Chief Of Staff easily exceeding expectations

NZ HARNESS NEWS

From gift horse to Cup day runner up in a year – that is the story of Chief Of Staff and his fledgling trainer Jason Thomas.

And had it not been for an All Stars’ potential top liner in King’s Landing, Chief Of Staff would have been a winner with Thomas’ first starter on Cup day.

Making that occasion all the more merrier was a large group of young and mostly first time owners from Hamilton who were all on hand as well.

“When Chief Of Staff won at Oamaru, that paid for the flight down and tickets for the Blossom Lady Lounge,” said Thomas.

“There were nine of them including three brothers and it was great to get probably the best result possible at the end of a long day.

“Just having a runner on Cup day was a career highlight for me.”

Based on that form, Chief Of Staff must be a great chance of make further progress in the Smith Seed Handicap Trot at Methven on Sunday with regular driver John Dunn at the helm.

Fellow front markers I’ldoitmyway and Gil Favor also warrant a lot of respect, as does noted grass track performer Young Stranger, now that Chris Thornley has got the veteran back into form.

“It took about six months to get him sorted and then we had some issues over the winter with his feet and getting crook, but he’s been good in recent months and has made some nice progress.

“I think his earlier problems were just around being weak which led to some gait issues.

“I’ll give him a couple more starts at Addington and Ashburton in December and then he can have a well deserved wee break.”

Chief Of Staff was bred by Alan Clark and started as an early two-year-old in a non-tote trot at Addington, where he was pulled up.

Almost two years later he reappeared at Rangiora for Andrew Faulks, where he managed to complete the race but in last place.

It was at this point where it was agreed that Thomas would take Chief Of Staff away with the understanding Faulks would get $1000 if and when The Pres gelding won a race.

That happened six months later when Chief Of Staff resumed at the Nelson winter meeting and he won again at Oamaru the next month.

There have been other close placings at Ashburton and Addington along the way and Chief Of Staff’s races either side of Cup day are best forgotten.

“When he resumed at Addington in early October and broke after 200m, he was just a bit too fresh having come off a cold and those foot issues, and Ricky (May) hadn’t driven him for a while.

“Then at Orari last weekend, that’s just a day you turn the page on. Things were looking okay for a while but then there was a deluge about an hour before our race.

“He couldn’t handle parts of the track and there were a lot of others in the same boat.”

Thomas’ only previous winner in Devilicious was raced by a group which included George and Jack Mackintosh along with James Stewart.

But when Devilicious “completely lost the plot” last season, they were looking for a new horse when Chief Of Staff came along.

“I used to flat with the Mackintosh fellows in Christchurch and they roped in a group of mates from Hamilton to race Chief Of Staff.”

Thomas, who has been training in recent months at Robert Earle’s property at Charing Cross near Darfield, along with Brent Weaver, has a team of four for Christmas racing.

He has leased the three-win trotting mare Shpeedy from Jack Harrington, while there’s also the recently qualified pacing mare Hasta La Vista and trotter Trouble Pride is a prospect to take to the Coast provided Thomas can get him qualified in time.

“I’ve got some other bits and pieces to bring in but I’m waiting for mum and dad to come down in the New Year.

“My sister is now in Christchurch as well and dad (Ian) also wants to give me a hand with the horses.”

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