Johnny’s back to his best for coast circuit
By Garrick Knight
Mike Brown just loves the coast.
The veteran North Canterbury trainer has made a habit of trekking across to Westport and Reefton to race his small team over the past decade, often with a fair bit of success.
He’s won races at the two tracks with five different horses in the last six years and hopes to add to that with a three-horse team, starting with Westport on Thursday.
“This looks to be the best chance I’ve had, but I guess sometimes it doesn’t work out like that,” he told HRNZ.
“I think I first took a horse called Patrick Dylan across in the early 80s back when I was only training one at a time.
“Maybe one more in the late 80s before a bit of a drought set in, so to speak.
“I took Wai Eyre Lady across around 2000 as well, but more recently it’s become an annual occurrence.”
The reason is not so much for a holiday, but because of the quality of the track surface.
“It’s a very good track at Westport; it and Methven are the best grass tracks I’ve raced on.
“Plus it has great facilities and, especially on Boxing Day, it draws a big crowd, which makes for great racing.”
In recent seasons he’s met with a lot of success on the coast thanks primarily to stable veteran, Johnny Eyre, who comes in to this year’s Westport Cup as a last-start winner.
That win, at Motukarara, was his first win in 37 starts, stretching back to his Reefton Cup win two years ago.
Brown makes no secret of the fact the horse was below his best in that time, but is certain he’s turned that around this time.
“I think this season he has come up a bit similar to when he won twice on the coast two seasons ago.
“He’s back to where he was then, in that sort of form.
“Last season was nothing flash and, while he’s a bit older now, he’s near his best.”
Brown also takes Budvar Eyre and Markham Eyre across Lewis Pass and reckons the latter, especially, is a strong winning chance.
“Markham Eyre is the horse that can go the furthest.
“He’s got that much gate speed, but the problem is he wasn’t running on at the finish.
“So he has to be kept for one run but I think if he’s close enough to them, he can go close to winning.”
Budvar Eyre is a decent maiden but dropped his bundle shortly after the start at Motukarara.
“A brilliant beginner but when he sights the crossing, he goes over it like a showjumper.
“To be fair to him, the grass clippings on the one at Motukarara were the colour of hay and that didn’t help.
“So, it’s important he’s near the front, but not in front.”
There’s no doubt that a Westport Cup is one race Brown craves and he’s hoping this year he might finally ‘crack it’.
“I’ve won two Reefton Cups and an Inangahua Grey Valley Cup with Johnny, but so far the Westport Cup has eluded me.
“Let’s hope this is the year.”