This week, Harness Racing Australia announced the winners of the 2017 Horse of the Year Awards and there is certainly a Kiwi ring about many of the successful equine stars. These awards are voted for by over 60 judges, that include media personnel and administrators right around Australia.
In the Vancleve Awards for Trotters, New Zealand bred, owned, and/or trained runners were to the fore in three of the six categories.
Firstly, the 2YO Filly Trotter of the Year was taken out by (Our) Renezmae. She is by The Pres out of City Lane and was bred by Michelle Caig. She is owned by Dave Harrington, Maxine Green, Noel Green, James Cruickshank, Lindsay Hall, Neville Smith and Patricia Bush, and is trained by Jack Harrington. Renezmae has had 10 career starts for 3 wins, 1 second and 2 thirds, for $72,534 in stake earnings and during her time in Australia had 3 starts for 2 wins and 1 third for $55,000, culminating in a win in the Group 1 Aldebaran Park Breeders Crown Series 20 (2YO Trotting Fillies) Final.
The Aged Mare Trotter of the Year went to Sunny Ruby, a 5YO by Sundon out of Bright Diedre, who was bred by Fred Fletcher and raced by him and Sam Smolenski. She was trained during her 2½ month stint in Australia by Sonya Smith, having been prepared by Fred Fletcher back in her homeland. Sunny Ruby has had 64 lifetime starts for 19 wins, 10 seconds and 4 thirds, for $362,020 in stake earnings and during her time in Australia had 8 starts for 4 wins, 1 second and 1 third for $133,900, having achieved three Group 1 wins in the V L Dullard Trotters Cup, the Aldebaran Park Maori Mile and the Aldebaran Knight Pistol.
The Aged Horse/Gelding Trotter of the Year was taken out by (On) Thunder Road, interestingly by leading pacing sire Bettor’s Delight out of All The Way Home. The 7YO gelding was bred by Est Richard Fleming, Joan Fleming, Anthony Fleming and Carla Fleming and is raced by Joan Fleming and the Est Richard Fleming and is trained in Australia by Darren Hancock, having left New Zealand after qualifying as a last 3-year-old. (On) Thunder Road has had 66 lifetime starts for 32 wins, 11 seconds and 5 thirds, for $395,665 in stake earnings and during the last season has had 15 starts for 8 wins, 2 seconds and 1 third for $146,840. His major win during the season was in the Group 1 Seelite Windows Grand Prix, to go with wins in the Group 2 Jill McGrath Franco, the Group 2 E B Cochran Trotters Cup and the Group 3 Sundons Gift Trotters FFA.
In the pacing ranks New Zealand bred or owned and trained horses also took out three of the six awards on offer.
The 3YO Colt/Gelding Pacer of the Year was taken out by Vincent, who is by Art Major out of Kept For Pleasure and was bred by Sloys Company Pty Ltd. He is owned in Australia by William Feiss, but has raced half his career in New Zealand and half in Australia and is trained in Australia by Mark Purdon. He has career statistics of 16 starts for 13 wins, 1 second and 1 third, for $424,566 in stakes. In the season under review he raced 8 times in Australia, for 7 wins and $264,390 in stakes, with his major wins coming in the Group 1 Wards Accounting NSW Derby and the Group 1 Art Major Alabar NSW Breeders Challenge 3YO Colts & Geldings Final.
The Aged Mare Pacer of the Year went to the 4-year-old (A) Piccadilly Princess, by Bettor’s Delight out of Hyde Park Royal, bred in New Zealand by Thomas Patterson, Ken Patterson and Michael Patterson. She is raced by the Patterson Bros Racing Syndicate, Michael Ward, Simon Bradley, Antony Wilson and Christian Cunneen. During her Australian campaign in Western Australia, Victoria and NSW, (A) Piccadilly Princess was trained by Mark Purdon and during this time she had 8 starts for 5 wins and 2 seconds, for $209,390 in stakes. Her career statistics are 33 starts for 15 wins, 8 seconds and 1 thirds, for $661,429. During the season in Australia (A) Piccadilly Princess won the Group 1 Ladyship Mile and the Group 2 Robin Dundee Stakes.
The Aged Horse/Gelding Pacer of the Year and the big one, the Australian Pacer of the Year, was taken out by Smolda, an Australian bred, but New Zealand owned and trained 8-year-old gelding by Courage Under Fire out of Under The Mattress. He was bred by Paul Blackshaw and is owned by Glenys Kennard, Philip Kennard, Neil Pilcher and Marcus Kirkwood and was also trained in Australia by Mark Purdon. Smolda’s career record is 68 starts for 32 wins, 16 seconds and 7 thirds, for $2,558,544 and during the season in Australia he raced 9 times for 4 wins, 3 seconds and 1 third, for $929,642 in stakes. His major wins in the season were in the Group 1 TabTouch Inter Dominion Grand Final, the Group 1 PETstock Ballarat Cup and the Group 1 South Australia Cup, as well as running 2nd in the Group 1 Miracle Mile and the Group 1 Canadian Club Sprint, as well as winning the Group 2 Garrards Horse & Hound Inter Dominion Heat 9.
Smolda has been recently retired, so this prestigious award is very apt recognition of an incredible career. He retired as the sixth-richest Australasian bred pacer of all time.
Of note is the fact that the 2YO trotting gelding Wobelee (Down Under Muscles / Tupenny Bit) became the first 2-year-old trotter to win the Australian Trotter of the Year Award, with his record-breaking season including four Group 1 wins, with 10 wins from 12 starts in total, for $180,330 in stake earnings.
Congratulations must go to all horses and connections, but in particular to the Kiwi contingent, especially Breckon Farms Syndicate members Glenys and Philip Kennard for their success with their champion Smolda.