Drake gets on the board
NZ HARNESS NEWS
Andrew Drake had a homecoming to remember when he won his first race as a trainer on Tuesday.
He travelled from his base in Pukekohe to his old home town of Palmerston North with the only horse he has in work, Bubble Gum, and got the chocolates.
The key, Drake reckoned, was a drop in company from the big city lights of Alexandra Park in Auckland.
“This is his level of racing and that’s why I brought him down here.
“I was a bit cautious about going around this track because he can hit a knee, but Zac (Butcher, driver) said he got around it a treat.”
Drake, who cut his teeth in the game working for local trainer Stephen Doody, said he was happy to have family and friends on course to enjoy the day.
“All my old footy mates are here today, so we’ll have a beer to celebrate.
“I went to school here and played my footy here. I was actually going quite well at it when I decided to go down the harness racing road instead.
“I started off at Noddy’s (Doody’s) and then went to Perth and worked for Kade Howson and Robbie Tomlinson.
“But I was only 17 and after 10 months being quite far away, I got a bit home sick.
“So, I came home, went back to Noddy’s and then ended up in Cambridge with Todd Mitchell.
“I can’t take anything away from Noddy as he gave me my grounding and education, but I learnt a hell of a lot with Todd.”
More recently Drake has been based at Lincoln Farms with Green.
“We are allowed to have a horse there; Ray and John (Street) are pretty good about it.”
Back in June, neighbouring horseman Steven Reid, then Bubble Gum’s trainer, reached out to Drake and told him the horse might suit him as a first horse to train.
“He’d won on mile night for ‘Reidman’ with Ricky May driving him, and Steven said he’d probably only give him a couple more starts and might not be the worst for me to snap up.
“He was up in the ratings and the owners weren’t too fussed about pressing on with him.
“So, I rung Peter Dougherty, the main owner, and he was very generous and agreed to lease me the horse.”
A couple of placings and three fourths had given Drake an indication he wasn’t too far away from that maiden winner, he just had to persist.
“When I first got him, he always hit a knee and I really wanted to get him off that.
“So, I took the one-legged spreader off and changed his shoeing and it helped a lot.
“But at his last start, he was hitting himself, and knowing we were coming to a tighter track like Palmy, I put the one-legged spreader back on.”
It did the trick and Bubble Gum prevailed easily off the front end.
Further trips to Palmerston North are likely for horse and trainer.
“I’ll mainly look at Palmy and the grass with him, I’d say.
“And once they’re done, we will reassess things.
“I’m happy working for Ray and doing the one horse of my own.
“I recently bought a three-horse float and do quite a bit of transporting to the races. That helps pay the bills.
“I can’t complain, really.”