Ashton hunting a half century
By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
With 48 victories to his name, Steve Ashton is tantalisingly close to reaching 50 training wins, but he is relying on just one horse to get him there - Sunnivue Phileah.
The seven-year-old mare has been teasing the Portobello trainer in recent times, posting four placings in her last four starts, but Ashton is hoping she will get him one step closer to bringing up his half century at Addington Raceway on Friday.
The daughter of The Pres will contest the Mid-Winter At Addington Trot (2600m) and Ashton is expecting another solid performance
“She is going well, she just needs a bit of luck to go her way,” he said.
“The field is no stronger than two starts ago where she nearly beat Sugarinspice, and it’s over a longer distance, which will suit her.”
Sunnivue Phileah had put in a couple of subpar performances over autumn, but Ashton said a change in shoeing turned her form around.
“The start where she ran sixth at Methven she would have won, but she had a few shoeing problems and we fixed those, and she has gone well since,” he said.
Ashton has trained for more than 20 years, and while he gave the game away for a couple of seasons recently, he was drawn back to racing by his grandson’s growing interest in the sport.
“I gave my license up for a year, but my grandson used to live with me, and he decided he wanted to go into harness racing, so we brought her back in,” Ashton said.
That decision has proven to be well worthwhile, with Ashton able to pass on his knowledge to the next generation in his family.
An Otago local, Ashton said it is sad to see the demise of Forbury Park, but he acknowledged it was a sign of the times.
“It is a bit sad, but not every horse handles Forbury, and it’s just the way times are going,” he said.
“We find it better going north than south at the moment, but there is a lot of travel with it. If I worked out how much travelling we have done this year it would scare a lot of people.”
Knocking on the door of 50 wins, Ashton said there are two horses that have stood out in his training career – Sunnive Son and Better To Be Bad.
“Sunnivue Son won the sales series race (Listed PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales 2YO Trot (1950m) for me, and Better To Be Bad ran second in a Group race (Gr.3 Signprint 4 & 5YO Championship, 2700m),” Ashton said.