A night to remember
NZ HARNESS NEWS
It was a night to remember for Craig Smith at Cambridge on Friday, the South Auckland-based junior driver recording two wins, including his first as a trainer.
He piloted his own horse, Whitehaven Beach, to an overdue maiden victory with a heady front-running drive and recording a junior drivers’ event win with Ideal Star.
“It was a pretty special night,” Smith told The Informant.
“I’ve spent plenty of nights making mistakes and for me it’s just about learning and improving and taking the positives out of it.
“What will be, will be; I just hope to have more like that.”
Smith, who works for John and Josh Dickie, spent his formative years in the industry in Canterbury before a move north just over a year ago.
He has no family background in the industry whatsoever.
“I started out working for Johnny and Robert Dunn and spent a bit over five years there.
“I owe them a lot, really, because they taught me everything I know.
“And I couldn’t have had a better education.
“But it was time for a change, to learn new things and to get out of my comfort zone.
“So, I came north and started with Jeremy Young, who was awesome to me.
“I hadn’t been there too long when the job at John and Josh’s came up and Jeremy told me to go for it.
“He said it’s a bigger barn and it could take me the places I want to go in the game.
“The rest is history.”
While working at the Dickies he spent some time looking after Whitehaven Beach, who was then a visitor from Ken and Tony Barron’s Canterbury stable.
“They eventually sold him to Ray Green but it didn’t work out there and when I heard they were getting rid of him, I thought I’d have a go.
“I knew a bit about him and John and Josh were happy for me to get my license and have a horse at the stable.”
So, he pulled some friends together, including North Canterbury trainer John Bartlett and took the plunge.
The horse had badly lost form for Green but after a spell he returned to the trials and looked every part an early maiden winner for Smith.
But things didn’t quite pan out and it’s taken nine starts in his black, red and white colours to get the chocolates.
Harshly, Smith blames himself.
“He was in some tough fields and I didn’t always drive him the best.
“He always puts his best foot forward and I never really came off the track thinking he went poor.”
Three placings and a fourth reflected that and Smith never panicked.
“Knowing he was trying his best, I always knew it was going to come, I just had to be patient.”
While it’s nice working with a team the quality of the Dickies, Smith does one day hope to expand his own operation a little bit.
“Every day is enjoyable working for them; they have a great team of horses and give me so many opportunities.
“I do have a dream to my own wee set up at some point, training a team.”