Taylor hits 50 wins as retirement looms

By Garrick Knight

With his retirement from training fast approaching, Wairarapa’s only harness horseman recorded a milestone win at Manawatu Raceway on Friday night

The maiden success of He’s Gratis brought up 50 career training wins for Masterton’s Bryan Taylor and his first for more than four years.

“It’s been a bit longer than I would have liked between wins,” he said with a chuckle.

“But I suppose that’s what happens when you start getting older and only breed the occasional one.

“I’m down to two horses now; I only train for my business partner and I, whereas I used to train for outside owners.”

The doctors may also fast-track his retirement from the sport.

“I have got to have a major shoulder reconstruction, which was part of the reason I have wound my numbers back.

“My future in harness racing may not last for much longer unfortunately because I won’t be able to drive horses.”

He’s Gratis is a homebred Auckland Reactor four-year-old that took 11 starts win his first race and required plenty of patience from Taylor.

“I’ve had three Auckland Reactors and two of them I sacked simply because they were a little too rough for my liking.

“He was a bit suspect too early on and that’s why it’s taken him 11 starts to get his first win; he’s always had some roughness about, he just needed confidence.”

It wasn’t the strongest field to begin with, but when the two clear favourites, Jive and Razcal Alley, locked stays soon after the start and fell out of contention, it become anybody’s race.

A heady drive from Taylor got the chocolates and a win he says had been on the cards for a while.

“I suppose you need a bit of luck to go your way and we got that.

“But he had had a couple of unlucky runs prior and I was pretty happy with him going in to it.”

With a name like He’s Gratis, you can probably guess the backstory to how he came about.

“The mare was supposed to be in foal to Somebeachsomewhere but failed to conceive.

“In desperation, we got talking to the stud and they said Auckland Reactor was quite fertile.

“He got in foal straight away and, before we could end pay for it, we ended up winning a free service to him.

“With that in mind, we thought it was only fair to call him He’s Gratis.”

Looking back on his training career, which started in 1985, Taylor points to well-performed trotter Mark Andrew as the best he trained.

“He really exceeded my expectations as he wasn’t your traditional trotter, being by Holdonmyheart, but ended up winning 11 races.

“He was frustrating at times, too; I would take him to the meetings all over the island that had big crowds and he would panic and gallop.

“Then we’d go to Palmerston North with no one there and he would win off 60 or 70.”

As for He’s Gratis, he won’t be heading to Otaki on Sunday for the grass track meeting.

“I’ve already pulled him out; the heat has been 30 degrees here lately and he’s just lightened up a little bit.

“He wasn’t eating that well, certainly not well enough to back him up two days later, so he’ll go back to Palmerston North in 10 days’ time.”

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