Johnny Eyre gets his slice of history
By Frank Marrion, courtesy of the HarnessXpress
Johnny Eyre has achieved a few distinctions in his long career and now he can lay claim to being the winningest horse in the long history of the Mt Harding racecourse.
The now 10-year-old son of Christian Cullen won for the fourth time at Methven last Sunday and local stalwart Martin Nordqvist says he has records dating back to 1927, or to when the club was formed, which suggest that is a first.
Plenty have won three races but none had won four in almost a century of racing there.
They are Chatterton (1974), Jaunty Hanover (1978), Trevor Hodgen (1981), Ruthless (1986), Light Foyle (1987), Hindu Rebel (1990), Gatekeeper (1999), Inka Magic (1999), Eastwood Jaunty (2003), Kiwi Cosby (2005), Bobs Blue Boy (2005), Kip Ross (2008), Waihemo Sam (2010) and Johnny Eyre (2015), now four in 2021.
Johnny Eyre has also won four races at Reefton including two Cups, with one a deadheat, and that could well be a record as well with a lot less racing there compared to Methven.
“It’ll be five next month just to put a ring around that one,” joked Brown.
“But it will probably be his last trip over there.”
Johnny Eyre has made the trek across the Southern Alps on no less than 15 occasions, or he hasn’t missed a meeting there every year since his first trip away as a three-year-old.
Johnny Eyre has now won 13 races in his 159-start career to date and 12 have been on grass tracks, which is almost certainly another record in itself.
“He won a race at Addington once (in September, 2016) and has had a few placings from not many starts there, but he hasn’t really been a short trip mobile-type horse.
“He’s a great standing start horse so that’s why we’ve mainly looked to race him on the grass where ever possible.
“He doesn’t seem to lose any speed on the grass and just needs the right sort of trip to be in the finish, whereas other horses do lose their speed on grass.
“So he is probably better off on grass, but the real reason he mostly races on them is because the owner prefers to race during the day in the country.”
Johnny Eyre made his debut in the Sapling Stakes in 2013 and he hasn’t missed many beats in eight seasons of racing since.
Outside of that two-year-old season and the current one, he’s raced at least 18 times each season while never racing more than 25 times.
“His legs look like that of a two-year-old without a blemish on them.
“He’s never had an unsound day in his life, just a few back issues which Geoff Dunn would fix with his funny business.
“But he has been pretty much vet-free and that has been a big bonus.”
Outside of his eight wins at either Methven or Reefton, Johnny Eyre has also won at Motukarara twice, at Westport and at the Amberley meeting last year.
Sunday’s race at the Hororata meeting was tailor-made for Johnny Eyre where after drawing barrier two in a mobile, Ben Hope was able to drop to four-fence.
It was a real stop-start affair with plenty of moves and jockeying for positions and in the end, Hope found himself in the trail on the home turn by doing nothing.
Johnny Eyre probably heard the cry ‘here comes Johnny’ at the furlong and he raced away to score emphatically by four lengths.
Sam Ottley has won five races with Johnny Eyre and was his regular driver for quite a while, as was Michelle Neilson early on and she won three times with him.
John Dunn, Robbie Holmes, Kim Butt, Kyle Cameron and Hope are the other drivers to win with Johhny Eyre in a total of 20 different drivers over the years.
“When you’ve got a small team, you can’t blame the drivers for aligning themselves to the bigger stables, but it has been a case of them defecting rather than me changing drivers.”
Brown said the highlight of Johnny Eyre’s career would probably have to be his first Reefton Cup success in 2016, although “all the wins were special at the time”.
“He’s been a terrific family horse and we’ve all really enjoyed racing him.
“I thought that at the start of this season, that it would probably be his last, but I wouldn’t like to set anything in stone just yet.
“As long as he’s enjoying the racing and is competitive, you might as well keep going I guess.”
And get days like last Sunday. – by Frank Marrion