Enigmatic trotter a family affair

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk

Susan Branch never wanted to train Sly Punter, but he has proven to give her family plenty of excitement over the last few months.

After failing to sell on standardbred.gavelhouse.com last year her son, Cambridge Raceway chief executive Dave Branch, organised to lease the gelding with a few family members.

“I was horrified, he was the last horse I wanted because I had seen him go every start because my sister’s husband owned him and Todd (Mitchell) trained him and he wasn’t a nice trotter to look at. He carried so much gear and was a nervous wreck,” Branch said.

“He has quietened down since he has come to the stable, but I still haven’t worked him. My son does all the work on him.”

While originally loathe to take on the gelding, he has given his new connections a lot of entertainment, particularly last month when he broke through for his maiden win at Cambridge Raceway in the hands of driver Zachary Butcher.

“Zac did brilliant on him because they were in a rush to gear him up and they didn’t get all the gear on, so I couldn’t put the Murphy Blind on,” Branch said.

“He had his head around the whole race and I was holding my breath hoping he would get around every corner.

“It was a relief that he won.”

Sly Punter subsequently finished sixth at Cambridge before returning to the Waikato track earlier this month to finish runner-up over 2200m, and Branch said it was a miracle he made it to the starting line.

“He was nearly scratched,” she said. “It was touch and go whether they got him on the track, he just wouldn’t go.

“But he eventually did and it was good to see him do it right.”

The pacing bred son of Gotta Go Cullect will contest the Happy 90th Birthday Bryce Espin Handicap Trot (2200m) at Cambridge Raceway on Wednesday and Branch said manners will be key.

“He is pretty unpredictable, but he has worked well during the week,” she said.

“He has got to bring his manners. Hopefully there is another win left in him. He has improved so much, so who knows.”

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