mac, who incidently had finished in that position in each of Bernie's last 3 wins, making it an even better result for the stable. Bernie now becomes the 2nd richest trotter in the history of the sport "down under" with, hopefully more to come. You can view the replay here and for the Bill Collins Sprint, click here For the news article click here.
What is possibly even more incredible is that since Sundons Gift has returned from his Scandinavian adventure, he has raced 18 times for 14 wins and two (2) 2nds. These wins have included 6 Grand Circuit wins, a total of 7 Group One wins, 3 Group 2 wins and 4 Group 3 wins! AMAZING! This I think is further proof that although we were not able to match it with the best in Sweden, since returning, our training methods and Bernie have reached a whole new level entirely. This raises the question I am being asked on an increasingly regular basis - should we go back and have another crack at winning the ELITLOPP!
Bernie Sizzles at Menangle
Sundons Gift proved that youth is no match for experience at Menangle Park raceway when he smashed the clock in the N S W Trotters Mile. His time over the flying mile of 1.54.4 was the fastest mile ever trotted in the southern hemisphere. The time eclipsed 1.8 seconds off the national record and 0.8 seconds off the Australasian record.
The pre-race hype was all about the match race between the heir apparent, "Down Under Muscles" and the "Old" boy Sundons Gift. The race didn't disappoint as the pair settled down to fight out the finish down the long Menangle straight with Bernie holding a 1.5 metre margin on the line. Stablemate, Kyvalley Mac finished third and also broke the Australian record.
You can view the replay at www.harness.org.au. You can also read the news article here.
Good old Bernie further cements his claim as Australia's greatest ever trotter and who knows, the way he is going maybe we should be launching another assault on the "Elitlopp"
Bernie's Crowning Glory
Another accolade has been bestowed upon our stable star, Sundons Gift. He was crowned the Victorian HORSE OF THE YEAR for the 2010 season. He became only the fifth Trotter to win the title in the 32 year history of the award and followed the announcement that he was also the Australian Trotter of the Year for the third consecutive year, a feat never before acheived. Read all about it HERE.
Its hard to believe but another season has drawn to a close and another one has begun. If it is true that time flies when you are having fun then we must be having a fun time because the last twelve months has just flown by. In Australia our season runs from the 1st of September, through to the 31st of August with all standardbreds turning a year older on Sept 1st. We had another terrific year during which we set new benchmarks and created history with our stable star, Sundons Gift. We trained six individual Group 1 winning trotters that won a total of nine Group 1 races. Our total number of trotting wins was 77 which surpassed the Australasian record of 66 which we set last year. On looking back over our season, it would be unjust not to start with the feats of our hero, Sundons Gift.
After returning from our Elitlopp adventure, he has established himself as Australia's best ever trotter and has the record to prove it. The past season he has become the first Australian trotter to win consective Inter Dominions and the first Australian trotter to earn in excess of a million dollars. He went to NZ and beat them at their own game, winning the Group 1, 3200 metre Rowe Cup. He dominated the Grand Circuit and won his third straight Australian Grand Prix. He won 4 Group 1 races ranging in distance from one mile (1600 metres) to two miles (3200 metres). He won his third Breeders Crown Trot. All at the ripe old age of 8. Hopefully for everyone connected there is more to come.
It may sound like it was a one horse show, but that is far from the truth. Skyvalley's win in our premier sprint race, the Bill Collins, run over 1720 metres beating stablemate, Sundons Gift ( a stable Group 1 quinella), rating 1.56 was breathtaking. People who witnessed his win were still talking about it weeks later. Let Me Thru confirmed his emergence as the heir apparent to Sundons Gift by winning the Group 1, 4yo Sires Final defeating stablemate, Happy Maori. Then overcoming an interrupted preparation to also win the 4yo Breeders Crown Final (Group 1), running his last 800 metres in 56.9 and last 400 metres in 27.5 seconds, both times the fastest we have seen a trotter run at our premier track, Melton. Aleppo Sunrise ran third in the same race at only his 6th race start and is a horse of the future.
Recognition by your peers is, I believe, one of the best compliments that as an individual you can recieve and that is how we came about our two Group 1 winning fillies. Good Thanks started her career as an S J Photo pacer as an early 2 yo but, when she showed promise as a 3yo, her owner/trainer/breeder, Peter Shellie entrusted her to us for a shot at the big races. She won 5 races in total and was successful in the Group 1 NSW Trotters Oaks. Being able to share your success can make a good win great and that is how it was when one of the most respected members of the team, Paul Davies, took the big step of handing the reins on his family's star trotter Jingling Silver over to myself. Paul had already run 2nd, 3rd and 4th in Group1's with her but decided with the Derby looming he would like me to train and drive her. It was a dream result when she upstaged the boys to win and gave the "Davies" family, their biggest win in the sport. Paul was still smiling a month later.
Other notable achievements through the year included our fantastic Redwood Carnival, Go Ahead Makemyday's win in the Group 2 Central Victorian Trotting Championship beating stablemate, Ten Commanders, who himself won 7 of 10 starts for the year. We were also leading Metropolitan Trainers based on prizemoney won for the second year in a row. Winning a total of 77 races was a wonderful team effort. The dedication and professionalism of everyone involved is what makes it all possible. I personally thank them all and you can read about them all on the profiles page.
We intend to keep setting new benchmarks in the future. With our new state of the art training tracks now in full swing, and the ongoing support of friends and clients alike, its Onward and Upward...
Breeders Crown Day 2010
Our season ended with a bang when our emerging star "LET ME THRU" won the Group 1, 4 year old Breeders Crown final. It was his fourth Group 1 win and 11th win from only 18 lifetime starts. Read all about the win.........here
Bernie Wins A Million!
Our great trotter and hero Sundons Gift won the magical million last night !!!!!!! What a horse and what a star!!!!!!!!!! It has been an absolute pleasure training this magnificent individual. A gentleman in every way and a horse we will remember always with a huge smile on our faces...... Whatever he does from here is all cream on top of a very enjoyable pie.........he has nothing left to prove he has done it all........Champion !!!!!!!!!!
His cake was compliments of his vet Simon Robinson.....who is one of Bernies best mates !!!!!!!!
Read more about Bernie's milestone here.
2010 REDWOOD CARNIVAL - A Day to remember
28th July 2010
Mid July each year in the middle of winter, Australasia's only all Trotting Carnival is run. Of course Down Under 90% of races contested are for pacers as opposed to the square gaiters. The "Redwood Classic" is a standing start Group 1 event for 2 year old trotters and this year marked its 25th running but the all trotting carnival has only been around for 15 years. It was only 12 years ago that an extra day was added to make it a 2 day carnival with 18 races in total up for grabs.
The Redwood carnival has developed into a must for every trotting enthusiast from all over Australia and New Zealand and many people make it an annual event. Since its inception, Redwood Day has grown into the most sought after Classic for the baby trotters and for the last 6 years, the oldest Blue Riband Classic in Australia, the Group One, 3 year old trotters Derby is also decided on the same day. This ensures the absolute best young trotters are on display for all to see. Being a virtual all "trotting" stable we also look forward to being a part of the action and for all trainers and owners just to have a runner during the carnival is a big thrill.
The first day of the carnival kicked off on Friday the 16th of July and the features on day one are the "Gold Bracelet" for 3 year old fillies and the "Matchmaker Mile" for mares. The stable had 5 runners engaged on the first day and after our first runner finished a struggling 7th we were hoping things would improve but having 2 runners in each of the features, we knew it wouldn't be easy. As it turned out, things did improve and in a big way. We were able to not only win both features but we were able to quinella both. A notable training achievement. I had to be content with running second in both with Chris Jnr taking the driving honours on the day.
On Sunday, the second day of the carnival, the racing really hotted up which was more than we could say for the weather. The stable had 8 runners on the day, unforunately none in the Redwood but our 2 star fillies, "Good Thanks" and "Jingling Silver" would take on the boys in the Derby. The day started well with our 2 year old filly, Aldebaran Breeze, leading all the way to win the Redwood Consolation. It was her second win in a week and being a filly that we bred it was extra special. She is by ill fated super sire and race horse, Windsongs Legacy, one of only 2 bred in Australia and a future Aldebaran Park broodmare.
Next to race was Aleppo Sunrise, a 4 year old Sundon gelding having only his 2nd start for us. Ten days earlier he created a big impression when winning a heat of the Carisbrook Racecourse Trustees Handicap by 16 metres. After an early bit of a break he was able roll to the front with a lap to travel and won as he liked. Aldebaran Illusion with Jnr aboard ran a nice race for 4th in the same race. It was a good result for me as it meant I was back on equal terms with Jnr on 2 wins apeice. The Maryborough Trotters Cup was the next feature on the 10 event card and our sole runner was Kyvalley Mirage. He was able to work to the front with 1700 metres to travel in the 2690 metre event and held on to win by a narrow margin in a very strong field. Driven by Jnr, it meant he got his nose back in front in the driving award. After that came the Free for All in which we had 2 runners engaged, Kyvalley Mac and Andy's Favourite who won the "Redwood" back in 2005. Kyvalley Mac went well and finished a good second.
This brought us to the biggest event of the day - the "Derby". In my opinion it is one of the hardest races of all to win, of any class or age. There is always one or two of the best "Kiwi" horses over and of course the best 3 year olds from all over Australia are there as well. Our 2 fillies were going well but considering only 2 fillies in the last 20 years had been able able to win it and beat the boys, history was against them. Having already trained 3 winners for the day we were on a roll though and to the delight of all concerned, "Jingling Silver" was able to upstage the boys and sprint lane to victory. It was a gutsy effort to run down the boys at the end of 2690 metres even after a nice trip.
Silver as she is known around the stable was bred and is owned by Margaret and Kelvin Davies. There son, Paul has been working for us for nearly 2 years and up until about a month prior, Paul and Kelvin had done all the work with her and had only transferred her to me for the Derby assault. It was the "Davies" family biggest success in trotting and just reward for a lifetime of involvement in the industry.
The win of Jingling Silver was the stables 4th for the day, a massive result considering only twice before had anyone been able to train more than one winner on the day, such is the level of competition. It also meant it was the stables 6 th win for the carnival and of the 5 features contested we were able to win 4, amazing. A terrific team effort and you can read all about them on the Staff profiles page. Silvers win also meant I pipped Jnr on the post for driving honours, nothing like a bit of in-stable friendly rivalry!
Redwood Day was not just about seeing the best trotters race but also on parade were the best trotting stallions. Sharon and the team from Aldebaran Park Stud next door had there 3 stallions on hand to give everyone the oportunity to see her "equine" boys. This included our home grown stallion, "Aldebaran Yankee". the Hambo heat winner, "Eilean Donon", and of course our Super Star and first season sire, "Skyvalley. The interest for the stallions was huge and Sharon and the team did a grand job of parading the "boys". You can read all about them by following the links to Aldebaran Park.
So after not only our most successful Redwood Carnival ever but the most successful carnival ever by a stable, we are still celebrating. Jingling Silver's win in the time honoured Derby was our eighth Group One victory for the season and our fifth individual Group One winner for the season also. Our best result ever, and........... Lets hope its not over yet !!!!!!!
It's All "Good Thanks"
22nd May 2010
On our quest for more Group 1 glory, (this time the NSW Trotters Oaks), at 1.am on a chilly late autumn morning, myself and my number 2 man, Paul Davies loaded our respective Oaks hopefuls onto the horse float and headed off into the blackness of the night bound for Sydney. Some six and a half hours later we arrived at the stables of Richard and Darren Hancocks at Pheasants Nest, where our 2 fillies would spend the day relaxing in a paddock before loading back onto the float for the 1 1/2 hour journey into Harold Park, Sydney's premier track.
Good Thanks, my filly, a lovely S J Photo filly had drawn perfectly in barrier 1 on the tightish 800 metre circuit. This meant she would start a short priced favourite at $1.40, a bit short for my liking but after an early tussle to hold the front she cruised to a fairly comfortable victory. Pauls filly, Jingling Silver who had finished 3rd in the Group 1 Vicbred final at her last outing draw out wide in number 6. Although she got a good run and was well driven, she didn't handle the track that well but was still able to finish 4th.
Good Thank's victory gave the stable its 3rd Group 1 victory in as many weeks and the seventh one this season so far. Our best ever result and the 4th individual Group one winner. With 3 months of the season still to come and a lot of major juvenile classics looming, hopefully we can build on this figure further. It is again a great testament to the team at home for the job they do as they keep delivering the results. You can read all about them on the staff profiles page.
On a different note, its hard to believe that it was this time a year ago that Sharon and myself were in Sweden preparing Sundon's Gift for the famed "Elitlopp". It was one of the greatest experiences of our lives and we fly back this week to experience it all again. It will be fantastic to catch up with everyone that looked after us so well last year year and not having a runner this year means we can just chill out and enjoy what must be one of the most fantastic days of "Trotting" you could wish to be a part of.
So see you at the "ELITLOPP" ..............................................
More Group 1 Glory
14th May 2010
Another good week for the Nagambie team with the running of the Final of the Vicbred Super Series 4yo Trotters Final, a $50,000 Group 1 event. The 5 heats are conducted at different venues in the weeks leading up to the final and the top placed qualifiers going through. We were able to get 2 through to the final, firstly Happy Maori ran 2nd in her heat to progress straight into the final but it didn't end up being a simple process for our more favoured runner, Let Me Thru. Last years 3yo Breeders Crown Champ started a short priced favourite in his heat after a comprehensive first up victory at Cobram but plans went astray quickly in the heat. He galloped on the first bend then again later in the run to finish an inglorious last, 112 metres from the winner. With the points system to qualify to get into the final, it meant that not only did we have to be lucky enough to get into another heat ( you are guaranteed only one run in the heats), it also meant Let Me Thru would have to win to gain a start, nothing like a bit of pressure!
Fortunately Let Me Thru did both and then drew perfectly in the final in number 2. Happy Maori also drew well in number 4. Let Me Thru was able to hold the lead after a bit of a tussle early and then had to withstand some mid race pressure from the second favourite, Down Under Muscles. He proved equal to the task though and ran away a convincing 5 1/2 metre winner over stablemate Happy Maori, who was well driven by Chris Jnr. It was a perfect result for the stable with a further 5 1/2 metres to the 3rd placegetter.
Considering I had been in New Zealand with Sundons Gift for some of this time, it is further testament to the ablility of our foreman Ben Gledhill and the rest of the team at home. You can read all about them on the Staff Profiles page. For all the news you can log on to the Harness Racing in Australia website and check out the News Room article dated 20/05/10 on Good Thanks, and on Let Me Thru 15/05/10. There is also a story on Sundons Gifts Rowe Cup victory in New Zealand, dated 10/05/10. On the same page dated 14/05/10, there is a more in depth chat titled, In The Box Seat on Mobile Rolling. And if thats not enough there is also a video podcast on "The Harness Edge" website dated 12th May with Harold Howe from Canada, recorded just after our Rowe Cup win.
Bernie Continues His Journey
8th May 2010
The "Bernie" show continues to roll on with no signs of abating and from our perspective, we are more than happy for it to continue. This time it was at "Alexandra Park", which is located on New Zealand's North Island, and is the Premier track in Auckland. The race was the time honoured "ROWE Cup". A gruelling 3200 metre standing start event. It is the type of test the "kiwi's" thrive on but for an "Aussie" it is becoming more and more foreign to our racing style.
In only 3 short weeks, we had to take "Bernie" from winning a 1720 metre mobile in 1.57.8 to competing in a Group One 3200 metre standing start marathon. At home we were very concerned that we may not be able to accomplish that, not because we didn't have the horse but after our European adventure we felt that "maybe", Bernie's new found brilliance may have come at the expense of his "toughness". When you consider that "Sundon's Gift's" last 3 starts in Australia were all from the mobile and over distances of a mile, 2240 metres and 1720 metres respectively then you can begin to appreciate what a challenge it becomes to bring an "Aussie" horse to New Zealand and try and beat them at there own game. Throw in the facts that in Auckland they race in the opposite direction, Bernie had not raced in a stand for 16 months and had never raced over 3200 metres and in my opinion Kiwi trainers are the best trainers of squaregaiters in this part of the world, then you begin to realise why it is an undertaking not attempted often.
We flew "Bernie" into Auckland en route to the stables of Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett at Waiuku. Aussies would remember that Michelle and Bernie trained 2006 Inter winner "Delft". It was not a random act to stay there, in February when we had came over for the yearling sales we purposely took time out to view their operation. And what we found was that they have one of the most amazing training tracks you would ever see in any part of the world. They are lucky enough to be able to train on Karioitahi beach. It is 12 kilometres of beachfront that has a perfect training surface which is groomed every day by the waves and ready to go. After working along the beach for as far or short as you want, you can then paddle around with your horse in the shallows. The therapeutic effects of the sea water on legs is of great benefit and was a big factor in our decision to stay at Waiuku.
The first day I floated Bernie to the beach we drove over the crest of the last hill and were confronted by the sight of a magnificent full moon just about to disappear into the horizon as a new day was dawning. "Bernie" must have thought that he was either going to be eaten by a shark or that we were going to make him swim back to Australia. He was terrified of not only the sound of the crashing waves but also of the waves themselves as they ran into shore. After only a couple of days though, he was happily splashing around in the shallows like he had been doing it for ever. Michelle informed us that this was very much par for the course with horses that were new to the beach environment.
The lead up to the Rowe Cup was quite different to any race that we have tried to win before and I was very worried what the outcome might be. This time last year we were in Sweden doing our best to get him ready for the Elitlopp. There was also the different training regime, the conditions of the race, unknown opposition, etc, etc. But as it turned out we didn't need to worry, we just needed to have more faith in our "Champ". He rose to the challenge magnificently as true champions seem to, and even though we had ventured into the "den of the lions", so to speak, Sundon's Gift proved yet again that he is the best of his time and "perhaps" our best ever!
"Bernie" will now have a well deserved rest for a month or so before returning to the training track to try and do it all "AGAIN".
To view the race just go to www.harnessracingnewzealand.com and check out the results for the 7th of May, Auckland trotting club. Kia Oro from New Zealand, (The Land Of The Long White Cloud). :-)
The rollercoaster ride that is what having horses is all about was very evident this week, when just 2 short weeks after winning Trotting's Holy Grail, (the Inter Dominion), Skyvalley, our budding superstar pulled up sore with a strained suspensory ligament and has been retired to stud. It is a bitter pill to have to swallow as his star was no doubt still on the rise and I believe his best still to come. A big statement when you look back at his dual Breeders Crown wins and also his 1.56.4 Bill Collins Sprint win over Sundons Gift in December.
He was an awesome talent and after having the privilege of sitting behind some great trotters in recent times like Kyvalley Road, National Interest, Jauriol, (Lester Scot) and of course stable star Sundons Gift, I can honestly say that sitting behind Skyvalley was like nothing I have ever felt before. He trotted effortlessly across the top of the ground whilst seemingly never touching it. It felt like you were sitting in a sled gliding over ice, such was the purity of his gait. It is a feeling I am going to miss.
But as one door closes another opens and the good news is that Aldebaran Park, (our breeding wing) , has purchased Skyvalley to stand at stud which is very exciting news, to not only us but to every trotting broodmare owner in the southern hemisphere. He is a trotting blue blood, being by the world number 1 sire for the last 3 years in Muscles Yankee and out of the great Chiola Hanover mare, Chiola's Lass. I know I cant wait to start winning on some of his progeny in years to come.
If you want to give yourself Goosebumps all over again by watching Skyvalley slaughtering his opposition then go to www.aldebaranpark.com and under latest news, click on Skyvalley story and it has links to a couple of his wins. Enjoy the memories!!!!!
THE INTER THAT WAS....... 2010.
Well the Inter Dominion, our biggest and most sought after race in the southern hemisphere, has been run and won for the second year in a row by our mate "Bernie", better known to most as SUNDONS GIFT. By winning the Inter for the second year in a row, he became the first Australian trained trotter to win back to back titles and only the second horse ever to achieve that feat. He is only the fourth horse to win more than one title and considering the Inter was first run for trotters back in 1948, it highlights further the enormity of his achievement.
Sundons Gift owns his own piece of history now and as we look back at his humble beginnings, it reminds me of what an amazing journey we have travelled. Many people have contributed to his rise to fame, from one side of the planet to the other. This series was in stark contrast to the lead up to his first Inter win when you remember he was placed on his last chance to race truly by the stewards after his final lead up run when he broke stride during the race. This year we had a dream run into the series with Bernie trotting effortlessly and faultless in his lead up runs. I'm not sure though whether it was easier or harder on me as trainer this year as expectations this year were very high, it was either win or fail !!!
There is no doubt he has returned from his European adventure a much more polished racehorse so perhaps I should dedicate his win to the many people we were lucky enough to meet and learn from whilst campaigning in the Elitloppet. I have thought many times it could become a life defining experience and I truly believe we have only just begun.
On the home front, we have just completed our new training tracks based on what we saw and learnt overseas. We now have a 3 km forest track, a 1000 metre straight track, in addition to our 1000 metre circular track and 950 metre sand track. These new and improved training facilities will make the development of our future stars that much simpler. We look forward now to the new generation of juveniles taking their first steps on the long road to Group 1 Glory and who knows, maybe......an Inter !!!
A BIG WEEK !
13th December 2009.
We look forward to December each year in the Lang camp for obvious reasons, not only because we behave all year so as Santa is kind to us but also 2 of our big trotting features are run. With Skyvalley having won his previous 6 starts, he was favoured to be the one to beat. His main rival and stablemate, Sundons Gift was on the comeback trail after his European adventure and after being held up in quarantine, had only 10 weeks work under his belt and after an average first up run wasn't expected to be a factor, but as they say in the classics never under estimate a champion!
The first feature was the Australian Trotting Grand Prix, the second richest trot run down under after the Inter Dominion. Sundons Gift had won the 2 previous Grand Prix' and is the only multiple winner in its 10 year history. Each year the "Kiwis" also like to come over and take our money home and this year was no exception. The recent winner of their biggest event, the "Dominion Handicap" was another Sundon gelding in Springbank Richard. He had won his previous 4 starts so was in good form. There has always been a fierce sporting rivalry between the Aussies and Kiwis and this would be no exception.
So with much fanfare on the 4th of December the best trotters in Australasia lined up to decide the best. As luck would have it, Sundons Gift drew well in barrier 3 but unfortunately Skyvalley had to contend with a dreaded back row draw of 10. The Kiwi drew well in number 1 so was favoured to win. But when the arms folded back on the mobile, the old boy.......Sundons Gift, powered to the front and try as the opposition might couldn't get close. He ran a new track record and won his 3rd Grand Prix, a feat that may never be equalled. How we love that horse here! Skyvalley ran a great race but was trapped wide and went super finishing 4th.
We didn't have much time to dwell on our win as the very next week, (11th), we all lined up again for our most prestigious sprint race, the Bill Collins Sprint, run over 1720 metres. This year sponsored for the first time by Aldebaran Park. It would be a different race though as when the barrier draws were announced it would be Sundons Gift to start from Barrier 10 and the up and comer, Skyvalley to leave from number 3 on the gate, the reverse of the week before. Skyvalley powered to the front and proceeded to run only 1/10 of a second outside the Australian record for a mile, winning in 1.56.4. We had a dream result though as Sundons Gift powered home after being 3 deep for the trip to easily run into 2nd place, a fantastic run. To view the results and watch the last lap replay simply go to www.harness.org.au click on the racing tab, then click on results, then go to either the 4th or 11th of December and under club, click on Tabcorp Park. Last lap replay icon is in the top right hand corner of the individual race results.For those who are not sick of reading about our 2 trotting stars, there is plenty of reading from the news room on the samse site, just click on the news room icon and away you go. Stories are on 12th, 8th, 4th, 3rd and 1st of December.
We may not have had the same results in Sweden on the racetrack but I am certain what we saw and learned over there is helping us no end to achieve these results at home, so thanks yet again to our many European friends, especially our hosts Torbjorn Jansson in Sweden and Anders Lindquist in France. I cant wait to get back again next year! With the Inter Dominion now only 6 weeks away, the team at Nagambie are well and truly focussed and hoping for another BIG week.
Yours Truly, Chris Lang.
HARRISBURG YEARLING SALES
It may have been the 71st Annual Standardbred Auction at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania but for yours truly it was a first. Accompanied by Duncan McPherson, Jim Connelly and Michael Taranto we travelled to America to witness first hand the largest standardbred yearling sales in America. Run over 4 days from the 2nd to 5th of November with some 1,100 lots available for purchase, it was a feast of elite level horse flesh that I had never before experienced.
We were able to secure some fine quality yearlings with bloodlines not seen in this part of the world. Duncan McPherson bought an Andover Hall filly from a Muscles Yankee mare. Her dam, Miss Winconsin won over half a million USD as a 2 and 3 year old and won in 1.55 so will a valuable asset to the Aldebaran Park broodmare band in the future. Jim Connelly bought a striking colt by 1st season sire, Chocolatier out of a Garland Lobell mare whose progeny have already earned over a million USD. Michael also bought a Chocolatier, but a filly out of a Pine Chip mare who has already left 4 winning fillies.
Duncan and Jim will be bringing their purchases straight back to Australia but Michael will leave his filly in America for her juvenile career. All in all it was a huge learning curve for us but we were very well looked after. What the future holds will be highly anticipated and we all expect to be back at Harrisburg next year looking and hopefully buying more bloodlines that can only help bolster the breeding (and racing) ranks Down Under. You can also checkout an interview with Duncan at www.aldebaranpark.com (news).
HORSE OF THE YEAR AWARDS
Sundons Gift, the reigning Inter Dominion Champion has been awarded not only the Australian Trotter of the Year award but also the Victorian Trotter of the Year for the second consecutive season, the first trotter to achieve this feat. Sundons Gift amassed over $300,000 in stakes for the season which was also a new record.
The only serious contender was his up and coming stablemate, Skyvalley who won 14 races from 23 starts during the season, the most of any standardbred in Australia.
Let Me Thru, the 3 year old Breeders Crown winner was also awarded the title of 3 Year Old Trotter of the year in what was a great night for all involved.