South Canterbury trainer Len Stewart got his birthday wish when his stable star Take The Deel stormed to victory in the Dunstan Horsefeeds Waimate Cup (2200m) at Timaru on Sunday.
Stewart, who began his association with racing as a 14-year-old riding in saddle trots in the Waikato in the 1940s, will turn 89 on Tuesday and has found a new lease on life with the hardy five-year-old son of Dundeel.
The NZ$1200 gavelhouse.com purchase took the step up to open company with aplomb as he produced a strong staying effort in the hands of Terry Moseley to make it three wins in his last four starts.
“I wasn’t really expecting it today as I had my concerns about the tricky track tripping him up,” Stewart said.
“In the end he was very strong at the finish.
“We knew he had the bloodlines, but it was always a matter of getting his legs to move fast enough.
“He can be pretty ignorant around home, but the penny seems to have dropped now and I’m hoping he can keep improving even more.”
Earlier in the day apprentice rider Megan Taylor also had cause to celebrate when she kicked home maiden galloper Jimmy Who for her boss John Blackadder, to record her first winning ride at just her sixth attempt.
“It was a huge thrill as I’ve been trying really hard to get this and it came on my first ride at Timaru,” Taylor said.
“I actually had my first raceday ride on Jimmy Who at Wingatui, so to get my first win on him is a real thrill.”
The 24-year-old Taylor started her career in racing just on eighteen months ago after returning from Europe where she had spent two years working for New Zealand Olympic equestrian couple Tim and Jonelle Price.
“I had spent the last couple of years working for Tim and Jonelle Price, but when my visa expired, I came home to New Zealand,” she said.
“I started looking for a trackwork rider position and luckily there was one available with John.
“It all went pretty quickly from there as John asked me if I wanted to start an apprenticeship and that got the ball rolling.
“I’ve always loved working with animals, as along with my work as a groom, I also did three years in a shearing shed after I left school.
“People told me I had the build to be a jockey, so I guess that is how it has turned out and thankfully riding has come pretty naturally to me.”