Matt Anderson drives Smokin By to the lead during the latter stages of Sunday's Winter Cup. Photo: Peter Jones.

Latecomer crashes Waterlea party

A latecomer crashed the party at Waterlea Raceway on Sunday when a classy pacer that did not run on the first day of the Marlborough Harness Racing Club’s winter meeting turned up trumps to take out the feature event.

Smokin By, a four-year-old gelding, trained by Mitchell Kerr in Rangiora got home by a long neck in the hands of Matt Anderson to claim the Wairau Covers Marlborough Winter Cup over 3200m.

In a tight finish, Doitson, driven by John Dunn ran second while The Kaik, and Kimberly Butt, was a nose further back.

The winner, who started off a 20m handicap, last competed at Addington in the Uncut Gems on June 14. His connections decided not to race him on Friday, the first day of the Marlborough meeting, a wise decision as it turned out.

The first day winner of the Cup Prelude was Southland pacer Paddyproudfoot.

The four-year-old gelding, in the hands of Gavin Smith, made sure the long trip north was worthwhile, claiming the 2300m feature race   over 2300m by half a length from favourite Storm Prince, with The Kaik third by a neck.

Paddyproudfoot, who finished fifth on Sunday, is trained by the Southland duo of Kirstin Barclay and Paul Ellis at Oreti Beach, near Invercargill.

A highlight for local stables came in race seven on Friday when Waterlea-based owner/trainer/driver Merv Bryers got Monaro Maro home by half a length in the feature trotting race.

Mitchell Kerr was the most successful trainer over the two days, picking up three wins.

Sheree Tomlinson took out the Mike Turner Junior Driver award from Korbyn Newman.

Greg Ruffell, with sons Hunter and Max, celebrate Divinia Bellezza’s win at Waterlea in January. Photo supplied.

Local horse owner in the money at Addington

Marlborough harness racing enthusiast and owner Greg Ruffell discovered his own glittering jewel at Addington Raceway recently.

Divinia Bellezza, the four-year-old mare Greg part owns with Loburn-based trainer Andrew Stuart and his fiancé Becky, finished second in the group one Woodland Diamond Pace, one of the most prestigious on the NZ harness racing circuit.

On Jewels Day at the Christchurch course, the American Ideal-Siena Franco mare, superbly driven by Blair Orange, picked up $22,500 in stakes for the owners, who became partners in the horse in 2018.

Greg and Andrew have been friends for many years, racing “seven or eight” horses together, including seven-time-winner Mr Chrome, who had to be retired young after suffering arthritis.

Greg suggests family connections sparked his prolonged interest in racing.

“The old man and my grandad have always had horses and I have always followed the races, so I guess it just progressed from that.

“But this is the biggest result I have had so far, it was a group one race … massive.”

Entry to the Jewels Day at Addington was restricted, places in the final field decided by how much stake money contenders had won.

The winner of the four-year-old mares race was the Purdon/Rasmussen hot shot Elle Mac, who prevailed by two lengths.

Greg said the driving skills of Orange played a huge part in Divinia Bellezza featuring in the finish of the feature.

“It was a freakish drive. He was last and on the rails and he managed to come straight through the middle of the field, they just opened up and she flew through.”

Greg was on course with Blenheim mates Geoff Barnett and Travis Haymes to see his charge pay $8.10 for a place at the TAB, laughingly suggesting, “It was Travis’s first collect off the TAB for two years”.

Given the efforts of Divinia Bellezza, who has racked up over $58,000 in stakes so far and won four times, there may be more to come.

Next up, is a trip to Auckland for a literal change in direction.

The mare will race clockwise on the northern tracks, a direction she prefers after going anti-clockwise in the South Island, added Greg.

She is likely to start in the June 14 meeting at Alexandra Park.

Camino Rocoso claims Waterlea double

Veteran jockey Chris Johnson and five-year-old gelding Camino Rocoso completed a notable double with wins in the feature races on both days of the Marlborough Racing Club’s meeting at Waterlea.

After taking out the Kam Transport Marlborough Cup Prelude on Friday, the duo backed it up on Sunday with victory in the Cup race itself.

Camino Rocoso prevailed by a length over Smoke House Bay, in the hands of Tina Comignaghi, with Duffers Creek third in a six-horse race.

Overtheriver, who completed the Prelude/Cup double last year, ended up fifth.

On Friday Camino Rosoco won the Cup Prelude by half a neck over six-year-old Guy Fox, ridden by Sarah MacNab.

The gelding’s win on Sunday was the fifth success of the meeting for the training partnership of John and Karen Parsons at Balcairn, while Lisa Allpress was the most successful rider, saddling up five winners over the two days.

The highly-experienced Allpress, who leads the jockey’s premiership with over 100 wins and almost $2 million in stakes, said she always enjoyed her time in Marlborough.

“The course is beautiful and they look after us really well during the day … I really enjoy country racing.”

Allpress would not be drawn on the recent well-publicized plans to cut some country meetings from the thoroughbred calendar, including Waterlea, but added, “if they still have meetings here and I am chasing a premiership I will be coming back to ride here.”

The powerful Kevin Myers’ contingent from Whanganui won three races, while apprentice jockey Tina Comignaghi picked up three wins for the meeting.

With reasonable crowds on course both days for the 99th Marlborough Racing Club meeting and some quality racing on show the future looks bright for the club’s centennial meeting in 2020.