Mike Stevens on the move
When Mike Stevens is asked why he’s leaving the property that trained a New Zealand Cup runner-up he just shrugs and answers : “old age”.
In fact there are a few reasons but as he heads towards his eighties Stevens knows it’s time for a change.
“I’m just a tradesman,” he says, ‘‘my hands and legs are worn out.”
Stevens has decided to leave his 29 hectare property near Saltwater Creek in North Canterbury after setting it up in 1995, after previously training at Waimairi Beach.
Two years later his star horse Smooth Dominion – “a lovely old fella” – ran second in the country’s biggest race, the New Zealand Cup for regular driver Robert Anderson, just a head away from favourite Iraklis.
“He shouldn’t have been there,” says Stevens, “he had a stuffed leg but I started him and said nothing.”
It was a different era to the very animal welfare conscious industry harness racing is now and Stevens reckons the injury was the difference between second and Cup glory.
“His leg gave way just short of the line…it cost him the race.”
“He liked to sit parked. He was tough, he was an outstanding stayer who just wouldn’t stop.”
Bred and owned by Mike and his late wife Glenis Stevens, Smooth Dominion won 10 from 50, accruing more than $150,000 in stakes. Stevens himself trained 76 winners from 1983 to 2014.
While he hasn’t trained in recent years his wife’s memory lives on in a number of horses, most notably 10-win trotter Sunny Glenis who is trained by Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan at Clevedon but still races in Stevens’ yellow and blue colours.
Another horse he bred (and sold unraced) was Majestic Courtney. Trained by Tim Butt in Sydney the Majestic Son gelding has won 14 from 30 starts and over $113,000.
Right now Stevens is preparing for his new life. His property has a 750 metre track and access to the beach. He’s unsure whether he’ll sell or lease it.
In the meantime trotting annuals, photos, stud books and a lot of other memorabilia gathered over the four decades have gone – “I’m decluttering”
A bit like Smooth Dominion all those years ago Stevens says he’s “buggered”. A new retirement paddock awaits.