Tears flow as Big Mama Morris wins at Rangiora
By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Deak
Winning owners don't come much more excited than Jess Davidson was at Rangiora yesterday.
When the judge confirmed that Big Mama Morris had won the Goodwin Contracting Mobile Pace by a nose it was suddenly all on in and around the birdcage as Davidson and the other members of the Go With The Flo syndicate celebrated in fine style. There were screams of "yes! yes!", with hugs and high fives all round.
"Once the call came through, oh my god, nothing beats that," a teary-eyed Davidson told Harness Unhinged's Nigel Armstrong post-race.
"I don't care if it's a maiden race at Rangiora or the New Zealand Cup these horses mean the world to us."
"It is very special."
"The syndicate members are spread far and wide around NZ. Many are first time owners and have been very loyal to the horse," says Davidson, "they just love being a part of the journey and I thank them for staying so loyal. There have been parties all over the country since the win."
Big Mama Morris, known by all as "Flo", paid $20.40 and $4.30. It was her second win in 34 starts and her first while trained by good friend Amber Lethaby. In her debut win she was trained and driven by Kyle Cameron at Addington in July 2021.
Davidson's passion for the sport is undeniable. A former staff member at Harness Racing New Zealand where she specialised in marketing and ownership, she was also a long-time presenter on Trackside. These days she works at Newstalk ZB as an announcer and producer.
"Racing isn't about the winners' circle it's about the family you make getting there and that's what it means today, this horse is special and it's going to last a long time."
"It was a big team effort and it was especially great for Jackie Law. She is in the ownership and bred Flo with her late father. They have had the Morris breed of horses for decades and she has done so much for the horse."
Big Mama Morris' win followed four unplaced runs this year, though she did have two thirds in February and March.
"We would have been happy with second, it was a real form turnaround," says Lethaby, "but if there's anything I could do for Jess it would be to win a race with her favourite horse."
And it was a change of tactics that seemed to do the trick.
"She's got gate speed and she was drawing handy so we were using the gate speed even though she didn't have that kick at the end," says Lethaby, "so we said to Sarah pull her back off the gate and run for luck."
And it worked out perfectly, with O'Reilly, the country's top junior driver, extricating the mare from a tricky spot four back the fence to just nab Valynda and Wilson House in the shadows of the post.
"I sort of thought Wilson had it so I was pretty happy to get the call," says O'Reilly, "especially for her very passionate owners!"
Ultimately Big Mama Morris is expected to head to the broodmare paddock.
"She (Jess) is going to breed on from her next season and she's got two wins to her name now, " says Lethaby.
For now Davidson and the rest of the crew can celebrate knowing their "special" horse brought plenty of sunshine to an otherwise overcast North Canterbury day.