White back winning after decade overseas
By Garrick Knight
Nearly a decade after his last visit there, Matty White returned to the winner’s circle at New Zealand meeting when driving a double at Cambridge on Thursday night.
The accomplished horseman reined home As Free As Air for local trainer Ross Paynter before partnering with Spirit Of Anzac for his new associate, Mike Berger.
White will effectively take over Berger’s barn next season as the latter looks to wind down and take a back seat.
“Mike’s not retiring, he’s just cutting back,” said White.
“We haven’t really worked out the finer points of the arrangement yet, but I’ll be taking out a training license in the new season and Mike will focus on doing just a couple of his own ones at the stable.
“He’ll still be involved, just not much as he currently is.”
For White and his wife, Brigette Solomon, the move home comes after more than nine-and-a-half years living in Australia.
“We were in Western Australia for seven-and-a-half years and the last couple we spent in New South Wales working for Godolphin at their stud (Darley).
“Brigette breaks in yearlings and she was working for them so I just took a job there too, dealing with the stallions like Exceed And Excel and Lonhro.
“It’s a massive operation; quite amazing really.”
White first enjoyed a lot of success in Perth, including the 2014 WA Derby with New Zealand-bred pacer, Three Blind Mice.
“When I first went over, I worked for Andrew De Campo for four years and that was great, I really enjoyed my time there with him.
“I learnt a lot and had quite a bit of success on the track, too.”
It’s a different lifestyle over in Perth, with good stakes, high-end racing on a half-mile track at Gloucester Park on Friday nights an plenty of country tracks during the week as well.
“It’s a bit different over there; I drove on some really different tracks, including the one at Busselton that is only 600 metres.”
Home is where the heart is, as the saying goes, and the lure of returning to the Waikato was strong after nearly ten years away.
“We just wanted to get back closer to our families.
“It’s not New Zealand, Australia, and we were just wanting to get back here.”
He’s immensely thankful to Berger for the opportunity to take over an established stable to greatly help his reintegration in to the New Zealand industry.
“I’m grateful for the trust and opportunity that Mike is giving me by letting me take over the reins of his business; he’s always been very good to me.
“He’s a good mate, a very good trainer and I only hope I can continue on the record he has behind him.”
White cut his teeth as a harness horseman working in Ardmore for Brian Hughes and John Green, winning 104 races as a junior driver before recording 28 wins in his sole reason in the open ranks.
Green and Hughes provided White with his first feature winner, the trio combining to win the second running of the 3YO Diamond with Safin at the 2008 Harness Jewels at Cambridge, back when it was a Listed event.