House ends Manawatu season with 62 wins
By Garrick Knight
After last season’s amazing showing at Manawatu, which produced 49 winners, not many thought Michael House could or would repeat the dose this term.
Much less turn the screws and go even bigger.
But he did, and as the curtain came down on another Central Districts season in Palmerston North last night, House was left to reflect on what turn out to be a watershed year.
His three victories last night with Mogul, Shot In The Dark and Final Delight took him to 62 winners at the track this season, 72 in the Central Districts, and 80 across the country.
He now sits a clear third on the trainers’ premiership, 25 wins behind Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen.
His 62 Manawatu wins came from 146 races at the track this season, giving him an incredible winning percentage of 42.4 percent.
Ever the orator, House spoke effusively about his return to Palmerston North this season, in cahoots with the country’s leading driver Blair Orange, and the success they’ve had.
“It’s certainly put a hole in a lot of people’s expectations,” he joked.
“Quite frankly, I started the season needing to do it because of my financial situation thanks to buying another farm.
“It was the only way I could make money.”
Interestingly, and in testament to his stellar support crew, House didn’t attend any of the 18 Palmerston North meetings this season.
“I decided to do it better than last year, but I made a promise to a couple of people that I would do it from home.
“So, I didn’t go there at all.
“I went to one Otaki meeting for an afternoon on my way to Auckland to look at yearlings, and that’s also because my brother was there.
“That took the challenge from one level to another.
“Instead of having two trucks on the road, I had three.
“And I felt like I had a responsibility to the Manawatu club to do what I did.
“There are shrinking horse pools in the region and due to the programming, at times they were at risk of not being able to run meetings.
“Especially when there two-day meeting less than a week after one at Cambridge.
“I recognized then that I would need to have 20 horses nominated to get the meeting off the ground.”
That meant more and more time on the phone, either receiving enquiries from other trainers, or doing the recruiting himself.
“I would get calls, which were greatly appreciated, but I tried not to ring any professional trainers or their owners.
“I didn’t want to take a horse off someone who makes a living out of the game.
“Some of them, like Kyle Cameron and Coaster Howe were wonderful in sending me horses, knowing it was the right thing for the owners, and they would end up with the horse back.
“But I mostly targeted horses with hobby or amateur trainers.“
Orange was, obviously, a major part of the puzzle, and making it worthwhile for him was important, too.
“I was acutely aware that I had to have a good drive for him in every race at both meetings.
“That meant taking up two decent chances for each race, so if one of them won on the first day, he could drive the other one in the same race on the second day.
“He’s an immeasurable resource to have and I couldn’t really imagine me doing it without him.”
So fine-tuned is his relationship with Orange now that he says there is very little correspondence between them. They simply have full faith in the other to do their job.
“He’s told me he loves the style of racing there; he can just go out there, get in the cart and forget about everything else.
“I never tell him how to drive, though I did nearly ring him with instructions for Mogul yesterday.
“But I didn’t and it still won.
“I will be giving him some stick though because he kept telling me to get rid of Shot In The Dark last month, and it came out and won two in a row!”
Mogul won both days this week, bringing his total Manawatu tally to six wins across three stints, dating back to last season.
He’s one of a number of horses loaned to House by Greenpark horseman James Geddes over the past two seasons, and House highlights him as being a connection he’s especially grateful for.
“For me personally, one of the highlights of the season has been my relationship with James.
“He’s been very good to me with the likes of Mogul and Apocalypse, and I was thrilled to be able to carry on and win races for him this season.”
So, what’s next for House?
With him you never say never, and you just can’t rule anything out.
“My kids want me to chase the premiership next season.
“They’ve really got in behind me this year, my youngest has even been caught watching the races on his phone at school.
“So, maybe that’s a goal for next season?
“Seriously though, Lindsay (Colwell, partner) and I aren’t making any plans at this stage.”
In coming months, House will focus on developing his Auckland satellite stable with Neil Munro and tackling the Forbury Park winter meetings.
“I’ve just sent six new ones up to Auckland, bringing our numbers to 10 up there.
“We’re going to terrorise the ‘South of the Bombay’ series at Auckland this winter and I think I’ll also get some more horses in to tackle Forbury.”
Before wrapping this story up, House wanted to make particular mention of his right-hand lady on the North Island trips.
“Penny Boyle is everyone; she’s the go-to girl.
“She gets out of the truck and never stops.
“All the harnesses and gear are lined up and labelled. Everything is sorted in a fail-safe way.
“It doesn’t matter if there are nine or 19 horses up there, she’s got it covered.
“I’m indebted to her. Maybe next season I’ll get her some more help,” he joked.