Johnny Eyre back where he belongs

NZ HARNESS NEWS

It’s been a while between drinks for Johnny Eyre and breeder-owner-trainer Mike Brown but expect the real one to turn up for Sunday’s Motukarara Pacing Cup.

The noted grass track performer hasn’t won a race since a double on the West Coast last season which included a deadheat with Baileys Knight in the Reefton Cup.

That was his 10th win and ninth on grass tracks, where most of his numerous placings have also come.

Johnny Eyre spent pretty much all of last year out of form, not paying a dividend in 17 starts before heading to the Coast again this season, where he regained his form with a fourth on the second day at Westport while pushing Franco Hampton to a neck second in the Reefton Cup.

The main reason for Johnny Eyre having such a flat patch was his rating after getting home from the Coast last year.

He went to an R83 when he came off 20m in the Reefton Cup and that meant he was off long handicaps in each subsequent race for the next four months and before going for a spell.

When Johnny Eyre returned as an eight-year-old this season he was coming up against the likes of Cruz Bromac, Forgotten Highway, Funatthebeach, Airpark Flyer, Anthem and Nandolo, sometimes in mobiles at Addington.

Through all this Johnny Eyre dropped all the way back to a 57 rating and he is now ‘back where he belongs’ – starting off the front in a Country Cup.

His ability to step quickly and keep handy has always been Johnny Eyre’s strength and forte.

“When he went to the Coast last month I was quietly confident about him winning a race again,” said Mike Brown.

“We’d made some gear adjustments which didn’t work out on the first day at Westport.

“Then he missed the start a wee bit when Gavin Smith drove him for the first time on the second day and he wound up four-fence, but he stormed home late for fourth.

“He wound up three-fence at Reefton and finished strongly there and his work since has been very good.

“So I’m expecting him to go well at Motukarara and hopefully he can hold his form for the rest of the Country Cups circuit.”

Smith will drive Johnny Eyre again and is his sixth driver in 10 starts this season, although that is not something that concerns Brown – “I think he knows his way around”.

“You couldn’t blame Sam (regular driver Ottley) for opting for more in form horses and it’s just the way things have worked out this season.”

Brown could easily win a race earlier in the day with a couple of useful looking maidens engaged in Markham Eyre and Matthew Eyre, who are brothers from a sister to Johnny Eyre.

Both start from the second line but a win by either wouldn’t surprise.

Markham Eyre, a three-year-old son of Sportswriter named after Matt Markham, is a particularly interesting runner.

“We’ve always known he was good free-legged but he had the hopples on when he began racing on the Coast.

“He needed a bit of education and getting used to the surroundings.

“I wasn’t about to race him free-legged without a trial so we took him to the Rangiora workouts on Wednesday.

“He started from barrier eight but led all the way and won very easily by two lengths.”

Sam Ottley drove Markham Eyre at the Coast and in the workout and has opted to retain the drive at Motukarara.

Markham Eyre is also interesting because he shouldn’t be around at all.

“When he was gelded as a yearling, his guts wound up all over the ground.

“The vet Andrew Bailey wanted to take him into the clinic to put him back together, but I asked him to give it a go in the paddock.

“That took several hours and while it appeared successful, Andrew thought he would die from an infection anyway.

“But he somehow survived and it looks like he’s going to turn out alright.”

With that in mind, Brown gave away a 25% interest in Markham Eyre to various people including Bailey, his two daughters Angela and Sharon and neighbor and lifelong friend Tom Rae.

-NZ Harness News

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