Big weekend caps great season for ‘Coaster’
By Frank Marrion
Coaster Howe has been enjoying his best season ever by a fairly long way and the weekend past just put the icing on the cake.
It started on Saturday with Nandolo running a long-odds third at the Jewels and picking up $15,000, the best stake won by Howe alongside Boom Gate’s win in the 2012 Sapling Stakes in a training career which stretches all the way back to 1991.
Nandolo is owned by his Christchurch breeders in Phil and Christine Smith and they also bred and race Sunday’s Ashburton trotting winner Show Me The Gray, who has been a bit of a revelation in his last two races.
Then there’s just the small matter of Jackfrost, who finished second in the hurdle race at Wingatui on Sunday to confirm a trip to Victoria where he’ll start in three steeplechase races for stakes totaling $600,000 in coming weeks.
The Smiths, along with Ray Seebeck and Colin Tennant, who race Didjabringthebeers from Howe’s stable, are involved in the syndicate which races last year’s Grand National and Great Northern Hurdles winner.
Howe actually owns Jackfrost and leases him to a syndicate which also includes his regular driver Jonny Cox and fellow trainer Michael House.
“I bought him for the price of a riding hack as that was what he was supposed to be for my daughter,” said Howe.
“That was the first jumping race of the winter and it was a bit short for him, but you’ve got to start somewhere when you’re getting ready for Australia.”
Co-trainer Shane Anderton is taking Jackfrost to Victoria and you can bet the owners won’t be far behind when he tackles further G1 glory.
The Smiths had a fantastic run a few years ago racing the top trotting half-brothers Glenbogle and Whatsundermykilt with trainer Kevin Fairbairn.
They won 33 races and over $900,000 between them and now Nandolo and Show Me The Gray are proving their best performers out of Howe’s stable, along with nine-time winner Happy Heidi.
The latter had her first foal this season in a colt by Rock N Roll Heaven.
Show Me The Gray, a three-year-old gelding by Monkey Bones, is the last foal from the Gee Whiz mare Journey Without Maps and the Smiths were somewhat reluctant breeders of him.
She was bred by former Christchurch travel agent Dennis Price and won two races in Auckland for John Green and trainer Tony Shaw back in 2001.
Green took Journey Without Maps to Queensland for a brief and unsuccessful stint and then returned her to New Zealand to breed from.
“We wound up breeding from her every second year for a while, but as none of her foals were much good, Show Me The Gray was the last one.”
Journey Without Maps was a sister to a good trotter for Price in Brighton Rock (8 wins) and a half-sister to other good performers in Russ The Legend and Kumbya.
Show Me The Gray qualified back in August at Rangiora in the same heat that stablemate Aladdin Sane, also a three-year-old by Monkey Bones bred and owned by the Smiths, also got his ticket.
“We thought Aladdin Sane was the better of the two and he went on to race and win at Motukarara before Christmas,” said Howe.
“Show Me The Gray went for a good spell and while I knew he’d improved this time in and he went well enough in his first two races, his last two starts have been a bit of a surprise to say the least.”
Show Me The Gray was nice enough when finishing fourth on debut at Addington and winning at Washdyke, but it was a fourth at Rangiora which then had tongues wagging.
He was checked early and lost a street in a gallop and only managed to tack on to the back of the field passing the 600m, running home strongly “entirely under his own steam”.
A week later at Ashburton, Show Me The Gray was well back starting the last half and wide on the home turn, but in the end won quite easily.
“He can have a month off now and come back to racing for the good stakes in the spring, and before getting up in the grades too much.”