Wednesday, October 8, 2014
By Shelley Caldwell-Topp
He’s a talented young racing journalist who grew up around harness horses. He had his first job working for Harnesslink New Zealand, and now works as a booking agent for drivers, and a bloodstock agent buying and selling horses. He hates Harness Racing Australia’s import levy on New Zealand horses “as does everyone I have spoken to about it,” and would love to see it scrapped. “It makes it harder for us to sell our horses and harder for Australians to buy.”
1) How long have you been involved with harness racing?
“I was brought up around horses. I went to my first New Zealand Cup in 2002 and haven’t missed one since.”
2) What made you become interested in becoming a racing journalist?
“ I’m not too sure really. I guess it was just something that I was above average at and enjoyed. I’ve always looked up to guys like Mick Guerin so that was probably a contributing factor.”
3) Where did you start working as a racing journalist? Who were you working for?
“My first job was at Harnesslink working for John Curtin and I have only just finished up there. It was a great introduction to harness racing journalism and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.”
4) Who have you worked for since?
“I have also written articles for The Informant, HRNZ, and the Standardbred Breeders’ Association.”
5) What was your first story about?
“Ricky May cracking his season century at Addington.”
6) What are you up to now?
“Buying and selling a few horses and managing a couple of drivers.”
7) What is the best thing about being a racing journalist?
“Meeting and talking to a lot of great people.”
8) Do you have any family or friends involved in harness racing? If so, who, and what is their involvement?
“Yes I have a lot of friends and family within the industry. My Dad (Peter Robertson) trains a few horses in Templeton and my Uncle, Peter, and Leonne Jones are pubic trainers.”
9) Do you own any horses now or previously? If so what are their names and have they raced, or are they in training?
“I currently have four horses that are all racing. REAL LIFE HERO was a last-start winner at Motukarara. FRANCO TYSON has finished third in his last two starts and will win one at short notice _ maybe at Methven (on Sunday, October 19). PLAYAWAY is one start from receiving the ‘Met Multiplier’ and SMOKEN ROMAN is being freshened for a tilt at Cup Week racing before heading to Australia on a 50/50 deal.
10) Have you ever driven a harness horse? If you have, explain how that felt.
“Yes I have and it is something that I really enjoy. Unfortunately it is something I haven’t done much of lately but I’m keen to get back into it over the next few years.”
11) Name the best pacer you have ever seen. and that is because….
“Elsu is the best pacer I have ever seen race. His win in the Hunter Cup after sitting three-wide was simply out of this world, while his win in the Interdominion Final was also pretty magnificent. Unfortunately his career was cut short by injury, prematurely ending his 8-race win streak but at his best he was borderline unbeatable.”
12) The best trotter and why?
“Lyell Creek is the best trotter I have ever seen race. He competed all over the world at the elite level and his win in the Rowe Cup as a 10-year-old after returning from Canada had to be seen to be believed. Definitely deserving of the name ‘Creek The Freak’.”
13) What is your favourite race track in New Zealand, or overseas, and why?
“Kaikoura. The atmosphere, and view from the hilltop stand is awesome!
14) What is the best meal you have ever had at the races and where was that?
“The buffet in the Alabar tent on Kaikoura Cup Day. They certainly know how to look after their clients.”
15) What is the best experience you have ever had at the races?
“Winning my first race as an owner at Addington with my first ever starter (Smoken Roman), and watching Terror To Love make history when winning his third New Zealand Cup in a row was also pretty special.”
16) If you could change one thing about harness racing what would that be?
“Low stakes in comparison to expenses.”
17) How did you get involved in the bloodstock business and how is it going?
“It is something I have always wanted to do and for years I picked out horses that I thought would be suited to Australia and watched them win race after race. It is still early days but at the moment I’m pretty happy with how things are going.”
18) What is your opinion of Harness Racing Australia’s import levy on New Zealand horses?
“I hate it. As does everyone I have spoken to about it. It makes it harder for us to sell our horses and harder for Australians to buy. A lose – lose situation!”
19) Any ideas about how we could convince HRA to scrap it?
“No. But I’d definitely back anyone up who did.”
20) As a young person what do you think the harness racing industry needs to do to attract more young people to race meetings?
“We need to get them hooked at a young age. Make them catch the bug. Not allowing them to go into Spectators (Addington’s Bar and Bistro) to order a pizza and a raspberry and coke doesn’t help. If they don’t enjoy their racing experience when they are young there is not a shit show that they will come back and spend their money when they are older. Cheap drink prices and after-race entertainment would also help.”