New Zealand news briefs

Home targets for Robinson quintet

By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Lance Robinson won’t have to trek too far this week, with the Riccarton trainer set to line-up five runners at his home track’s synthetic double-header meetings on Wednesday and Thursday.

Robinson is hopeful he can strike early on the opening day, with his two contenders Highland Fling and Delphillius both finishing runner-up on the surface in their last starts, and he is hoping they can go one better in the Book A Suite Mid-Winter Xmas 22 June Rating 60 (1400m) and Entain/NZB Insurance Pearl Series (1200m) respectively.

“Highland Fling runs well on the synthetic, he really enjoys it,” Robinson said. “He has come up really well this year. He has gone two top races, he has got a good draw (4) tomorrow, so he should run well.

“Delphillius has a better draw (5) tomorrow and I have put Kendra (Bakker) on to claim three (kilograms). She races up on the speed and loves the synthetic, so she should be very competitive.”

Robinson will return to Riccarton’s polytrack on Thursday to line-up Let’s Go in the Grand National Tickets On ale Maiden (1400m), and Anneliese and Waihora Mist in the Entain – NZB Insurance Pearl Series Race (1600m).

“Let’s Go trialled well on it (synthetic track) earlier on and she has just had a couple of minor issues, so she has had a bit of a break,” Robinson said.

“She is coming up nicely but possibly may just need a run on Thursday and is mare that likes a wet track too. But we will just get a guide on her and see how she goes tomorrow.

“It is an awkward draw (13) for Anneliese, but Warren (Kennedy) is on and he will work it out, but she should be very hard to beat.

“Waihora Miss is first-up and has been working well. I don’t think she has ever raced on the synthetic, but she was in at Timaru the other day and of course they called it off. It is a good race at home to step her off in. She is a mare that loves winter tracks, so whatever she does on Thursday she will really improve on.” 

Benner looking forward to a well-earned break

By Paul Vettise, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Multiple Group One-winning trainer Johno Benner will take an indefinite break at the end of this season.

The Otaki-based horseman has enjoyed a lengthy and successful involvement within the industry and feels the time is now right to step aside from the rigours of a demanding profession.

“You can feel a bit like a rat on a wheel in this game and I’m going to take a break, I can’t say for how long at this stage,” Benner said.

“I’ve been doing it pretty much since I left school and racing has been very good to me and I’ve done relatively well out of it.

“I’ve got no complaints but just feel that it’s time for a bit of a break.”

Benner rode eight winners during two years of his apprenticeship before weight issues forced him out of the saddle and soon after took out his trainer’s licence for the 2008/09 season.

An early association with respected horseman Chris Rutten set him on his way and in the ensuing years he has trained 157 winners with 14 at Group or Listed level.

Since 2015, Benner has trained in partnership with Hollie Wynyard, who will continue in her own right.

“From the start of the new season, Hollie will take the reins solo and is keen to press on with it and I’ll have a bit of down time,” Benner said.

“I’ve had a bloody good time of it and achieved most things in racing in a relatively short career, but now is a good time for me to step back and re-evaluate things.

“It’s all I’ve known since I left school. I was an apprentice and one thing led to the next (training).

“I’m 36 and there’s plenty of time for me to come back if I want to. Racing is demanding and a very hard industry and you have to do what’s best for yourself.”

Part-owned by Rutten, Vespa was Benner’s first elite level performer and prepared the champion two-year-old to win the Gr.1 Diamond Stakes (1200m) and the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m).

He returned as a three-year-old to claim the Gr.2 Wellington Guineas (1400m) and finished runner-up in the Gr.1 Easter Handicap (1600m).

“Vespa was the first really good one and it went on from there, racing has been pretty kind to me,” Benner said.

With Wynyard, he also won the Gr.1 Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) with Wyndspelle and the Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) with Bonham.

“It could have been a lot more, but we tended to sell all the better ones, which sets you up and I’m not complaining,” he said.

“It’s a big trading industry, unless you’re operating with 60 to 80 or 100 horses it is very hard to be competitive with the big stables now.

“Hollie and I made a lot of sacrifices through those years, but we got the rewards out of it.

“It’s really hard work, there’s no two ways about it and I admire everyone in the industry, it’s a 24/7 job if you’re doing it properly.”

Benner has no set plan for the immediate future and happy to take it as it comes.

“I’m at the stage I need a freshen up and I’ll cruise along for a bit and see what opportunities might present themselves,” he said.

“I’ve got a few horses to tidy up, a couple I own myself, and see what happens in the future.

“Ultimately, I’ll be back in some sort of capacity, I just don’t know what or how yet and that will take care of itself.” 

Aussie Betty set to strike at Cambridge

By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Cambridge trainer Samantha Logan is looking forward to her local synthetic meeting on Wednesday where she will be represented by two thirds of her racing team.

Logan’s stable has undergone a bit of a transition this season, focussing more on trading and developing younger horses than racing, with her racing team currently sitting at three.

“We are doing a lot of young horses for the breeze-up sale, so we don’t have too many in the racing team at the moment,” she said.

“We have got seven (rising two-year-olds) in partnership with Riversley Park. It has been good working alongside them and learning more about the trading side.

“We have moved more toward trading and trialling to sell. We have had three nice, young horses sell this year, that is just how it has worked out.”

While Logan is enjoying working with younger stock, she is still excited about her racing team, and is hoping to add to her win tally on Wednesday.

She looks to have a strong chance with Aussie Betty, who is favoured by TAB bookmakers to take out the Waipa Earthworks 1550, heading the market at $4.80.

The three-year-old daughter of Embellish was runner-up last start on Cambridge’s polytrack and Logan is confident of another bold showing in just her third career start.

“She has worked on well from her last start, she seems to like the synthetic, so it looks like the ideal place to come back and have a go,” Logan said.

“She seems to keep drawing wide, but I will just leave it to Sam Spratt, she got to know her last time so hopefully she can ride her similarly.

“We will see how she goes. She is nominated for the Northland series up at Ruakaka on the 13th of July, so that is a possibility.”

Stablemate Wry Smile also placed on Cambridge’s synthetic track last start and Logan expects to see the gelding, who is raced by Windsor Park Stud and Ben Kwok, continue to improve.

“He seems to be improving each start. He is a three-year-old that is going to keep improving with time. He is just loving his work at the moment,” Logan said.

“Windsor Park are very supportive of young people in the industry, so it is great to have a horse for them and Ben, and it would be nice to get a winner for them.” 

Trade mission strengthens ties with Malaysian racing

By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

With the imminent closure of thoroughbred racing in Singapore and racing already having ceased in Macau earlier this year, Malaysia has become a key developing market for the thoroughbred industry in Asia.

Acknowledging this, New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters visited Selangor Turf Club over the weekend during his trade mission to Malaysia to help strengthen ties between to the two nations.

Peters, who is also New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister and Racing Minister, was met by a contingent of local dignitaries and racing club officials, along with a number of expat New Zealand trainers, including Simon Dunderdale, Sharee Hamilton, and Singapore-based Donna Logan.

Dunderdale, who is the country’s leading trainer, said Peters was warmly received.

“He is a shrewd operator and he spoke so highly of the New Zealand racing scene and how it is going ahead. He is really optimistic and said the work has only just started and there is a long way to go,” Dunderdale said.

“He also spoke about the relationship we need to develop between New Zealand thoroughbred racing and Malaysia, and he was speaking on ways to get trainers and owners to the sales in New Zealand more.

“Everyone was listening with their ears pricked. I enjoyed the time.

“He came and visited my stables and had a look at the horses, particularly the New Zealand-bred horses. Unfortunately, he was here on a non-race day, but he was very well received by the committee and invited guests, and some other dignitaries came along.”

Dunderdale said with the closure of racing in Singapore and Macau, there is huge potential in Malaysia, and the growth can already be seen.

“For perhaps the last 10-15 years, all of our horses have come from Singapore. That is all coming to an end,” he said.

“Because Singapore is closing there is probably going to be a bit of a hole for the bottom end of the market (for horses in New Zealand) and I think Selangor is going to perhaps take that up.

“We have always bought a few (from New Zealand) but have been more active in the last two or three years. With the prizemoney going to double in January, and it has already gone up 15 percent in the last few months, we are probably going to be looking to buy a lot more and perhaps spending more money on better horses too.

“They (Selangor Turf Club) bought 24 (two-year-olds) at New Zealand Bloodstock’s Ready to Run Sale last year and that is going to increase a lot I believe.”