Peter Jones

Peter Jones

Celtic’s Tom Sutherland notched a top double on Wednesday. Photo: Shuttersport.

Tight at the front of T20 race

Renwick have moved to top of the Marlborough’s SBS Twenty20 competition standings after a double round was played last week.

Wins were recorded by four different sides – MBC, Celtic, Wairau and Renwick.

On Wednesday evening run-scoring was at a premium.

The highest score on the night was Marlborough Boys’ College’s 108-4 as they tipped over Wairau Valley, who could only manage 102 in reply.

In the other match, Celtic’s total of 98 was good enough to see off Renwick, who were dismissed for 82.

While the bowlers held sway in both games, it was a couple of batting efforts that decided the course of the matches. Tom Sutherland, with 25 from 22 balls, and Jerrym Lamb, 22 from 17, made sure Celtic put together a score that eventually proved defendable. They were dismissed in the 20th over, Rikki Bovey (3-10), Akhil Pant (2-25) and Cory Golding (2-21) doing the main damage.

Renwick made a solid start, Blair Timms with 31 providing the bulk of their runs. At 42-1 they were well placed, however the loss of Timms’ wicket sparked a spectacular collapse, seven wickets falling within the space of nine runs.

Spin twins, Josh Poole (3-9) and Tom Sutherland (3-4) were mainly responsible for the turnaround.

On the other ground, MBC showed some batting consistency to claw their way to three figures. An unbeaten run-a-ball 36 from Cameron Collins held the innings together, with Cooper Roberts (20 from 23) and Patrick Moran (22-13) adding valuable runs towards the end of the 20 overs.

Richard Moran, 2-15 from four overs, was the pick of the Valley attack.

In reply Valley lost wickets regularly, only Heath Murphy with a run-a-ball 41 showing real resistance. He fell in the 19th over, with just nine runs needed for the win. Then Moran, batting nine, threatened to get his side over the line. However, when he fell for 18 in the final over, the students had scored their first win of the season. Joel Pannell (4-13 from four) was the pick of the bowlers, while Tim Petrie and Collins both bagged a brace.

On Friday Renwick bounced back to score a seven-wicket win over MBC while Wairau, who had the bye two days earlier, kept themselves in the race with a comprehensive 60-run win over Wairau Valley.

Batting first, MBC scored a mediocre 119-5, 33 from Tim Petrie, 40 from Cameron Collins and 19 from Cooper Roberts the foundation of their total. Both Ed Gilhooly and Akhil Bhardwaj picked up a brace of wickets as Renwick kept the brakes on MBC throughout.

Akhil Pant, who opened the innings, was the mainstay of the Renwick reply, his 83 from 63 balls containing 12 fours. Gilhooly, with an unbeaten 24, ensured the match was concluded in the final over with just three wickets lost.   Petrie was the pick of the MBC bowlers.

On the other ground, Wairau struggled to register a decent score against Valley, opener Harry MacDonald with 41 from 36 and Andrew McCaa with 22 from 18 providing most of the impetus. They finished their 20 overs at 118 for eight, Valley bowlers Greg Stretch, Sam Boyce and Richard Franklin all claiming a brace of wickets.

Valley’s reply started badly and got worse. Initially 12-4 as Nick Weaver knocked the top off their innings they were unable to get any sort of partnership together and were dismissed for 54 in the 13th over. Weaver claimed 3-7 while Chris Turkington bagged 3-12.

Weights sessions are a part of rower Phoebe Trolove’s training programme. Photo: Peter Jones.

Back home and ready to row

World champion rower Phoebe Trolove hopes a return to her home town will maintain the momentum she has built in the demanding sport over the past few seasons.

In August last year the 18-year-old stroked the New Zealand women’s quad to gold at the world junior champs in Tokyo, icing a highly-impressive junior CV the youngster has been compiling since 2017.

After completing her primary education at Rapaura and Renwick schools, Phoebe moved to Timaru’s Craighead Diocesan in year nine, where her rowing career took off.

A gold in the coxless quad at the 2017 nationals was followed by silver in the under-18 single and gold in the under-17 double at the 2018 Maadi Cup. In 2019 she bagged the prestigious under-18 single sculls crown at Maadi and added a silver in the quad, leading to her national selection and a world title in Japan.

With her school days at an end, Phoebe was recruited by the Central Rowing Performance Centre, based at the Wairau River, necessitating a return to Marlborough and immersion in an intensive rowing programme, designed to help talented youngsters on the pathway to elite selection.

The culture at the RPC was “very different” from what she had previously experienced.

“One thing for sure, we do a lot more Ks. In Timaru we were only able to row for one kilometre then we had to turn the boat around, here we can row for up to 15km, if we wanted to,” she said.

“There has certainly been a big jump between school and the RPC … the early wake-ups are hard, but you do what you have to do.”

An advantage of the RPC set-up is the size of the squad. There are only six non-NZ Summer Squad rowers in the camp, and just two females, so coaching can be more one-on-one.

“It’s cool because we are all quite close but we have to pace ourselves against the guys so the intensity has stepped up quite a lot, having to keep up with people older and faster than you. It makes you more competitive though and I feel I’m getting faster.”

Her training programme includes twice-daily sessions, except on Sunday, a varied diet of weights, ergs, hill walks and on-water rowing designed to have her ready for the forthcoming South Island and national champs.

Although she has achieved most of her success as a sculler, Phoebe maintains a sweep-oared four is her preference. “A good four is awesome, so much fun … a good sweeping boat, once you get it going, is amazing.”

Her immediate goals are clear. After competing at the SI champs and Nationals, Phoebe hopes to be chosen to trial for the NZ under-23 team. If she misses that opportunity she will look at trialling for the NZ under-21s. As she is tackling some Otago University papers, she is also eligible to try out for the NZ Universities team this season.

Longer term she has her sights set on a place in the NZ elite squad and a shot at the 2024 Olympics.

“It would be pretty cool to do [rowing] as a job … but at the moment it’s about finding a balance, getting a degree and working my way up the rowing pathway.”

Having rubbed shoulders with several of the world’s best rowers, Phoebe has a rough idea of what it will take to reach that elite level and highlighted one particular trait she had noticed.

“Just stubbornness … most of the elites that I have met they are just so stubborn that they won’t give up. If they set their mind to something they are not going to half-ass it … they are going to go 100 percent or nothing at all, never backing down.”

Asked if she had a competitive streak to match, the junior champion suggested with a laugh, “almost too much”.

“[Rowing’s] also very psychological, just knowing to listen to what you are doing, not let your mind take over and start pushing you back … that’s quite a big part.”

Noting that she is not particularly tall for a top-level rower, Phoebe says she is working hard on her technique with Central RPC and NZ coach Marion Horwell, as she builds towards attaining the level of her role models.

They include elite world champions Emma Dyke [women’s eight] and single sculler Emma Twigg.

“Emma [Dyke] went to Craighead and I know her well, she’s awesome. I also had a yarn to Emma Twigg and that was brilliant … she is so down-to-earth. There’s also Mahe Drysdale, he is so knowledgeable.”

The former basketballer has a group of friends who have succeeded in that sport, providing more inspiration.

“There’s Ashlee Strawbridge, Milly Knight and Sammy Arnold who have all played for New Zealand … I have seen them come from being so small to where they are now, playing at a top level. Ashlee’s work ethic is insane, through the roof, and she’s a year younger than me.

“What George Glover did [the Black Dog Swim] is also inspirational.”

While the leap from junior ranks to senior level is traditionally vast, if attitude and hard work can bridge the gap, Phoebe looks set to land firmly on her feet in 2020.

Nikau Peipi stretches out during the 100m at the national schools champs. Photo: Supplied.

Halberg Trust offer support for talented teen

Marlborough athlete Nikau Peipi’s burgeoning sporting ambitions have received a welcome and timely boost.

The 15-year-old Marlborough Boys’ College student was informed late last year that he had been granted a 2020 Halberg Foundation scholarship to help him achieve his sporting goals as a Para athlete.

The Halberg Foundation is a charity, founded by former Olympic gold medallist Sir Murray Halberg in 1963, which aims to “enhance the lives of physically-disabled New Zealanders by removing or diminishing the barriers that prevent them from participation in sport and recreation”.

Nikau was born with Poland Syndrome which means his left arm and hand is under-developed and he has an under-developed chest muscle. Despite this, he has competed with outstanding success in a variety of sports, taking on able-bodied rivals on the softball diamond, plus the rugby and touch field. His ability to adapt and succeed at such high levels have earned the admiration and respect of team mates and rivals alike.

In his sporting life thus far he has relished meeting able-bodied competition, and had only a fleeting attachment to Para sport, travelling to Timaru for a swimming classification many years ago. However a trip to the 2019 Halberg Games has seen the teen realign his goals.

The Peipi family were contacted last year by Justin Muschamp from the Halberg Foundation asking if Nikau was interested in attending the Halberg Games as part of a Tasman team.

The Halberg Games are an annual three-day competition across a variety of sports, open to 8-21 year olds with a physical or visual impairment. Last October they were held at Kings College Auckland.

Although reluctant at first, Nikau, with the family’s encouragement, decided to go and came away with some startling results.

In his first time proper shot at track and field (apart from compulsory school events) he won the 200 metres (26.42), long jump (5.16m) and shot put (12.39) and placed second in the 100m (12.97).

His efforts saw him named best male athlete in the athletics field and the most promising athlete of the Games.

After that, local coach Ian Carter was recruited to help hone his skills. Following a few weeks training, Nikau attended the NZ secondary school track and field champs in Wellington, tackling the same events as the Halberg Games, plus high jump. Again his results were superb, winning the shot put (10.19, with a heavier shot) and the high jump (1.58m), and placing second in the 100 (12.81) and 200m (26.21) races plus the long jump (5.01).

Motivated by some inspiring feedback from those performances, Nikau plans to attend any track and field competitions that arise from his performances, whether they are New Zealand or Australian events, setting his goals on becoming a future Para Olympian.

All this costs money, so the extra funds from the scholarship are particularly timely. He has been given a purpose two scholarship, valued at up to $5000. To qualify athletes must be aged between 14 and 21, have a physical or vision impairment and be a New Zealand citizen. They must also have competed at the 2019 Halberg Games, be eligible as a Para athlete and hold a national classification. Local businesses Roofline Marlborough and Wadsco Mototworld have also pitched in to help Nikau on his pathway.

Nikau said he was fully-motivated to give Para sport his best shot after enjoying his time at the Halberg Games.

“After [Justin] got hold of me I thought I’d give [the Games] a go … and when I was there they were really cool so I just thought I’d start that now. I really enjoyed the environment.”

He has also relished working with coach Carter. “We are basically just working on technique at the moment. We are going to start doing some strength work later this year though.”

His other sporting pursuits are not completely off the radar, with the youngster trying out for the MBC First XV this season and still playing touch.

Nikau’s mother, Rebecca Grant, says, “[Para sport] has never been on Nikau’s radar in the past as he performs to a very high level with his rugby, touch, softball etc. But since attending the Halberg Games he has become very interested to see where this can take him.

“He came home talking about the Para Olympics in Paris in 2024 and would very much like to work as hard as he can to get there.

“The next 12 months is going to be a very exciting time for our family to see how well he can do with Para sports.”

Next up for Nikau is a trip in March to a track and field meet in Brisbane, where he hopes to earn a Para classification, which must be achieved offshore to allow him to compete internationally.

The scholarship recipients will be named at the 2020 ISPS Handa Halberg Awards in February.

Jamie Spowart scored the second try for the Mako Development XV in Houston. Photo: Shuttersport.

Mako prevail in USA

The Tasman Mako Development Team opened their two-match tour of the USA with a 29-19 win over the Houston Sabrecats in Houston on Sunday [NZ time].

The young-looking Mako outfit dominated the early stages of the first spell, tries to Sam Matenga and Jamie Spowart seeing them race out to a 12-0 lead. However their Texan rivals came back and by halftime the home side led 14-12 after notching two converted tries.

Five minutes into the second spell centre Caleb Coventry latched onto a wayward pass to push the Mako ahead 17-14, Sam Briggs’ conversion giving the visitors a 19-14 lead.

Briggs added a penalty on the 60 minute mark, before the Sabrecats scored their third to close the gap to 22-19 with 10 minutes remaining.

The match-clincher came five minutes later, substitute Briggs stealing the ball from a Houston attacker then weaving his way 60m to the tryline, eluding a series of defenders on the way. His conversion gave the home side a 10 point advantage which they held until the final whistle. His game-defining efforts also earned him the man of the match award.

Their second, and final, game is against Seattle Seawolves on Monday January 27 [NZ time], kick off 4.30pm.

Jorja Bacchus claimed medals at both the North Island and South Island Colgate Games. Photo: Supplied.

Bacchus bags medals in both islands

Marlborough athlete Jorja Bacchus bagged high jump medals at both the North and South Island Colgate Games.

At the North Island event, staged at TET Stadium in Inglewood, Taranaki, she picked up silver, leaping 1.58m, a new Marlborough age group record. Last weekend she went one better, clinching gold at the South Island Games, staged in Christchurch. She again cleared 1.58m.

Jorja was among four young Marlborough athletes who represented their province with distinction at the North Island Colgate Games.

The province was represented by Bacchus, James Hansen and Dale (DJ) Arbuckle, who competed in Grade 14, plus Alex Hansen, who competed in Grade 11.

All four came away with some promising results which they took into the South Island competition last weekend, where 38 Marlborough athletes competed.

Results from the North Island Colgate Games:

Jorja Bacchus (girls grade 14) – 400 metres heat 1 preliminaries (4th – 66.37 seconds – a new PB reserve for the final); Shot Put (6th – 9.40 metres); High Jump (2nd – 1.58 metres – a new PB and a new Marlborough age grade record).

James Hansen (boys grade 14) – 100 metres hurdles final (7th – 15.95 seconds); 200 metres Heat 4 preliminaries (4th – 25.63 seconds – a new PB); long Jump (6th – 5.40 metres).

Dale (DJ) Arbuckle (boys grade 14) – 100 metres Heat 3 preliminaries (6th – 13.85 seconds); 400 metres Heat 1 preliminaries (6th – 59.62 seconds – a new PB and his first sub 60 seconds race); 800 metres (14th – 2 minutes 24.03 seconds); High Jump (7th – 1.60 metres); long jump (13th – 4.74 metres).

Alex Hansen (boys grade 11) – 800 metres (4th – 2 minutes 31.03 seconds – a new PB by 6 seconds); 1500 metres (11th – 5 minutes 43.55 seconds); High Jump (6th equal – 1.30 metres – 39 boys competed).

Senior athletics

Meanwhile the Senior Club held their first club night for 2020 on Tuesday, an evening which included the 10,000 metres club championship (men) and the 3000 metres club championship (women).

Dale Smit took out the 10,000 metres in 42:31.49 and Lucy Harman won the 3000 metres in 11:04.25 in tough, unseasonal conditions.

Stars Tonight, 8, driven by John Dunn, gets up to win the Marlborough Cup prelude by a neck on Friday. Photo: Matt Brown.

Harness racing looking forward to next 100 years

The Marlborough Harness Racing Club are looking confidently to the future after seeing off their first 100 years in appropriate fashion over the weekend.

The Waterlea-based club celebrated 100 years of racing at the Blenheim venue with a well-attended two-day meeting.

MHRC chairperson Petrina Shutkowski said that there was high-class, exciting racing action on both Friday and Sunday, with good numbers turning out for the Interislander Summer Festival Day on Sunday.

“We had a really good crowd on course [on Sunday] because the weather was good and there were lots of activities for kids. On-course turnover was also strong.

“The fields were really strong, with good form. We had to eliminate some horses from the original nominations because we just didn’t have spaces in the fields for them.”

There was also live entertainment on-course, plus a special centenary race book designed to mark the occasion, a display of memorabilia in the Waterlea Hall and some vintage cars to honour the historic occasion.

“People were just happy to be involved,” suggested Petrina, who envisages a bright future for the sport in this region.

“I think harness racing in Marlborough is pretty strong.  There are a number of trainers and a base of horses here … that’s what drives these meetings … so it’s still positive for harness here.”

Although the two-day summer carnival will be the only harness event staged at Waterlea in future, with the winter meeting not taking place, Petrina is confident support levels are high going forward.

“Harness Racing New Zealand have been pleased with us in recent years, especially since we have moved to the grass track. We have attracted really strong fields and good numbers of nominations.

“Also, the visiting trainers enjoy themselves [in the top of the south] … they brought the kids, stayed in Nelson for a few extra days, went to the beaches and the wineries. They mark it in their calendar as a sort of summer holiday.”

To help co-ordinate harness racing in the area a Seddon Shields District organisation has recently been formed, involving representatives from Reefton, Westport, Marlborough, Nelson and Kaikoura. They have combined to purchase a mobile start 4WD vehicle, with a view to sharing resources, knowledge and information.

Meanwhile, on the track at the weekend, Stars Tonight, superbly driven by top reinsman John Dunn, claimed a notable Waterlea double.

The four-year-old gelding, trained by Robert Dunn at Woodend Beach, took out the “100 Years Racing at Waterlea Cup Prelude” on Friday evening, then prevailed in the 100th racing of the Marlborough Cup on Sunday. He was the favourite on both occasions.

On Friday he won by a neck from Dadndave, while on Sunday he truly underlined his dominance, scoring by three and a quarter lengths from Hayden’s Meddle, followed by Dadndave in third.

On the first day Dunn drove Stars Tonight astutely, staying parked midfield until the final bend when he surged to the lead then held off a fast-finishing Dadndave.

Two days later Stars Tonight was well clear at the line. After a strong start he went to the head of the field with a round to go and, despite having to hold off a challenger on the bend, kicked well clear halfway down the straight to win the 100th Cup in fine style.

Petrina suggested that Stars Tonight had run “probably the fastest last half on the grass track that has ever been”.

“That’s an indication of the quality of the track and the horses as well … it was pretty impressive.”

Stars Tonight was one of two double winners across the historic meeting, the other being Heavyweight Hero, trained and driven by Bob Butt from Woodend Beach, who won the sixth race on each day.

John Dunn, with three wins was the leading driver across the two days, while Robbie Close, Blair Orange, Sarah O’Reilly and Bob Butt drove two winners apiece.

Robert Dunn was the top trainer, with three successes, while Jim and James Geddes and Butt managed two training successes each.

Madiba, until recently trained by local trainer Don Morrison, also picked up a win on the first day.

Tasman midfielder Corey Larsen, second from left, battles for the ball with a Southern United player during Saturday’s match at Lansdowne Park. Photo: Andrew Board.

Tasman United turn on the goals at Lansdowne

Tasman United’s recent resurgence continued in emphatic fashion in Blenheim on Saturday afternoon when they dismantled Southern United 5-0.

There were goals galore at Lansdowne Park as the hosts gave the Marlborough fans plenty to shout about in its first and only appearance over the Whangamoas this season.

Tasman opened the scoring in blistering style as Jean Phillipe Saiko’s superb individual effort put his side ahead after only six minutes.

The New Caledonian striker looked in ominous form and Tasman soon went 2-0 up as skipper Fox Slotemaker found the back of the net.

Things slowed at the back end of the first half but Tasman remained in control as the sides went to the sheds.

New signing Ben Watson ensured the momentum remained with Tasman after the break with a thunderous strike in the 55th minute to effectively put the game to bed.

Jesse Randall piled on the misery for the visitors with a far post finish 10 minutes later, then Corey Vickers put the exclamation mark on a resounding performance to seal the 5-0 victory.

Both Marlborough players on Tasman’s roster got game time, Nick Stanton playing the whole game in goal and youngster Jonty Roubos spending time on the pitch.

Tasman United jumps to fourth on the premiership table with its fourth win of the season and next week will travel to Auckland to take on the ninth-placed Waitakere United.

It was estimate that around 600 spectators attended the match, which had a delayed kick-off after the Southern side were late in arriving at the ground due to travel hold-ups.

Marlborough Football general manager Andrea Smith-Scott, said the crowd was up on the number who turned out for Tasman’s fixture at Lansdowne last year, a good result given the Picton Maritime Festival was also on Saturday.

“We were pleased with the crowd numbers,” said Smith-Scott. “It was up on last year which will hopefully keep it as a regular event on the calendar.”

Scores: Tasman United 5 (Saiko, Randall, Slotemaker, Watson) Southern United 0. HT: 2-0

Clasina Maria takes out the 2019 Marlborough Cup at Waterlea, the 99th running of the province’s premier harness racing prize. Photo: Peter Jones.

Waterlea Raceway celebrates 100 years of harness action

By Peter Jones and Peter Craig

A century of harness racing in Marlborough will be celebrated at Waterlea Racecourse on Friday and Sunday.

The Marlborough Harness Racing Club’s annual two-day summer meeting will mark the commencement of harness racing at the Waterlea venue 100 years ago.

The inaugural meeting at Waterlea took place on Friday, March 12 1920.

Since 1920, trials, OTB (owners, trainers and breeders) and tote meetings have been held at the central Blenheim location. The only exception came during World War 2 when no meetings were held between 1939 and 1945.

The Marlborough area has facilitated horse racing for more than 150 years. The current Marlborough Trotting/Harness Racing Club commenced operations at the Riverlands course in February 1913 and raced there until the final meeting in 1919 when the action moved to Blenheim.

The Waterlea course opened in 1920, with the first thoroughbred meeting held on March 10 and the historic trotting meeting two days later.

Trotting races have been included on the card at many of the thoroughbred meetings held in the ensuing century, although not every season.

Waterlea soon developed as a spectator-friendly venue. A new members and stewards stand was completed in 1977 with the public stand being developed in the late 1980s.

The Waterlea grass track is utilised by both racing codes with an all-weather harness track becoming operational from December, 1981.

Two-year-old pacer Ahuriri set an elite national mile record in 1922. Photo: Supplied.
Two-year-old pacer Ahuriri set an elite national mile record in 1922. Photo: Supplied.

Varied venues

Other tracks/clubs which were utilised in the Marlborough area included the Wairau Racing Club (pre-1880) which raced at the Omaka Domain; the Marlborough Jockey Club (formed in 1880) initially operating at Omaka Domain and Riverlands prior to Waterlea; the Pelorus Jockey Club’s solitary meeting on New Year’s Day 1892 at Kaituna; the Upper Wairau Racing Club meetings from 1891-94 at the Miners Old Course, Renwick; the Marlborough Trotting Club meeting in 1894 at the Hibernian Society’s Sports Ground in Blenheim; the Wairau TC meeting in 1911 at the Awatere RC, Seddon.

Meeting venues, times

The Riverlands course hosted meetings for the following clubs: Marlborough HC (1891); Birthday RC (1892-1895); Blenheim TC (1892); Marlborough RC (1893-1919) and the Wairau TC (1903-1911).

The Marlborough Trotting Club held one summer meeting each year from 1913 until 1950, although no meetings were staged during the Second World War years.

A two-day summer carnival was then introduced, followed in 1974 by meetings on three days (one January, two February) while from 1975-1980, the two days in February were supplemented by the initial one-day winter meetings in June. This changed in 1981 to two-day summer and winter carnivals, held in February and June respectively.

In the mid-1990’s further meetings were held in addition to those meetings, while the current two-day meetings (Friday/Sunday) in mid-January and June have remained in place since 1999 with the exception of June, 2017 when, following the Kaikoura earthquakes, a one-day winter meeting was conducted at Addington Raceway.

In recent years, both summer and winter meetings have included preludes to the Marlborough Cup on Friday with the Cup at stake on Sunday.

The Sunday Summer meeting is now conducted as an Interislander Summer Festival meeting.

Currently two tracks are utilised by the club – summer meetings are held on the 1600m grass track, with a 350m straight, while winter events are contested on the 1506m all-weather track.

A large crowd filled the grandstand at Waterlea for this meeting in the early 1980s. Photo: Supplied.
A large crowd filled the grandstand at Waterlea for this meeting in the early 1980s. Photo: Supplied.

Mobile introduced

The mobile gate was first introduced to Waterlea Raceway in the 1983-4 season, principally due to Marlborough’s first staging of a heat of the DB three-year-old fillies series. This was the first of two classic race series to be staged by the club, the other being the Pelorus Trust four-year-old Classic).

Records set

The one elite record set on the Waterlea track was on March 10, 1922 when Ahuriri established a NZ two-year-old pacers mile record of 2:20.0. A top performer, Ahuriri won two NZ Cups (1925, 1926) and the 1927 Auckland Cup. His breeder/owner was RM Morten, trainer Scotty Bryce and driver James Bryce.
Other NZ records established on the Waterlea track include Jack Shine’s 2:03.8 in the horses and geldings pacers mile standing start in June 1982 and Lady Eastburn’s mares pacing standing start mile record of 2:05.2, set in February 1982.

Century of cups

This year’s meeting includes another milestone, the running of the 100th Marlborough Cup for pacers.

The Marlborough Pacing Cup was first contested in 1913 – in fact there were two recorded instances of a Marlborough Cup that year, the first won by Lucy Wallace and the second by Ariadne. The 2020 edition being run on Sunday over 2850m (grass) represents the 100th recorded running of the Cup, which was not contested in 1916, 1939-45 or 1976. Previous winners have included Hayseed (1920, the first Cup winner at Waterlea), Waikato Prince (1937, winner of Dominion Hcp Trot), Auckland Cup winner Macklin (1957), ID heat winner Why Bill (1975), West Coast Bonus and Easter Cup winner Our Mana (1983), Blue Chip Rock (2004, Easter Cup) while dual winners have been Full Cry (1919, 1920) and Vikota (1929, 1930).

The Marlborough Winter Cup, held during the annual two-day June winter meeting commenced in 1975, won by Sidestep, and is run over 3200m. Winners have included Atom Love (2001, 1:49.4US) and Bettors Strike (2008, Victoria Cup) while Runaway Groom 1990, Atom Love 2001, Fifth Edition 2014 have won both Winter Cups at Nelson and Blenheim in the same year.

Fillies series

The three-year-old fillies classic series began in 1979 and featured a heat at Waterlea from 1984 until 2014.

Winners included Sweet Alli (1984, 2:05.2, second was Blue Water winner of final), Leigh Lumber (1985, first in 2:00.0), future open class pacers in Michele Bromac, Bionic Chance, Oaxaca Lass, Mainland Banner, fastest filly Miss Elsie (2011, 1:55.3) and last heat winner in Murphy Brown (2014). The only winner of the Marlborough heat and the Fillies final was outstanding filly Under Cover Lover (1998, 1:57.1).

Instituted in 2003, the Pelorus Trust 4yo Classic’s lifespan ran until the 2015 season. Leading lights to succeed in the Classic included London Legend, Likmesiah, Monkey King, Kiwi Ingenuity, Choise Achiever, Jason Rulz, Franco Nelson and final winner Isaiah (2015).

Notable trainers, administrators

According to Harness Racing NZ records, over 80 trainers have raced horses from Marlborough since the 1959-60 season.

Those most prominent have included Grant Anderson with 21 training victories to date at Waterlea since 1983, Pat O’Brien (13 – with son Mike a further six), Alan Shutkowski (12), Graham Neill (11), Mac Miller (10) and Peter Hope (eight) rounding out the leading half dozen trainers on a wins basis.

Others who have trained in the Blenheim area at some stage include Brent Weaver (two wins), Don Morrison (six), Dean Hunter (seven) and Brian Wastney (two).

Over the preceding four decades, 21 local victories were recorded.

Club presidents have included Bill Murray (1951-56, 1960-69), Pat O’Brien and Brian Wastney while the current chairperson is Petrina Shutkowski.

In recent years Barry Forbes spent just over two decades as club secretary, with previous secretaries including Graham Fuller (1954-1977/8), MA Peters (1978/9-1982/3) and Mike O’Brien (1983/4-1990/1).

Details courtesy of Marlborough HRC.

Megan Graham and George Varney, Marlborough’s running royalty. Photo: Peter Jones.

Withers run tests new year fitness

The 2020 King and Queen of the Withers were crowned in blazing sunshine at the foot of the Wither Hills on Saturday morning.

The popular post-festive season event, raced over 10km in the iconic hills to the south of Blenheim, saw a first-time King crowned and a familiar figure returned as Queen.

George Varney took out the King of the Withers in a very smart time of 41 minutes 37 seconds, breaking the junior men’s record of 44:20 set by Varney in 2018. It was the first overall title for the 18-year-old. Julius Stromberg came in second overall, nine seconds back, with Fergus Greer third.

Meanwhile, Megan Graham claimed her eighth Queen of the Withers crown, plus the open women’s grade, in 45:35, just over two minutes outside Nikita Watkins’ course record time of 43.11 set in 2018. Caitlin Fielder was second in 47.06. Julia Anderson was third in 49.29.

The field set off under slightly overcast skies but, to the runners’ dismay, the clouds cleared away soon after the starting gun and the temperature rose rapidly as they pounded around the demanding circuit.

Waihopai Valley farmer Richard Dawkins leads the field soon after the starting gun. Photo: Peter Jones.
Waihopai Valley farmer Richard Dawkins leads the field soon after the starting gun. Photo: Peter Jones.

Varney said “it got quite warm, quite quickly, which I didn’t expect”.

“It was a good challenge … Julius [Stromberg], who got second, gave me a really good push up the top and I managed to get away from him on the downhill, but it’s quite a tough race isn’t it?”

Varney hit the lead around the twin water tanks on the descent and was never headed, despite having to stop and throw up in the last kilometre.

Happily, he had forged a 200m lead and managed to maintain his momentum and claim the victory.

“I was a bit worried,” he explained, “because I could see him coming, so I managed to throw up on the run. I felt much better afterwards.”

The former Marlborough Boys’ College standout is on his way to Massey University in 2020, studying veterinary science, but has promised to come back and try to defend his title. He will continue to focus on track events after having plenty of success over middle distance locally and nationally.

Graham also had some time to spare at the finish line as she cruised to the women’s title, but said the race was as tough as usual.

“I was a bit worried today, [second-placed] Caitlin Fielder was out in front at the start, until the hills came. She was smoking it and I thought ‘Oh, no, competition’ … it was good though, made me run harder.

“I was running with Nick Rayner at that stage and he said, ‘what are you doing back here’ and I told him I was just pacing myself, I’ll be right.”

And she was, passing Fielder, an ultra-distance runner based in Spain, on the first hill and staying in front from then on.

“I didn’t have to stop as much this year,” she added, “a bit more recovery after having [baby] Ameika I think, I’ve been doing some training when I can, a bit of buggy-running, resistance training really.

“It’s hard work pushing Ameika so when I’m running by myself I feel pretty free.”

Although numbers were slightly down across the three grades [run, hybrid, walk] this year the quality of participants was high.

MGC middle distance athlete Lucy Harman won the junior women’s title in 54:59, which was outside the record time of 50:21 set by Graham in 2010.

The open men’s title was claimed by Stromberg, who came home in 41:46, not far off the record of 40:33 set by Daniel Hopata in 2007.

Ian Anderson won the veteran men’s title, finishing in 44:27, well outside the mark of 38:55 set by former Olympian Phil Costley in 2012, which stands as a record for all grades.

The veteran women’s grade was taken out by Julia Anderson in 49:29, outside the record of 47:41 set by Suzie Aviss in 2006.

Larry Smith won the male walkers title and the overall crown, finishing in 1:28:35. The record of 58:35 was set by Barry Neal in 2008.

Wanda Smith won the female walkers crown in 1:29:57, the record being 1:14:10 set by Barbara McGuire in 2008.

The hybrid event was won by Paul O’Shea in 1:00:46, with Bella Rayner second in 1:04:16.

When Tasman United take on Southern United at Lansdowne Park on Saturday, local goalkeeper Nick Stanton will have plenty of local support behind him. Yesterday he and midfielder Corey Vickers facilitated a Holiday Programme session for a large and enthusiastic group of young footballers at A and P Park. Photo: Peter Jones.

Tasman United coming to town

The region’s premier football team will make their one and only appearance in Marlborough this season on Saturday.

Tasman United, who compete in the ISPS Handa Premiership, which involves the nation’s 10 leading provincial teams, will take on Dunedin-based outfit Southern United at Lansdowne Park, traditionally Marlborough rugby headquarters.

Tasman made a slow start to the season, languishing near the foot of the standings, but have worked their way up to fifth position after downing Eastern Suburbs 2-0 at Saxton Field on Sunday.

Tasman goalkeeper in that match was Marlborough man Nick Stanton, making his starting debut this season. After coming away with a clean sheet Stanton hopes he will get the nod to start as Tasman’s campaign rolls into his home territory this weekend.

Tasman played Southern in the first game of the 2019-20 campaign, producing a sub-par effort to lose 4-0 but then having the match awarded to them when the Dunedin side was ruled to have fielded an ineligible player.

“It’s going to be an interesting game on Saturday, especially after what happened last time,” suggested Stanton. “Hopefully I train well and get the start again this week.”

“They will be out for blood after losing the points last time which is always good … it means we will have to fight harder … it steps us up, makes us a better team.”

He says the league is shaping as a much closer affair this season. “There are just two teams [Team Wellington and Auckland City] out on their own … everyone else is within one point of each other.

“Last season it was more a top-of-the-league, bottom-of-the-league divide whereas this year it is the two top teams, with everyone else in the mixer.”

He has relished the Tasman United culture since returning to the region from Wellington. “I am enjoying it, it’s different [to Wellington] with the sunnier days and harder grounds and we have a great bunch of lads this season, they are easy to get along with … it’s all going well.”

Kick off on Saturday is 4pm, with entry free.