Father Dan’s legacy lives on

By Jonny Turner

All Stars filly Avana added another chapter to the massive legacy left by the late Tuapeka Lodge breeder Father Dan Cummings when she won at Ascot Park on Thursday.

The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained filly became yet another black-type performer for the Tuapeka Lodge Racing syndicate when she scored in a 1-57.1 mile rate in race 3.

Cummings, who died in March, and his keen eye for a talented standardbred were behind the selecting of Avana, who was knocked down to Purdon and Rasmussen’s All Stars stable at NZB Standardbred’s 2019 yearling sale.

After being snapped up for what now looks a bargain price of $16,000, the filly’s ownership was split between the Tuapeka Lodge syndicate, which Cummings formed with his brother, Peter, and sister Julie Davies, and Braeden and Caroline Whitelock.

It is not just Cummings’ keen eye for a smart standardbred that should get credit following Avana’s win.

When the filly paced professionally throughout her debut for driver Tim Williams it put the breaking in and horsemanship skills of the man known throughout New Zealand harness racing circles simply as ‘Father Dan’ on display once again.

“It would be a pretty special win for the owners,” Williams said.

“Father Dan and Braeden and Caroline were long-time friends and they decided to pick this filly out at the sales.”

“And they didn’t pay that much for her either.”

“Father Dan did the early work with her and he actually gave her a workout before she came up to Mark and Natalie’s.”

Avana found herself back in the deep south as part of a four-horse team the All Stars barn sent to Ascot Park on Thursday.

With two horses in each of two races, it was mission complete when Rock Legend followed up Avana’s win by taking out race 3.

“They came down here to split them up from some of our other horses and also because the trip away does them a lot of good,” Williams said.

“Some of them would have ended up in the race that we have eight horses in at Addington.”

“So, Mark decided to send these ones down here.”

The influence of the late Father Dan Cummings and his family on yesterday’s meeting did not end with Ivana.

When Tom Martin powered to an impressive victory in race 9 its credited the late Cummings and his brother and sister with a breeding victory.

The trio bred the towering Mach Three pacer from Life Sign mare, Raindowne, and sold him to trainer Graham Court at the 2018 national yearling sales in Christchurch.

Trainer Brain Norman continued his good momentum after a shift from South Otago to Eastern Southland when Postgrad Success won race 2 on Thursday.

Norman returned to the Gore area late last season, where he had trained for more than two decades, after an eight-year stint at Tahakopa.

Postgrad Success continued Norman’s good form since the shift when winning her debut for driver Nathan Williamson.

The trainer is hopeful that scoring first up does not take the early momentum of out the 4yr-old’s career.

“Winning first up is tough for them because they just don’t have that ringcraft,” Norman said.

“But she has got a bit of ability and Nathan seems to think she will handle the next grade up.”

Windsor has been the flag-bearer for Norman since his move, winning twice and running fourth in three post-lockdown starts.


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