*** "IT MEANS A LOT TO ME JUST TO BE THERE" Mark reflects on World Driver's Champs
(Mark and Natalie's Column)
***Mark and Natalie likely to bypass the driving at Breeder's Crown Day
*** Last Week for Matt at All Stars and last for 3 months for Tim. Shoulder surgery Thurs.
*Waikiki Beach was back in the barn with the other stable stars on Monday.
*Also Major Shard, Think About Me, Tennyson Bromac, Speech is Silver, Funathebeach, Turn It Up and Delight Me
The invitation to be selected for the World Driving Championships really means a lot to me. I feel like it is the icing on the cake, a recognition for what I have been doing and an opportunity I never thought I'd get. The stable has had a lot of success in recent years which I have naturally enjoyed but I'm really grateful for the chance to compete as a driver at that sort of level . The way we operate with a large team and several drivers I didn't think my stats would ever be good enough to get there. Dexter being the defending champion has given me that chance and it is one of the biggest thrills I have had in racing.
I must say too that I have felt that in the last few seasons I have been driving as good as or better as I ever have and that gives me some confidence going into the series.
Natalie and I meet up on Wednesday (Mark left for North America on Monday) and we assemble on August 8. Its full on but I am sure will be a great experience. We will be home straight after that and we won't be long getting back into the stable routine. There is a heap of two year olds to come in the Monday after we get here and with the older racing team winding up for the spring it will be full on straight away.
Michael is helping out at the moment and Nath joins us at the end of the month on a full time basis. At the same time Matt leaves us. That is a little disappointing because he has contributed a lot to the success of the stable and he has been a great worker for us. Matt is a talented driver and I am sure he will do well.
Tim is away for 12 weeks and while the timing is not the best for us there is no "good" time to be off in modern stables because it is more and more of a round year operation than it used to be. The main hope is that all goes well with the op and he is back as soon as possible, probably in November on a full work schedule.
The trip to Canada and the pressure on us when we return means we might pass up driving in the Breeder's Crown series altogether and hand that responsibility on to Luke (McCarthy)
The actual Breeder's Crown finals day is a few days after we get home and I am thinking at the moment that the last thing I am going to feel like is hopping on a plane to Australia straight away. I have full confidence in Luke to get the job done. Poi reports that the three horses have done well especially Sicario. More the Better was a little jaded after the Queensland Derby as you would expect. He had had a busy time, had a hard race in the Derby and cast a shoe during the race. He should find his heat a lot easier on Tuesday.
I am looking forward to one of us posting some insights from the Championships
MATT SAYS GOODBYE THIS WEEK
After three years as All Stars Junior driver and backup for the senior ones, Matt Anderson is moving on from All Stars at the end of the season. He has no immediate plans for his next racing experience but is preparing for his last season as a Junior and hoping to make the most of it.
"I've leaned so much here it is unbelievable. I have been lucky to work in a stable this successful and get first hand experience of how it all operates. It is not so easy to get stable drives when so many of the races are top events but I know that what I take away from here is the basis for the next stage of my career. And you wouldn't get a better basis to work on"
Matt has reached a lot of his Junior Driver goals accumulating 68 wins, his UDR remaining a good .2451. Unlike most juniors Matt has turned down drives at times to protect his strike rate with a view to higher achievements and, except for the year when the rules of selection were altered for a Championship series without him being aware of the change it has worked out well.
Matt has shown growing skills and maturity at All Stars and is recognised as one of the most promising Juniors in the business quite apart from success rates.
His first winner, for a mentor Robbie Holmes, was Highview Ember at Rangiora in August 2013 a season when he posted 7 wins from 57 drives to get away to a good start. He transferred to All Stars in 2014 and posted his first win for the stable in July of that year with Better With Bourbon at Rangiora. Four of his first season winners were trotters for Ken Sefonte and he also drove a winner for Maurice McKendry a man who can recognise talent and for Lew Driver.
Most of his 2015 season wins were for All Stars including horses like Backup, Lightfingered, Full Speed Ahead and Northern Velocity . Last season he again struck up an affinity for the trotter winning three with Blackguard's Corner including the rich John Devlin Memorial at Alexandra Park for the Butterworths but posted his biggest pacing win when Costa Del Magnifico which he had earlier steered to an 11.5 len win in a Junior race, won the Invercargill Cup. He scored a notable win for Piccadilly Princess in a Nevele R heat holding out favoured stablemate Golden Goddess.
This season Smiley Sophie have him his first win on NZ Cup day and Pulp Fiction was another smart performer he guided to victory, His last win was his easiest-on Imperial Whiz in a Breeder's Crown heat at Addington. He didn't have to leave the parade ring,
One of his biggest thrills came however when he finally made the Australasian Junior Drivers Championship in Perth this season run in conjunction with the Inter Dominions It was the most memorable fortnight in the young driver's life. Using the deft hands which were advancing his reputation he overcame some ordinary prospects in pre-post odds to finish third but actually on the same points total (71) as second placed Robbie Close and just two points behind winner Todd McCarthy.
Yet Matt remembers Perth for a different reason.
"I think watching Smolda fight out that Inter Dominion finish was the biggest thrill I had in my stay here. It was our stable horse, he was such a great horse to work with and Mark and Natalie had him just right. I got a real thrill out of just being there to watch that"
But Matt gave his share of thrills to others don't worry.
A thoughtful person he sorted out the Ronald McDonald House for children with illness as his charity of choice. His fees from Perth were part of that generosity and one of his two sponsors, McMillan Feeds added their share. His other sponsor Coupland Bakeries is also notable for its work with charities.
Matt has continued to support Ronald McDonald House, which does not get the official assistance of some similar charities , with his driving fees a fine gesture for a youngster still making his own way.
He helped organise a young cancer sufferer Isaac Southerton come out to All Stars and introduced the little fellow to the stable stars including Lazarus.
And so what happens next ?
"I've had several offers but I am not in any hurry. I have quite a lot of leave owing from All Stars so I will be taking that up for some time. Then I will see what develops. I don't doubt I will miss it around here especially when the good horses are out but I am looking forward to the next opportunity"
There is also a rising two year old whom Matt invested in at the PGG Sales this year. But that is another chapter in the story.
TIM UNDER THE KNIFE
Tim undergoes shoulder surgery on Thursday and is likely to be off the racing scene for three months. How he is going to handle that downtime is not his main priority though he knows it will be soon enough.
"My main concern is that the op goes well and the recovery goes well. Any more time on the sidelines would be a bit of a disaster. So I am not thinking past sitting on the sofa at this stage making sure I do everything right to make it back to the right condition. I know that will become frustrating even if everything is going to plan but I will face that when the time comes. And I will be hoping I can get back before they forget about me !
Seriously I am not sure just when it is I can start doing something but it won't be until well into the spring and it won't be easy sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else out there driving. But I have to get it done if I want to go on driving at the top level myself"
Tim has had a number of highlights this season but in the end goes for CASH N FLO winning against top fields in Auckland and then coming back to win a Sires Stakes feature late in the season.
"That last win especially because of what had happened in the Jewels and because the owners had supported me so strongly it was good to bounce back and win that. I have to thank Mark and Natalie for that. They did a great job getting him back to top form in a short time.
In Auckland he was great too though. I think I would be correct in saying that he is the only horse this season to take the lead off Heaven Rocks!"
I am not putting any downer on Ashley Locaz in the Jewels. That was another pretty amazing training effort and we just got the run we needed for a horse who was a little underdone. To come out and run that time on the prep he had shows just what great trainers Mark and Nat are"
Tim's record: Career-302 wins of $4.1 million. 2017 season 34 wins of $587,000 UDR .2321 (2nd best of career)
Best each Way:
DUANE GETTING GOING AGAIN IN CANADA
Sky Major is no longer part of the plan but former All Stars foreman, Duane Marfisi, is making a good fist of re-establishing himself in Canadian pacing circles after an absence of several years.
"It's taking time but I expected that You don't just walk back in and start where you left off. But we've got a team of around 14-15 a mixture of young horses and older ones and we are building up the operation again"
Duane returned home this year when his wife, Janet, was offered a prestigious position at the University of Geulph in Ontario. Duane was understandably reluctant to leave because of the wonderful association he had had with Mark and Natalie which he regarded as a career highlight. But family comes first and with Janet's position and the keenness of his family to return there was never much doubt shifting back was inevitable.
"We bought a house here recently and are really settling in. Janet's job is working out well and I am back doing what I like doing best"
Sky Major gave Duane a huge thrill when the Trevor Casey and John Lohan owned gelding won first up for him in Canada early this year.
The former Barry Purdon-trained star went close to 1.50 and thoughts turned to the rich Yonkers series for older pacers but unhappily that win was the highlight,
Sky Major only finished fifth in a race Duane was sure he would win second up when it transpired his bleeding history had returned. He raced on Lasix after that but broke down with a leg injury some time ago and had to be retired.
"It was a disappointment but that's racing. You are always expecting something might happen to these older horses. They have been through a lot by the time they race at this level"
Duane was a tremendous admirer of the skills of Mark and Natalie as trainers and he knew what he was talking about. He worked for some time with the great Bill Robinson in the States, the man who prepared Cam's Card Shark (which Duane regularly drove in work) Precious Bunny and Presidential Ball so working with great horsepeople was no novelty.
"Because of the racing style here I am a bit limited in how many of Mark and Natalie's methods I can use from a practical point of view but I often reflect back on that time when I am doing my thinking about a horse"
"Horses race here more often so the training regime is lighter otherwise you would overload them and there are other differences. But I still think fondly of my time in New Zealand and I am looking forward to meeting up with Mark and Natalie during the World Driver's Championship."
ROY AND HIS RUNNERS
-MASTER TRAINER ROY PURDON LOOKS BACK ON THE HORSES AND TIMES THAT MADE HIM FAMOUS
It was a great trip all round to Queensland. To win the Derby was a special thrill and to have Nathan and Michael on hand to help us celebrate Mark's and my successes was the icing on the cake.
I am always a little concerned about travelling these days with my hip problems but everything went smoothly . Pilch went with me and he was in good form too. He has had a bit of bad luck in Queensland before on the health front !The Breeder's Crown ? I will have to wait and see but More the Better is looking a good chance on what he has been doing lately. That was a hard run in the Derby and he stuck it out so well I was proud of the little horse He should handle the heat and semi's ok and will have a chance to freshen up again for the bigger stuff if we have luck on our side.
Nathan starts with Mark in the new season and while it was always going to happen it is great to see the next generation coming on out on the track. Michael is doing well too in his own way and I am proud of both of those boys. Now we will just have to see how Mark can go in the World Drivers Championship. He is a great driver really especially in the big ones so he can foot it with any of them.
STATS CORNER (2) -THE LEADING AUSTRALASIAN STAKES EARNERS
1 Black's a Fake $4.575m 2 Im Themightyquinn $4.567m 3-Smoken Up $3.66m 4-Mr Feelgood* $3.36m 6- Monkey King $3.33 m 7 Lennytheshark $2.56 8 Smolda $2.4om-9Terror To Love $2.377m 10 Changeover $2.32m 11-Shakamaker $2.29m
*Mr Feelgood earned the bulk of his stakes in the USA
Other horses we have found to have won over $A2m in descending order- Our Sir Vancelot, Lyell Creek*, Christen Me, Beautide, Village Kid, and Westburn Grant.
NZ ONLY -Elsu won over $NZ2m while Luxury Liner, Christopher Vance, Chokin, Auckland Reactor, Master Musician, Holmes D G and Yulestar won between$1.7m and $1.9m each.
*Lyell Creekwon over $2.9m according to his New Zealand record which would place him 7th on our overall(unofficial) list