Paul Walton, Managing Director of the Granite Benchtop Company, new sponsor for the Group One $80,000 New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All to be held on New Zealand Trotting Cup Day at Addington Raceway on Tuesday November 11.
Paul, along with his partner Helen Conaghan, is also the owner of eight lucky standardbreds.
1) How did you become interested in Harness Racing?
“We did some work at Dancing On Moonlight for Robert & Kerry Famularo and they kindly invited us (under duress) to Cup Day. We sat in the birdcage area, Monkey King won the cup and we have been back every year since.”
2) When did you first become involved?
“I bought my first horse at the yearling sales in 2009 (Little Miss Sunshine) I didn’t know a soul there. I only placed one bid and bought her for $1200, I remember thinking that maybe there was something wrong with her because no one had bid and I didn’t know a thing about conformation. She has won 6 races and over 40k. This year she is being served by Art Major.”
3) What was the name of the first horse you owned?
“The first horse I owned I bred, a galloper I called Hoof’n It.”
4) Who trained it and how did it go?
“He was trained by Brett McDonald, he won 6 or 7 races.”
5) How many horses do you own now?
“We (myself and my partner Helen) have 8 at the moment and are part of the “Prospero” Syndicate we formed with Ken Barron to buy 5 yearlings at the last yearling sale.”
6) Who trains them and how are they going?
“The “Prospero” horses look outstanding, Ken has done a great job with them. We also have a half sister to Chancellor Cullen (two-year-old) with Ken and Lynette that is flying and an Elsu gelding with Brendon Hill called “Speedski” that should win a couple soon.”
7) Your company, the Granite Benchtop Company is the new sponsor for the New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All. What made you keen to become a sponsor of this race?
“In a nutshell I guess we love Cup Day; it is our one big blow out for the year and such a massive day for Christchurch.”
8) What do you most enjoy about harness racing?
“The excitement you get from racing a horse. There is nothing like it! And the joy you get from seeing foals on the ground.”
9) Is there anything you would like to see changed/improved in harness racing?
“I’d like to see a younger demographic involved in the industry, both patrons and at club management level. Also I think with the shortage of breeders these days there should be more incentives to race fillies and mares. I still struggle with the disproportionate value of colts to fillies at the sales when in all likelihood the colt will be gelded and have no value after racing, whereas a good mare could be worth a lot for years to come.”
10) Do you have a favourite race track in New Zealand? If so, can you tell us why?
“Motukarara, because I love grass track racing, big fields and great punting, and because Maurice McDermott would give me a “clip” if I didn’t say “the Mot”.”
11) You own a very special broodmare called Suzys Delight, who is about to foal to Christian Cullen. How did you come to own her?
“I bought her after Locharburn helped win the premiership for Cran Dalgety. He ran his last half in 57 over 2000m parked, as a two-year-old, and I thought that was outstanding. I saw Suzy advertised in the “weekly” for 10k and bought her. She is big and raw boned but quiet as a mouse and just a lovely horse. I owe my partner (Helen Conaghan) a big “thank you” for putting up with my thrifty spending as quite often I use the expression “I’d rather ask for forgiveness than permission” when it comes to buying horses! And thanks to Mike Stratford also for being such a committed breeder and genuine nice guy.”
12) The best harness horse ever is…. and why?
“I love Elsu, such a beautiful looking horse and a motor to match. When I was a kid Delightful Lady was my favourite.”
13) What is the best experience you have ever had on a race course?
“When “Little Miss Sunshine” won at Geraldine and I backed her at fixed odds of $42. Miss Lisa won a few weeks earlier at the same course and paid $39 Both of these results thanks to a wonderful training effort from Grant Payne and one guy I will never forget: Bill Northern.”
14) The best racetrack in New Zealand is …. And that is because …..
“I couldn’t name one. Alexandra Park and Addington are standouts for the big events but the country clubs like Methven and “the Mot” are hard to go past on a sunny Sunday.”
15) As an owner what is the most important thing to you in terms of race-course facilities?
“Nothing I think owners are well catered for on course.”
16) Describe to us the best meal you have ever eaten at a race meeting?
“Probably the BBQ at Roxborough , the people are so friendly and all run by volunteers, community spirit at its best.”
17) Do your family and friends enjoy attending race meetings aswell?
“Yes but some don’t quite grasp the idea that you can’t win all the time.’‘
18) Have you seen any harness racing overseas? If so where and how did it compare to New Zealand harness racing?
“No I haven’t but hopefully we may one day have a horse good enough to take to Australia, we would definitely go.”
19) Have you ever driven a harness horse? If so how did that feel? If not, would you like to at some stage?
“No I haven’t and based on my driving on the road I probably wouldn’t be suitable, I am surprised there are not more punch ups in the stables!”
20) If you wanted to recommend the Harness Racing experience to someone, what would you say to them?
“I would say buy a horse or a share in a horse, it is the greatest thrill in the world.”Ω