Sacred Mountain and Mike Nicholas have overdue wins at Cambridge

By Barry Lichter

Sacred Mountain erased three months of frustration for trainer Nicky Chilcott in less than three minutes at Cambridge on Friday night.

Forced out of all the big trots at the recent Auckland carnival through a freak injury, and with a cloud still hanging over her head, the mare overcame a 35 metre handicap to score a surprisingly easy win.

“Right up until Tuesday I hadn’t been happy with her,” Chilcott said. “She’d been doing my head in. She seemed good in herself but wasn’t training well.”

Overnight, everything seemed to change.

“Milly” wasn’t grumpy any more and when brushed up at the end of her work she finally gave Nicky that winning feel again - “I was flat pulling her up.”

On the strength of that one run, Nicky went into Friday’s race cautiously optimistic that Milly had put her problems behind her.

What caused the mare to miss her shot at the big guns is still a bit of a mystery.

“When I put her in her paddock she was fine. When I got her in the afternoon she was walking short.”

But soon afterwards a huge haematoma developed under Milly’s off elbow which saw her confined to a box for more than a month.

“Barbara (Hunter, vet) thought she probably pulled up quickly and did the splits, tearing a muscle under her elbow which bled.

“She wasn’t very happy about being locked up 24/7 but we hung a few toys and things in her box to try to make her a bit happier and put a miniature pony next to her for company.”

Applying ice and heat packs twice daily, kept in place with some good old Kiwi ingenuity, gradually shrunk the lump and eventually Milly was allowed to swim, before graduating to slow jogging.

But Nicky’s regular reports to Melbourne owners Merv and Meg Butterworth were far from heartening as the mare failed to shine in training - until Tuesday’s work.

And on Friday night, the change was 180 degrees.

“She felt like a monster. Normally when she finds a helmet she drops the bit, but she felt enormous the whole way tonight.”

The racing gods were certainly smiling on Milly before the gun, Nicky’s fears that the front-running Jasinova would make it impossible for her to get into the race dissipating when Luk Chin could not restrain her after a false start and she bolted a lap of the track at full speed.

Surprisingly, Jasinova was cleared for the re-start after a vet check but it took the mare 800 metres to reach the front and she was all done 100 metres from home.

And after favourite Aflyin Spur was slow away from the 20 metre mark and Winner’s Time broke and lost all chance, all of a sudden there were only four in front of Milly.

“I knew whenever I decided to let her down she was going to be offski. I didn’t even pull the hood.

“The fact she made a flier helped. I know I didn’t have many to get round but it was still a good effort. She never had a breather.”

Sacred Mountain’s winning time of 2:45.9 was only 1.4 seconds outside the New Zealand 2200 metre record for mares credited to Double Delight.

Nicky was later fined $200 for doing an extra circle with Sacred Mountain at the start, when the remainder of the field was lined up, but she defended her move.

“I’d already started a second turn and she wears a pole and a Murphy so I had to carry on. And I was conscious about protecting punters and doing my best to get her away. “She caused the false start the first time when she jacked up on the pole and I was sideways and screaming ‘hang on, hang on’.

“When she’s fresh, she’s naughty and she won’t stand still for half a second.”

Chilcott reminded the stewards of a previous incident at Auckland when Sacred Mountain was also fresh and reared, colliding with All Cashed Up, tipping her out of the cart.

“After a few runs under her belt, however, she’s lovely, pings and puts herself right into the race.

“That’s why I was really disappointed we missed all those big races. We wouldn’t have beaten Just Believe or Muscle Mountain but I think she could have got some money. She’s as good as if not better than All Cashed Up (who ran third in the Lyell Creek Stakes and fifth in both the National Trot and Anzac Cup).”

Chilcott says Sacred Mountain would now race through the winter at Auckland where she would be very competitive.

“She’s a lovely mare and while she won only $6875 on Friday night I’m sure Merv and Meg would have been happy, they just love winning, no matter the stake.”

The six-year-old’s record now reads 12 wins, 17 placings and $169,108 in prize money.

Mike Nicholas has first winner in a decade

By Brigette Solomon

It’s possible Waiuku-based trainer Mike Nicholas was the happiest man on course at Cambridge Raceway last night when his nine-year-old mare, Te Kouka Dawn, scored her maiden victory in Race 9, the IRT. Your Horse. Our Passion Trot.

Although Nicholas is no stranger to harness racing, having previously trained on a much larger scale and having long been a farrier in the Counties area, the winner was his first since 2014 and he also bred, owns, and drove the Majestic Son mare.

“It was just great, I had so many people shake my hand last night and at least 20 text messages from people congratulating me,” said Nicholas.

Te Kouka Dawn stepped from the ace draw in the 2200 metre race and once safely away, settled into the trail behind Rise To The Occasion where she remained throughout. Nicholas elected to pull out with around 300 metres to travel rather than await the passing lane and the mare was able to comfortably run down the leader and win by a length over race favourite Bolt For The Hill.

“I was fairly confident she could win if she got things right tonight as she’d run some good sectionals at her last workout at Pukekohe,” said Nicholas.

“I’ve also spent some time working her in with Logan Hollis and Shane Robertson’s horses and that has done her the world of good.”

Prior to Te Kouka Dawn’s two races this year, Nicholas hadn’t lined up a horse since 2021, requiring time off when he ruptured his diaphragm and required surgery and an extensive recovery period.

“I’m 71 and while I’m still shoeing nearly full time, the horses I dabble with in training are just my own,” says Nicholas, "alongside Te Kouka Dawn I also have a three-year-old trotting filly at home and I might look at getting a pacer at next year’s sale.”

Winning driving doubles were scored by Peter Ferguson and Josh Dickie at last night’s meeting with Ferguson winning on the Jason Teaz-trained Major Break (R1) and Peter and Vaughan Blanchard-trained Sunshine Shelby (R4). Dickie’s double was for employers Stonewall Stud with promising two-year-old winner Bar Louie (R2) and JT Boe (R10).

Dr Luk Chin also scored a training double with Voronov claiming a penalty free win in Race three with Junior driver Emily Johnson in the cart, while Chin drove Mazeppa to take out Race 5.





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