SA TROTS - Star Man takes the honours in the 2023 Hygain Sapling Stakes

It was a case of fourth time lucky for octogenarian trainer John Conry when Star Man won an exciting 2023 Hygain Sapling Stakes (1800m) at Globe Derby Park on Sunday.

A well backed $1.65 favourite, Star Man, driven by David Smith, led throughout from gate one to score a long head win from the courageous Bay Jim Major ($4) with Hezrockinroyalty ($3.20) a head away third in a fabulous running of the two-year-old feature.

Perhaps the biggest winners from the Sapling Stakes were Stephen and Tess Norman from Kapunda’s Allenby Lodge Stud who stand the stallion Major Secret.

Both Star Man and Bay Jim Major are from the first crop of Major Secret and between them they have won five of the seven two-year-old races run in South Australia this year.

The Normans said the success of the progeny resulted in bookings for the stallion nearing 40 for this season, with interest from Victoria and New South Wales.

However, for Conry, 87, the victory was a highlight in a 70-year career in harness racing stretching back to the glory days of Wayville.

“When I was starting out I was training horses for a committeeman Harold Blunt who was a one-eyed Port Adelaide supporter,” Conry said.

“His colours were back and white and two of his horses were Fos and Freeman, named after the great coach Fos Williams, and star player Eric Freeman. Both horses ran in Sapling Stakes but couldn’t place.

“Then in the 70s I had a nice horse Red Reaver who won a heat of the Sires series and also ran in a Sapling Stakes but was unplaced.”

Conry said had had gone to the 2022 yearling sales looking to buy a horse but did not have one in mind.

“I had a look at all the yearlings and liked Star Man because he was a nice looker. I liked his breeding and the fact he was the first foal of his dam. Also the fact he was by a first season stallion.

“I am old enough, and realistic, that when you go to a yearling sale and buy a horse, if it can run it is sheer good luck. You just have to make sure then you don’t stuff it up.”

Conry also offered sage advice to older Australians.

“Don’t put yourself into a retirement home, get a trotting horse. I did and am enjoying the ride.”

He did concede the barrier draw had played a big part in the Sapling Stakes win.

“The placegetters are all really nice horses and should have some more good clashes, and I know the barriers will help play a part in the result.

“What is hard for me to comprehend is that Star Man ran a 27.9 second last quarter (400m). In all my time, two-year-olds in South Australia couldn’t run times like that.”

Driver David Smith, who has also been in harness racing all his life agreed.

“A good two-year-old used to run 2:00.0 – now they have to run 1:58,0 to win at Globe Derby Park,” Smith said.

Trainer Les Harding was delighted with the run of Bay Jim Major.

“To run a 27.9 second last quarter after sitting parked and taking ground off the winner, was enormous,” Harding said.

Part-owner-trainer Alan Cronin felt the same about third-placed Hezrockinroyalty who trailed the winner and dashed up the sprint lane.

The trio are all likely to run in the heats of the Golden Nursery at Globe Derby Park on Friday, October 20.

Trainer Kaycee Carey delivered her father Damian the perfect 50th birthday present when Feisty Jane won the Bargain Steel Centre Pace (1800m).

A $4 chance, Feisty Jane came from the tail of the field with a great drive by Ryan Hryhorec to score a metre win from Butter Cup ($13) with Taylahs Ace ($7) three metres away third.

It was as big birthday celebration for Damien Carey.

The family surprised him with a party on Saturday, before Feisty Jane gave him the perfect present.

The four-year-old mare was purchased online from former South Australian John Justice for just $2000 and already has collected more than $18,000 in stakes.

Talented pacer Springfield Affair produced a tough performance to take out the TAB Make A Date With Play Pace (1800m).

Driven by concession reinsperson Bernadette Page, Springfield Affair ($5) sat parked before drawing clear to win by 8-1/2 metres from Premonition ($8) with Alakazam ($41), 1-1/2 metres away third.

Part-owner and trainer Kevin Von Duve said he was hoping his five-year-old could make the SA Cup field later this month.

“He has a win at Melton in 1:54.5 and just keeps improving,” Von Duve said.

There is plenty of travelling ahead for the gelding.

Von Duve lives at Glencoe and will be taking him home after Tuesday’s meeting but plans to head back to Port Pirie next Saturday.

“He loves life on my farm.

“He is out in a paddock all day, and when I work him I use the fire breaks created around the edge of the forest near my place.

“You choose where you live and I am happy there, but with the horses, there is always plenty of time in a float.”


 Story: HRSA Media

Photo: Walter Bulyga