By GARRICK KNIGHT
Waikato Times 24/12/2009

It’s a frenzied ten days ahead for Tauwhare horseman Todd Mitchell as he embarks on a dual-code training schedule matched only by fellow Waikato trainer Graeme Rogerson.

It started today at Cambridge where Mitchell had five of his own runners engaged – Heza Holmes, Artistic Rulz, Live Or Dana, Hazel Maud and the highly talented trotter Don Giovanni – and builds to a crescendo with an action-packed three-meeting 30-hour marathon at Alexandra Park, Ellerslie and Cambridge on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

After today, Mitchell will enjoy a comparatively low-key Christmas Day before Boxing Day on Saturday at Pirongia for a non-tote race with his maiden pacer Fonzie.

Sunday sees a switch of codes and Mitchell taking galloper Novice Mistress to Rotorua before a valuable down day on Tuesday.

Wednesday is the annual grass track harness meeting at Te Awamutu, where Mitchell intends on lining up at least two horses as well having a full card of drives.

From there is Taupo on Thursday for sprinting galloper High Priest before the premier harness meeting at Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve with Don Giovanni and Heza Holmes backing up among Mitchell’s other runners.

New Year’s Day is the day Mitchell is looking forward to most, however, as he lines up his staying mare Electronic Socks in the $60,000 Dunstan Stayers Final at Ellerslie.

However, he revealed the Electronic Zone five-year-old pulled up slightly sore from her race at Te Rapa last Saturday.

“She jarred up a little bit in the knee the other day so she didn’t go as well as she could,” Mitchell said yesterday.

“It’s just a small little problem that we are working on. She’ll have her last hit out at the track on Monday and we will see how she pulls up from there.

“It wasn’t a major thing. Andy [Webb, jockey] just couldn’t switch her on to the inside knee at Te Rapa so we have injected the knee and hopefully she comes right.”

Win, lose or draw Mitchell will be heading back down the motorway straight after the Dunstan Final to prepare for a full night’s harness racing at Cambridge that night.

“She’s going to be a busy week for us, that is for sure,” Mitchell said.

Two Dunstan series qualifying race wins at Avondale and Te Rapa has seen Electronic Socks emerge as the top qualifier for what what has become a well-recognised avenue for up and coming stayers to make their mark.

As a bonus, Mitchell is up for a $1000 bonus as the trainer of the top qualifier as long as Electronic Socks contests the final.

For Mitchell, racing good horses like Electronic Socks and Don Giovanni – a trotting winner of two of his last three – makes up for the early mornings and the loss of good horses, which he experienced twice in recent weeks.

His other good trotter Muscles Kiwi broke down again and is out long-term, while talented pacer Bow Street Runner was put down shortly after last racing on November 27.

“We had to put him down. He pulled ligaments off a sesamoid and got him x-rayed, but that showed he had a bone chip and a spiral fracture of the cannon bone,” Mitchell said.

“It was going to be an expensive operation with no guarantee he would even be a hack.”

The winner of five races was earmarked for the country Cups circuit this summer, a position now in line for stable newcomer Family Spirit.

“He is owned by Rob Pooley, president of the Northland club, so I will take him up there to Ruakaka on the fifth [of January] along with Fireinthehole, who is a nice maiden.

“I hadn’t been up there for a long time but got some new owners in Mangawhai and they invited me up there last year so I camped out and drove a winner at the meeting.”

Mitchell rated Northland Cup hopeful Family Spirit as his strongest winning chance over the next few weeks.

“They’re all going well but he is working extra. And [Electronic] Socks, any rain will help her but if she overcomes her knee issue she will be a big chance.”