Big changes ahead for top trainer-driver

By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk 

Just days after bringing up his 700th win as a driver, Gavin Smith's training career has taken a big step forward too.

The North Canterbury-based Smith is branching out by adding a second stable at Woodend beach to his base 15 minutes down the road at Rangiora.

"I know the benefits the beach can have on horses and I'm keen to have a go," says Smith.

"I will have the babies and those jogging at Rangiora and the race horses will be based at the beach. I will drive fast work at both places each day with a full-time worker at both."

"The beach is just so much better on their joints"

Smith will lease the stables off David and Catherine Butt. They have a sizeable complex, complete with swimming pool and treadmill.

"It's the same setup as Matt Purvis or the Dunns," says Smith.

Smith will be in the same facilities previously used by Regan Todd. He has since re-located his team to Lavros Lodge on the outskirts of Christchurch.

Smith is well acquainted with the benefits of beach training. He has worked for the Butts previously and also had a stable at nearby Ashworths Beach.

"That was about six or seven years ago," says Smith, "it's good to go back."

Currently with a team of around 20 horses Smith is keen to up his numbers a bit once the dual stable operation gets fully into stride.

"I'm aiming for thirty - we have a lot of nice horses at the moment without any real stand-outs but there are a lot of nice horses that will do a good job."

Fittingly Smith drove his 700th win on Star Magic, a three-year-old He's Watching gelding that he also trains, at Timaru on Sunday. It came from 6642 drives, the first win being 20 years ago.

"I'd forgotten about it," Smith says of the milestone, "but it is great to get it for those who have supported me for a long time."

As well as driving his own horses Smith is also the go-to driver for Phil Burrows. This season he's had 18 successes in the sulky.

His best season wins-wise was the 61 he had in 2016. Then his star horse was 16-win trotter Great Things Happen. Smith has said the Love You gelding provided him with his biggest moment in racing when winning the New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All on Cup day in 2017.

"To win a Group 1 was pretty cool."

Among his many other successes was My Ultimate Chevron who won the Group 3 Sapling Stakes on debut at Ashburton in 2021. He was 7/7 in the betting in an eight-horse field but Smith drove him to victory, paying $42.

Since 2009 Smith has trained 249 winners, hopeful that his now two-pronged approach will reap many more.

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