Parker gets win No.1

By Mac Henry

Macy Blue Chip went to the top of junior driver Maruia Parker's popularity list when she gained a nose decision at Ascot Park on Sunday.

It was win number one for Parker but the margin was so narrow she didn't dare celebrate until she heard judge Bruce Young announce the decision as the runners were returning to the birdcage.

In an interesting contrast, the horse Macy Blue Chip had beaten, Mach Of The Man, was driven by Clark Barron who at the time needed only one more win to get his 1000.

Mach Of The Man had sat parked to the turn and then went to the front. On the other hand, Parker and Macy Blue Chip, from one on the second line had settled three back on the poles.

About 300 metres from home, Parker angled out, followed Mach Of The Man into the straight and pulled off his back inside the 100.

Macy Blue Chip got her nose in front in the last stride and it was Parker's name that went into the record book.

Born in Roxburgh 23 years ago, Parker is a grand-daughter of the late Alan Parker, a Teviot Valley identity who made a huge contribution to the Roxburgh Trotting Club.

“I drove my first fast work on his horse, he was how I got into it,” Parker said.

After attending Otago University for a year and a half, Parker decided it wasn't for her.

She returned to Roxburgh where her sister Cass was working for Geoff and Jude Knight.

“I was offered a job for two months jogging horses and stayed for four and a half years.”

The first win came at Parker's 24th drive, her first drive having been aboard Tartan Trilogy on the same track on 10 August.

Tartan Trilogy was trained by the Knights for Dr Onn Chin, a retired General Practitioner from Mosgiel.

Parker acknowledged the help and support she had from the Knights, and from Dr Chin who made Tartan Trilogy available to her in the early stages of her career.

A few months before her first race drive, she took part in the southern leg of the Primary ITO Cadet of the year contest for level four cadets and finished runner-up to Rory McIllwrick.

About a month before her win, Parker transferred to the Makarewa stables of Tony Barron.

About the same time, so did Macy Blue Chip. With Tony being a brother of Clark, this added a touch of irony to the result.

Parker almost immediately became Macy Blue Chip's regular race driver and in their first three goes together scored two seconds and then the win.

The experience has hooked Parker on the industry and she says she has no plans to leave it.

Barron's 998th and 999th New Zealand wins had come earlier in the day with I'm Full Excuses and Mass Invasion, a pacer and a trotter he also trains.

Three year old I'm Full Of Excuses is raced by his Cambridge breeders Ollie and Irene Haines.

He began racing in September and will have his last for the season on 12 April in the Southern Supremacy Stakes on Diamonds Day.

Barron doesn't see I'm Full Of Excuses as one of the top chances in the race but is excited about his potential, as a four year old and beyond.

Mass Invasion is raced by Barron's father in law Owen Crooks who had a long association with Jaccka Lodge but has now retired to Invercargill.

The Muscle Mass four year old will also race at the Diamonds Day meeting.

Her race on Sunday was one of the qualifying races for the $10,000 Hot To Trot Graduation Final on April 12 and the top four in each qualifying race get a place in the final.

Gordon Lee was a second trainer-driver to get back to back wins, scoring with the three-year-old fillies Art Exhibit and Mighty Empire.

Both were formerly trained by Malcolm Shinn who also has a share in them.

He races Art Exhibit with Jack and the late Ann Inglis, and Mighty Empire with Mark O'Connor and Lisa Daly.

O'Connor, whose brother Greg is a front-man on Trackside Television, has had a connection with the Shinn stable for 26 years and won with a number of horses from there but Mighty Empire was the first winner he has had with the Lees.

Shinn was also the previous trainer of Royal Counsel, driven by Lee to win last season's Southland Oaks.

Art Exhibit and Mighty Empire will be nominated for this years group two feature on April12.

Victories by three year olds Tas Man Bromac and Statham made Nathan Williamson the third trainer-driver to win back-to-back races.

It was a sign, just a fortnight out from the Southern Supremacy Stakes, of the firepower he has at his disposal for the group two feature for the males.

Blackrock Babe, a half sister to 1:51.7 miler Freyberg, quit maiden ranks on Sunday.

She is raced by her breeder Phillip Hewitson who also bred and raced Freyberg, winner of three in New Zealand before his sale to Australia a couple of years ago.

He has now won 19 and more than a quarter of a million dollars.

The two are out of Sam's Beach Babe and because Blackrock Babe is the only filly, Hewitson says she will be bred from next season.

Veteran trotter Jaccka Jack gained his 13th win, three years after his 12th. He was driven by Rory McIlwrick who was celebrating his birthday on Sunday.

Jaccka Jack is raced by Charlie and Ailsa Smaill and trained at Riversdale by Charlie.