Grandson helps Ashton win again

By Jonny Turner

Otago trainer Steve Ashton's racing-keen grandson helped him get back in the winner's circle at Wyndham on Sunday.

Ashton scored his first training win since 2015 when Sunnivue Phileah notched her maiden victory in race 1.

Family circumstances have limited Ashton's ability to step out many horses in recent seasons.

His grandson, Lukus Johnston, has been key to the trainer putting out a runner again in Sunnivue Phileah.

"Our grandson Lukus is mad keen on harness racing and he has been working down in Wyndham with Craig Ferguson and Brendon McLellan," Ashton said.

"He took the horse down there and drove her at the trials."

Johnston caught the harness racing bug when Ashton campaigned his good former winners Better To Be Bad and Sunnivue Ted.

"He is only 15, but he has been driving horses since he was 10."

Ashton and his grandson's work paid off when Sunnivue Phileah overhauled the warm favourite, Kiwi Trix, in the straight to win.

The 6yr-old showed she was close to a win when running second to Lisa Marie P at Forbury Park, last week.

That effort, when going close to downing a horse that had won three races, was even better than it may have appeared.

"She dragged a flat tyre at Forbury - it had worn right through the plastic rim and down to the spokes," Ashton said.

Sunnivue Phileah showed promise as a 2yr-old, but has been given plenty of time to strengthen and mature by her trainer.

That could pay off again when the trotter lines up in a graduation final at Invercargill later this month.

Driver Craig Ferguson could be faced with a tough choice after he drove both Sunnivue Phileah and Abbey May to win at Wyndham yesterday.

Abbey May became eligible for the final after scoring the second win of her career for Milton trainer Lyndon Durham in race 4.

Canterbury pacer Diamond Party caused sensational scenes when winning race 10 yesterday.

The 3yr-old produced a brilliant win, pacing a fast 2-56.7 for 2400m on the rain-affected Wyndham track, to beat talented types See Ya Write and Pembrook Playboy.

Diamond Party then shocked onlookers when running sideways and crashing into the running rail shortly after the winning post.

Thankfully the Art Major filly and her driver Alana Cameron emerged from the incident without any major injuries.

Trainer Matt Purvis, who is Cameron's partner, said Diamond Party may have emerged slightly better off than the junior reinswoman.

"They are both fine, but I would say Alana might have a couple of bruises tomorrow," he said.

The trainer put Diamond Party's sideways shuffle down to greenness.

"She has got all the ability in the world, but she doesn't have the ringcraft yet.”

"Half the issue is her last two wins have been really impressive and she gets to the front and knocks off and starts skylarking."

Stewards ordered Diamond Party go back to the trials before she is able to race again.

Purvis plans to freshen the filly after she gets her ticket to race back.

The trainer's long term goal for the 3yr-old is the Southland Oaks.


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