HARNESSING A DREAM
Winning Drive No. 1,000
12 December 2014 - Auckland T.C. - Prime Power : Trainer - Todd Mitchell
TODD MITCHELL pulls no punches when it comes to talking about the one race he has been obsessed with winning—the New Zealand Cup—in Christchurch.
Mitchell has been the dominant driver of a race steeped in tradition for over 100 years—an event that many legendary horsemen have failed to win —yet this Waikato horseman has won the NZ Cup on four occasions.
Mitchell still loves winning races—and telling everyone how good a driver he is—but the man referred to as “The Wizard” has another obsession: training racehorses.
In fact it’s a $1 million obsession as Mitchell has stated his intention to become one of the leading trainers in New Zealand by pouring all his energy and passion into a 57-acre property in Tauwhare, Cambridge.
The 57-acre complex is complete with an 800-metre sand track, bungee swimming pool and 12-horse barn. Most racehorses are paddock-trained with a huge emphasis placed on track maintenance of the sand surface.
“I like to keep the track watered and in great condition because it’s important that my horses train on a good surface,” said Mitchell.
“Only my horses are trained on this track and it gives us an advantage as opposed to the trainers that use the public training track at Cambridge.
“I also like to take them out to Raglan for beach training at various times during the year. It’s a great change up for the horses as the beach is good for their feet and joints.
“We can have up to 35 horses in training and they’re all paddock-trained. I have good staff and a great blacksmith and vet.
“It’s important to have a good support team around this stable as it’s the team work that really counts particularly when you’re trying to get to the bottom of a problem with a racehorse.”
Mitchell has won 153 races as a trainer and over $1 million in stake money.
“I couldn’t be happier with the results we’ve achieved this season. All the staff has worked hard and collectively as a team we’ve done very well.
“However every trainer wants that exciting racehorse in their stable that has the potential to be a contender in Group races.
“I have some nice stock in the barn and I’d like to think that with hard work and dedication one of this current crop can make the step up to Group racing.
“Every owner dreams of having a horse good enough to not only win a race but a big race. I want to take the dreams and aspirations of all my owners and turn that into a winning reality.”
It has been Magie Lilly Rose (four NZ wins) and Iwasborntoboogy (three NZ wins) that have done outstanding jobs in North America since leaving the Mitchell stable.
Magie Lilly Rose has won 23 races in North America and a mile time of 1:54.1. Iwasborntoboogy has won 31 races and ran a quick 1:50.2 mile.
Magie Lilly Rose was a promising race mare in New Zealand but an inflexible handicapping system meant her racing future was in North America.
“It’s my job as a trainer to assess all of my horses and do the best thing for all my owners. Not every horse is going to be a champion so it makes sense to keep turning a few horses over.
“With the New Zealand dollar currently low against the American dollar I can see a huge turnover in horses being sold again to North America.
“If that means I lose a few horses out of the barn, so be it, as I’ve got to look after the interests of my owners.”
If Mitchell can continue to develop his training techniques like he developed as a driver on the track—New Zealand harness racing—is in for a massive shake up in coming seasons.
Group One wins as a driver has become a habit for Mitchell.
#Four New Zealand Cups (Homin Hosed, Gracious Knight and back-to-back winner Just An Excuse).
#New Zealand Free-For-All (Just An Excuse).
#Easter Cup (Homin Hosed, Facta Non Verba and Gracious Knight).
#Sales Series Final (Baileys Dream 2 and 3-year-old, Fake Denario).
#New Zealand Messenger Championship (Homin Hosed and Just An Excuse).
Taylor Mile (Just An Excuse).
#Great Northern Derby (Monkey King).
#Breeders Crown Final (Fake Denario and Baileys Dream).
#Ballarat Cup (Just An Excuse).
Mitchell has won 829 races and $8.7 million in stake money as a driver.
If Mitchell’s training career continues to climb upward in the same manner his driving career has—The Wizard—has truly cast a spell over harness racing.
Syndication ownership is an aspect of harness racing Mitchell may look at developing for stable owners in the new racing season.
“Syndication ownership is very popular in Australia with a stack of the top thoroughbred trainers getting new owners into the sport.
“It’s something I’m keen to explore as it’s a cheap and effective way for new people to come into racing.
“Everyone has dreams to train, race or drive a great horse. 15 years ago I was having a tough time driving and helping my dad train a team.
“I had some disappointing moments working with some talented horses that were showing that talent on the training track but weren’t producing it on race night.
“I hung in there and kept battling along and working hard and then along came a horse like Homin Hosed then Facta Non Verba to drive.
“It’s no different training racehorses. For every enjoyable moment you have winning a race there has to be some disappointments.
“I want to turn the dreams of all my owners into reality and sell them the dream of owning a racehorse.”
Article written by: Anthony Corban