Special moment for Milne

NZ HARNESS NEWS

Alex Milne enjoyed one of those special moments in harness racing at Gore on Saturday when the dual-gaited Matai Jester broke through for his first win.

The Edendale trainer and driver races the six-year-old son of Jereme's Jet and Matai Princess with his wife, Karen.

Now, in his fourth season of racing, Matai Jester raced in both gaits at three, four and five with his best results, two seconds as a pacer.

Two starts this term, both as a trotter, have yielded a second at Forbury Park last Sunday and his Gore win.

“It's always enjoyable when you succeed with project like him,” Milne said.

“If I was training him for someone else, I couldn't have done it.”

“He was a beautiful trotter in the paddock but whenever I put him in the cart he would hit himself and break but he has come right with maturity.”

Despite the gelding's development of late, Milne says it is too soon to predict his future.

“On ability, he can probably develop further. Whether he is capable mentally, that will determine his future.”

Milne pointed out Matai Jester traced back to his father Alex Milne senior's first mare Matai Song.

“She was trotting bred but none of her family trotted,” he said of the member of the renowned First Water family, who was the dam of Matai Dreamer, winner of 17 races including the 1979 Great Northern Derby.

Although he has developed plenty of trotters through the years, a number of them converted pacers, Milne said he has never had a topliner in the gait.

In nearly 40 years of training and more than 40 years of driving, he's had some good pacers though, rating Stands To Reason in the 1990 Sires Stakes two-year-old final at Alexandra Park and the 1997 New Zealand Oaks win of Young Eden as his best.

Franco Santino clocked 2:42.5, home from the half in 57.7 on Saturday to win his first outing as a four-year-old.

It was the entire's fifth win from nine starts. Trainer Nathan Williamson said Franco Santino is likely to be back at Gore in a fortnight and might then have another break.

Owner Neville Cleaver, a member of the Riverton Club committee is keen for the talent to contest the Riverton Cup in November.

The Manipulator turned back the clock when he won the R50 to 63 2200, nearly four years after qualifying on the course.

He'd been a $20,000 purchase at the 2013 Premier sale by Tony Herlihy but a setback led to him being in training at Macca Lodge when he qualified - for his Riversdale breeder Neil Timms, Auckland trainer Herlihy's wife Suzanne, Stan Matthews of Tauranga and the late Neil Pilcher of Kaiapoi.

A few weeks later, The Manipulator won on debut at Winton and became the first New Zealand winner for his sire, Panspacificflight.

He then transferred to the All Stars stable and won three more races.

Another setback has him back at Macca Lodge where he is trained by proprietor Brent McIntyre, who shares the ownership with Timms and Mathews.

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