Chmiel hits 700 with Annie Richter
By Jonny Turner
Terry Chmiel’s evolving harness racing career hit new heights when he drove his 700th winner in his own colours at Addington on Saturday night with Annie Richter.
The Leeston horseman ticked off the milestone when getting the best out of his four-year-old in a thrilling three-horse finish to race 1.
“It is good to get there, really good,” Chmiel said.
Chmiel’s winning run in the sulky started almost 26 years ago when Seaview Girl won at Westport’s Christmas meeting in 1994.
After that the reinsman went on to become a leading junior, a leading open reinsman and then a trainer that concentrated on his own team rather than travelling to take outside drives.
“As a junior, I was pretty busy,” Chmiel said.
“I used to get heaps of drives and travel a bit, but when you start training your own team you don’t go as much and you start just driving your own and a few others for good friends.”
“It is hard to do both, getting all the travelling done and trying to do the team at home.”
At the end of Chmiel’s time as a junior, he hit the sport’s biggest heights in headline-making circumstances.
The reinsman brought home his first group 1 win when Sunny Action upset superstar trotter Lyell Creek, who had to settle for third in the New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All.
“It was good to beat Lyell Creek that day, she was never expected to win and it was a bit of a surprise.”
“It was a good Cup Week that week.”
“I won on Cup Day with one of Andrew Stuart’s – Felix Redmond – he paid about $70 and that just kicked the whole week off.”
Sunny Action’s win started the steady flow of group race victories Chmiel drove over the next two decades.
Some of the highlights include Hurricane Flyer winning the 2004 Great Northern Trotting Derby and Susie Maguire winning the Peter Breckon Memorial Ladyship Stakes in 2007.
“Hurricane Flyer was a good horse to me, I just liked driving him.”
“It was good to win the big race up north with Susie Maguire, too.”
“And I have won some good races down south, as well.”
“I have had a pretty good run, to be fair.”
“There have been some nice horses over the years.”
“I can’t complain, it has been a good game to be in.”
“There are long hours, but you get rewards.”
Heading north to drive for other stables is not the focus for Chmiel these days.
The commitments involved in preparing his own team make that his main focus.
“I have been a big seller over the years.”
“You have got to concentrate on getting them up and going instead of driving.”
Chmiel's dedication to training has seen him prepare many of the big race winners he has driven.
They include Southland Oaks winner Dibaba, Southern Supremacy Stakes winner Memphis Tennessee and Kaikoura Sales Series Aged Pace winner Franco Tai.
Chmiel has also provided other reinsman highlights in the sulky through his training.
Nek Time won the Southland Oaks and Harness 5000 event with Dexter Dunn driving.
Dibaba won the Premier Mares Championship for Stephen McNally and the Sires Stakes Northern Mares Classic for Tim Williams.