New season and big aims for Telfer barn

By Michael Guerin

New Zealand’s most progressive harness racing stable could start its march toward a premiership title at Alexandra Park tonight.

But while senior trainer Steve Telfer believes his stable might still be a year away from being genuine premiership contenders a win or two tonight would give them a running start in their potential title chase.

South Auckland trainer Telfer and his sister Amanda finished third in the national premiership cemented by Robert Dunn just a few days ago and have the equine, human and financial firepower to go close that gap this term.

“Realistically we might be a year away from being premiership-winning contenders but we should take another step toward that this season,” says Telfer.

The racing stable and breeding business of Stonewall Stud continues to grow with principal Steve Stockman investing heavily at the top of the market, including the sales-topping filly at the Karaka yearling sale earlier this year.

That was one highlight in a season when they won group ones with the Sires’ Stakes Championship (Enjoy Me) and a Harness Jewels with B D Joe but Telfer says this season should be better.

“We have got a great team of staff around us and Steve is very motivated and has big plans so it is very exciting.”

Stonewall will have a Canterbury stable operating in weeks with top driver Tim Williams a key component while a more permanent base on the property formerly owned by the late Jack Smolenski will see far bigger numbers representing them in the South Island later in the season.

“We could end up with a balance of like 25 horses down there and 45-50 up here,” explains Telfer.

“Steve is keen to have a crack at the premiership in coming years and we have the numbers and the quality so we will give it a a real go but whether that happens this year is hard to predict.”

Team Telfer heads to the first Alexandra Park tonight for an all-mile meeting to start the season with one of the surprise packages of last term in Dance Time, a pacer who has walked his way into New Zealand Cup contention.

While he has always been talented pre-race nerves all but wrecked Dance Time’s career until Stonewall invested in a 10-horse walker.

“He is such a nervy horse and ended up in a lot of standing start races and would gallop away and that really knocked his confidence,” explains Telfer.

"But we worked out that by putting him on the walker for 30 minutes twice on race day, the second time just before he gets on the truck to the races, calms him down and gets rid of some of that nervous energy.

“Since then he has been a different horse and so much better we are considering a New Zealand Cup campaign with him if he can keep handling the standing starts.”

Dance Time (R9, No.7) is fit enough to pace “1:52-1:53” tonight according to Telfer but crucial for punters will be whether he can cross to the lead from the outside of the mobile barrier at the tricky mile start.

Telfer suggests Kerri Maguire (R3, No.9) can be a big improver tonight but her chances may be dictated by whether the horse she follows out can lead or at least stay handy while Riverboy Ben (R6, No.9) is rated the better chance tonight of the stable’s two hopes in his race based on his draw.

Later in the season Telfer hopes B D Joe can be aimed at races like the Victoria Derby and Chariots Of Fire in Australia while Enjoy Me and Darling Me could head to Victoria for Oaks and Breeders Crown racing there.

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