Lionel Dobbs thrilled with first training success

By Mike Love

After 169 starts without success, Orari trainer Lionel Dobbs was clearly delighted to grab his first win in the harness code with Betterthandiva at Ashburton Raceway yesterday.

“It was a real good feeling watching her coming down the straight,” said Dobbs.

That was Betterthandiva’s seventh start for Dobbs, and the six-year-old Betterthancheddar mare’s third career win from 38 starts. It was Dobbs' 170th start as a trainer since starting out just under a decade ago. His previous best result was a third with Pocket Call at Forbury Park in 2019.

“I feel like I can put her (Betterthandiva) in a race now. She wants to be there. She’s turned around and working so good on her own here. I was disappointed with her first run for us, but we found an issue and fixed her up.”

In the Wattslea Farm Canterbury Plains Challenge Heat 10, Betterthandiva showed early speed to lead from her barrier draw with driver John Dunn before taking a trail. Dunn and Betterthandiva awaited the passing lane to zoom through and hold off challengers to score by half a length from Not Over.

“When John (Dunn) came to put the cart on before the race, I could tell he was on a mission. I never said a word to him before the race. He said he wanted to lead and hand up.”

The win secures Betterthandiva's place in the $30,000 Canterbury Plains Challenge Series final at Addington this Friday night.

Dobbs' grandfather Lionel Pratt trained about “800 winners” in the thoroughbred code.

“My father also had gallopers. We’ve always had horses in the family.”

Dobbs has trained 22 winners in the thoroughbred code gallops and it was his wife Janine that in a roundabout way prompted Dobbs to take out his harness training licence as she part owned the Phil Williamson trained trotter Lyalldale Invasion in the 2000s.

“When Lyalldale Invasion was turned out for a spell he came to our property. Then I started jogging it up. Phil said just keep going with it. So I applied for my licence and got it straight away. He was my first starter.”

Dobbs’ win yesterday was a popular one among the participants in the industry.

“The amount of texts I received yesterday was phenomenal. People I haven’t spoken to or heard from for a while. It’s bloody awesome.”

The final standings for the Canterbury Plains Challenge Series can be found here

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