Friday, October 9 2009 
Waikato Times – Garrick Knight
 

The days just keep getting longer and longer for Tauwhare horseman Todd Mitchell, and that is probably why the dual-code trainer treated himself to a trip to the NRL grand final in Sydney last weekend.

The four-time New Zealand Cup-winning driver celebrated a career-best season as a harness trainer in 2008-09 with 36 wins and over $290,000 in stakes, mainly on the back of good performances from the likes of McAlister, Sound of Thunder and Magic Attack.

All three have been sold off-shore in recent months and with that has come a time of rebuilding, and Mitchell has taken the opportunity to increase his portfolio as a thoroughbred trainer.

“We’ve got six gallopers here now and I’m usually up just before 4am to work them,” he said.

His debut effort at training was the mare Electronic Socks, who won one race and is due to trial later this month, while he has also picked up the broken down sprinter High Priest and a Rock of Gibraltar gelding from high profile owner Dominic Li.

“He went a little bit sore for Donna Logan up north. It was nothing too serious, just some jarring in his fetlocks.

“He is a lovely looking animal and is enjoying the swimming.”

On the other side of the stable, Mitchell’s up-and-coming trotter Muscles Kiwi has also been swimming after two injuries, and is down to resume tonight at Alexandra Park.

“We tipped him out in January because he fractured a bone in his knee and needed four months out.

“So he came back in to work and everything was fine and when he was a week away from the workouts the vet went over him and noticed some swelling in a stifle.

“So we took an x-ray and a bit of bone had come away. The vet reckoned he’d had the problem since he was six months old so we had to operate to get that out.”

Mitchell has no question marks over the horse’s fitness, but wonders whether the 2200m may be a bit sharp for the horse he regards as tough rather than fast.

“He’s had two runs at the work-outs. In the first one, I just sat on him and he ran in behind them nicely.

“Then last week I was in Sydney for the NRL final so Fergy (Peter Ferguson) has a sit on him and said he went well but just got in a bit around the corners.

“He’s a bit better the Auckland way around, though, and he is pretty forward.

“He should run in the three but the 2200m might be a bit sharp for him at this stage.”

Muscles Kiwi has top billing in the stable after Sound of Thunder’s sale and it was with that in mind that Mitchell was contemplating taking south to the New Zealand Cup week.

“We were thinking about taking him south, but when you can race around Auckland for $15,000 every week and can earn good money on the premier nights we thought we might just stay at home.”

Another trotter causing heartache for punters is Don Giovani, who has gone out favourite in all five starts to date, but is yet to trot the whole way.

“He more or less has some nervous issues that we need to work out. He is fine at home and the workouts but on race night with other horses around him he is just a bit suspect that first 200m,” Mitchell said.

“Last week at Cambridge wasn’t his fault. He stepped away cleanly then one of Jill Coppins’ came across in front of him and he shied at that and started putting in some short ones.

“I’ve been working him with half hopples and I am hoping that might work the oracle with him as he definitely has the gas in the tank.”

Another horse that local fans may have forgotten about is Vinnie Barbarino, a now five-year-old two-race winner who had just three races last season and has been sidelined since with a suspensory injury.

“He has been out seven months and the vets have said he is 60 per cent certain to make it back to the race track. He may yet go to another stable to resume work.”

Mitchell said losing the top end of his stable has meant a rebuilding time for him, and he does not expect to reach the lofty heights of last season, but he should still churn out the winners with consistency.

“We had a huge run last season but it was time to flick a few on before they got stuck in their grades.

“Bow Street Runner is set to resume next Thursday. He’s had a few nice runs at the workouts. He has manners issues but if we can get him away from a stand he might be a country cups type of horse.

“And there is a nice little three-year-old here called Fireinthehole who ran second to Awohali (two wins) when he qualified last season.

“He has just come back in to work and might be one to follow.”