A change of fortune

NZ HARNESS NEWS

Young Darren Keast has worked for Cran Dalgety and Andrew Stuart but it was a shift to the much smaller stable of Henriette Westrum a few weeks ago that has changed his fortunes.

Keast had eight wins from 254 drives through his first three seasons as a junior driver, but this season he is unbeaten in two drives with the Don Jones-trained Copperhead Rose, while being second twice from two drives with Be Mine Tonight and second with Lovey Dovey Moment, both for Westrum.

Throw in three placings from four drives behind the Stuart-trained Martin John and Keast’s only real failures this season have been behind Lovey Dovey Moment and roughie Matau Gem at Addington last night.

“Lovey Dovey Moment either trots real good or real bad and unfortunately last night was the latter,” said Keast.

Keast’s UDR or strike rate this season is thus a very good .3636 and clearly he deserves more opportunities.

Copperhead Rose, a five-year-old entire by Vintage Master, made it a memorable occasion at Addington last night for Keast and the Jones’ when he came from the tail of the field as they swung for home to blow past Sheez Good in a 2000-metre stand.

Copperhead Rose had been pushed to the rear by lead changes, but the fast early pace resulted in the leaders struggling in the run home like they were biking up a hill and it was always going to be race for the swoopers.

“He’s good from the stands but barrier one is not the best as the outside horses get some momentum on you,” said Keast.

“Don (Jones) had told me he was good to go and to not be unlucky, but I didn’t have any options in the run and when I looked up on the home turn, I thought we’ve got a bit of work to do here.”

Keast picked up the drive on Copperhead Rose ahead of the junior driver’s race at Methven at fortnight ago as a result of “being in the right place at the right time”.

Westrum, whose partner is Keast’s father Jamie, trains at Kypros Kotzikas’ Lavros Lodge at Yaldhurst and that is where Hororata’s Jones does his fast work.

“Dad had driven Copperhead Rose in a trial this time in and they got to talking about the boys’ race at Methven and I just happened to be standing there.”

Jones now intends keeping Keast on since “he is doing so well”.

Copperhead Rose had begun his career with purpose late last year before his form tapered off in the New Year, something Jones cheekily put down to “bad driving by Carl (Markham)”.

“He’s a lazy horse and only does what he has to and Darren did the right thing by warming him up with the stick,” said Jones.

Copperhead Rose’s form this season has been a big boost for Jones, who last Christmas was diagnosed with a form of lung cancer from asbestos and given 6-12 months to live.

“I’d lost 35kgs at one point recently and I thought we won’t have long to go at this rate, but the body has been fighting back and I’ve put on 5kgs.

“The horses have had a lot to do with keeping me going.”

Copperhead Rose sounds like a mare’s name but the chestnut “looks like copper in the sun” and Jones’ three granddaughters all have Rose for a middle name.

He is the first foal from Reklis Millions after Jones bought her dam in the Frugal Gourmet mare Lavra Millionairess for $500 while in foal to Iraklis from Kotizikas.

Prior to this season, Jones had the rather unique record of having one win in each of his first five seasons at training – four with Karanga Red Fantasy and one with Copperhead Rose.

His good mare Karanga Red Fantasy won her first three starts under Bob Forrester, who Jones worked for before Forrester had a stroke and had to give the game away.

Her four wins for Jones included one at Orari three years ago where she paid $73 and set up a trifecta worth over $20,000.

She broke down while racing at Westport last Christmas and has a booking to Vincent this season.

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