Milestone win for James Stormont
By Garrick Knight
The addition of a key piece of gear helped James Stormont train his 200th winner, with Sunny Petite at Alexandra Park on Friday night.
“She was really good early on and I’ve always had a bit of time for her,” he told HRNZ.
“But she would panic and gallop here at Auckland so I’ve really had to try and educate her as I go.
“I put the half-hopples on her and they have helped big time.”
Sunny Petite had been unplaced in all five runs at Alexandra Park to this point, but had been racing well at Cambridge.
Stormont says there is an element of frustration in the fact that trainers have been unable to give their horses workouts at Alexandra Park for the past couple of years, owing to the building development.
“It would be nice if we could trial here and I’m hopeful that once the buildings are finished that will be the case again, because it’s so important, especially for the trotters.”
Sunny Petite, by Majestic Son, is a granddaughter of one of New Zealand’s greatest ever trotting mares, Pride Of Petite.
It’s a family made famous by semi-retired Takanini horseman Snow Weaver, who still breeds from two descendants of the great mare and horses with Stormont, as well as Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis.
Stormont will now carefully place Sunny Petite so as not to overexpose her to established and more experienced horses.
“It can be cruel to trotters just out of maidens, this handicapping system.”
Stormont has driven 1236 winners since kicking off his career in 1982, but he only took up training in 1995.
Mr Kiwi floors punters
Punters may have been shocked by the upset win of Mr Kiwi in the R60-68 pace, but his co-trainer John Dickie wasn’t.
“I couldn’t believe he paid $43.
“His trial last Saturday was super; he hit the line hard for third behind Wainui Creek.”
It was probably the draw that put punters off – the inside of the second row with hot favourite Wainui Creek and her stablemate, Henry Hu on the front line.
But some canny early driving from Dickie’s son, and training partner, Josh, negated that.
A power of early speed from noted gate-runners Nanelle Franco and Court On The Edge spread the field out early and that allowed him to extract Mr Kiwi from an early four-markers sit to then challenge for the lead.
From there he set a solid clip before whipping home in 55.9 to defy a fast-finishing Henry Hu with Wainui Creek in third.
“They’ve gone 2.40 but no one really looked at him, which was quite surprising,” said John.
It was the first northern win for Mr Kiwi, who arrived in Auckland from Brett Gray’s Ryal Bush stable at the start of the year with four wins in the bank.
Dickie and stable client Steve Waters, a local property developer, joined the former’s longtime supporter, Southland’s Ben Calder, in the ownership.
Mr Kiwi’s first Auckland campaign didn’t yield a win from six starts, but the Dickies weren’t panicking.
“We didn’t have any issues with him; he was just very tired by the end of it because he’d had a long season.”
He’ll go up in grade now and likely have to contend with the better class of horse on display, but for now there isn’t any major concern in the camp.
“He’s a good stand start horse so that won’t be a problem.”