Mitchell Harness Racing Stables
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Family Spirit Wins Stratford Cup


Family Spirit won his first race of the season on Sunday in the Hewes Scrapmetal Stratford Cup. Starting off the 20 metre handicap, the Todd Mitchell-trained six-year-old overcame the odds to earn maximum points in the Country Cup series. 

Family Spirit stepped away nicely in the hands of Philip Butcher, who elected to sit him near the back of the field as Matai Man led the way. Before long His Honour made a move from the back, with Family Spirit following three-wide. By the 1500 metre mark, Butcher had taken up the lead. From here the race belonged to Family Spirit. 

Turning for home, Family Spirit gained a comfortable lead over the field with no runners able to close in on him. Butcher guided the gelding, by Il Vicolo, to a one-and-a-quarter length win over President Tomado with a neck back to Matai Man. 

This was Family Spirit’s sixth lifetime win from his 37 starts. Mitchell took over the role as trainer in January from Sue Martin. The ten points earned from Sunday’s win place Family Spirit in fifth position in the North Island Country Cup series. Six races remain before the final on the 23rd of April in Auckland

Dual-Code Training for Tauwhare Horseman

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.”

Favourite Raced Her Electronic Socks Off

George Simon
Cambridge Edition 9/12/09

In this game, it can get a tad confusing sometimes.

Last Saturday at Avondale, you could be forgiven for thinking you were at Alexandra Park.

Moments after Electronic Socks justified her race favouritism when winning at Avondale last Saturday, the Avondale winner’s circle was awash with harness racing identities.

The promising Electronic Zone mare is trained by leading trainer/driver Todd Mitchell and is raced by the Road Runner Syndicate, comprising of mostly harness racing identities.

“Nearly everyone in the syndicate is involved in harness racing,” Mitchell said as Electronic Socks returned to scale.

Amongst the cheering squad on Saturday was another leading driver Peter Ferguson.

“This game is easy……….how long has this been going on for?” quipped Ferguson.

Ferguson, along with Mitchell’s father Robert, and Northern Harness starter Colin Courtney, is thoroughly enjoying the deeds of Electronic Socks.

“We all got a great thrill when she won her last start at the Cambridge Jockey Club meeting at Te Rapa a fortnight ago, and to see her come out and win again is brilliant,” said Ferguson

Electronic Socks scored a comfortable win for regular rider Andy Webb, winning by one and a half lengths.

“She was always travelling well and it was a matter of just biding my time,” said Webb.

Webb allowed Electronic Socks plenty of time to settle, being a clear last on settling.

Although Webb felt comfortable, up in the grandstand Mitchell admitted to some concern.

“I was wondering what was going on when she got so far off then in the early stages……….but Andy said later the leaders were going too quick a bit like how Ferg drives,” he quipped.

The good natured banter continued when Ferguson advised Webb to start practising his victory salute.

“I told Andy when she wins the Dunstan Feeds Championship Final at Ellerslie, to give one of my famous Ferg “salutes” and not to worry about getting fined…………we’ll look after that,” he joked.

The victory has left Mitchell with a dilemma.

“She’s a mare who needs plenty of work and racing to keep her ticking over and the three weeks in between races is a worry,” said Mitchell.

He is entertaining the idea of lining Electronic Socks up at Te Rapa on the 19th December.

“Then again I have to be careful she doesn’t get too much weight for the Dunstan Final,” he said. 

And therein lies another problem for the Road Runner Syndicate.

“The $60,000 final is in New Years Day at Ellerslie and most of us will be working at the Cambridge harness meeting that night…..that could be a problem…especially if she wins,” said Mitchell.

Judging by her progress in recent starts, Electronic Socks looms a definite chance.

Electronic Socks Zaps Rivals

Sunday Star Times 6/12/09

HARNESS RACING’S wizard Todd Mitchell and his Road Runner syndicate took over the Avondale Jockey Club’s birdcage yesterday after Electronic Socks and rider Andy Webb scored a runaway win in a Dunstan Series qualifier. And now the happy band of 10 cross-code owners, which includes some of trotting’s best known northerners, are looking at making galloping headquarters Ellerslie their own on New Years’ Day when the $60,000 Dunstan Final is run.

Leading driver Peter Ferguson is already making plans for the day, while wondering how they can cope with celebrating in Auckland during the day, and still be fit to drive the same night at Cambridge.

“I thought greyhounds was easy but this is even easier,” said Ferguson, who has shares in greyhounds.

“I said the other day we should all put in $500 for Andy so he can pay his fine after he wins the Dunstan and gives the big Fergie salute over the line.”
The syndicate, which also includes Mitchell’s trainer father Robert, northern harness starter Colin “Shorty” Chandler, and a swag of Mitchell’s trotting owners, was put together when Mitchell organised the lease of a galloper a couple of years ago.

“I’d always wanted to try training a galloper – dad used to pre-train some, he called them road runners – and I got keen on it when some friends leased a horse and sent it to me to jog up.

“I liked the horse so much I took a half-share and told them I’d take out my licence.” But while the horse ran a few placings in only seven starts, the dream was over when it bled.

Mitchell had a taste for it, however, and asked Maryanne Simon, wife of friend and racecaller George Simon, to find him another one to lease.

“I like the gallopers,” Mitchell said. “You only have to put on a saddle and bridle – and it takes a lot longer to work a standardbred.

“The only downside is I can’t ride them so I don’t get the same feel for them.”

Mitchell said he had forged a good relationship with Webb, who was at the Cambridge track to help at 4.45am every gallop morning.

“And by the time I get home at 5.30am the girls have fed the standardbreds.” Training his now five-strong team of gallopers was otherwise not too taxing – “they jog for 15 minutes behind a cart with the trotters on other mornings or I swim them in my bungy pool.”

Mitchell said he believed the gallopers stayed happy with the variety of work and it helped that they were not ridden all the time.

But Mitchell admitted along with 22 standardbreds in work, and some late nights driving at away meetings, he was looking forward to a good sleep today.

Mitchell did not get back from driving at Palmerston North last Wednesday night until 4am and after a midnight finish last Friday night at Auckland, had only a few hours kip again.

Mitchell can now claim four notches to his galloping belt – Electronic Socks has scored three times and Novice Mistress once.

But he has a way to go to beat the four New Zealand Trotting Cup winners he’s driven, which include dual cup winner Just An Excuse, which his father trained.

Mitchell’s Season Underway

Harness Racing Weekly – 14 October 2009
By Michael Guerin

Todd Mitchell knows this season is not going to be as successful as his last. 
But horses like Muscles Kiwi are going to ensure Mitchell still has plenty of highs ahead this season.

The talented trotter provided his Cambridge trainer with his first success of the season at Alexandra Park last Friday, winning like a horse who will one day work his way to open class.

And that makes him pretty close to being Mitchell’s stable star at the moment.

While he is best known for his freakish run of four New Zealand Cup-winning drives, Mitchell has also developed into a top-flight trainer.

His 36 wins last season saw him finish 10th on the national Trainers’ Premiership, an outstanding return considering he has few big spending owners and is not a major yearling sales player.

But Mitchell admits this season could fall well short of that number.

“We’ve sold quite a few of the racehorses, which is a good business for the owners but they are hard horses to replace.

“So I can’t see the stable having anywhere near as big a season this year.”
With a quieter start to the season, Muscles Kiwi’s win brought a smile to Mitchell’s face and you get the feeling it won’t be long before he repeats the victory.

Mitchell had gone into the race thinking he may be a race or two away from his peak after not having raced for 10 months.

“He has had two different injuries in the last year and the second one only showed up when he was ready to go again, so it set us back a long way with him.

“So after only having had two workouts I thought he might struggle to beat a horse like Isagoodlooking.”

But Muscles Kiwi showed great manners to get away, trail and when the passing lane presented itself he raced to a four-length win.

Still only a four-win trotter, the 5 year-old could be at least another year away from his peak and look an open class contender.

“I am not saying he will get there this season but I think he will make it there.

“And he is only young and hasn’t had that many starts (11), so he could improve a lot.”

Muscles Kiwi has developed during his time long break but his pure trotting blood is showing through – not only is he by Muscles Yankee, but out of a Pine Chip mare in Xena Hest.

“He only wears light aluminium shoes in front, although I have got very light toe weights on him at the moment.” 

While Muscles Kiwi’s future lies at Alexandra Park, Mitchell admits with the structure of his team that finding travelling companions north for the trotter won’t be easy.

“It is getting even harder to win races up here at the moment, especially when we have a younger team.

“Bow Street Runner is ready to come back through and I want to get him sorted out this way around so he can race for the good money up here.

“And then we will have a few horses maybe better suited to the CD circuit when it starts up.”

As always at this time of the season, Mitchell starts to think of the New Zealand Cup and is still hoping to secure a drive in the race.

“I thought I was going to be on Tennis Ball at one stage but that doesn’t look like it is happening, but I might have another one I can get on.

“I’d love to be in it again.

Mitchell’s Personal Best

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.”

Harness Racing: Mitchell Has a Record Breaking Season

Cambridge Edition – The Track Spy

Local trainer Todd Mitchell finished with a record number of wins at the end of the Harness Racing season which finished on the 31st July. His Tauwhare stable produced 36 winners and earned just short of $300,000 in stakes for the season. This smashed his previous best of 23 winners in the 2006/2007 season and made Todd the clear leading Cambridge trainer for the year, from Nicky Chilcott (18 wins) and Mike Berger (17). Todd who is now into his tenth season as a public trainer credits his great season to having very good staff. ‘When you work with a big team you are only as good as your staff and I am lucky in the regard’ said Mitchell. Also well known for his ability in the sulky Todd had a good year driving. He finished as the 4th top North Island driver with 67 wins and just under $1million in stakes. He has only bettered this once before in 2002/2003 when he reined home 85 winner and just over $1million in stakes.

Mitchell Move into North’s Top Five

Article written by : Michael Guerin
Published by: Harness Weekly

Todd Mitchell says a record season as a trainer will ensure his new passion doesn’t become his full-time job. 

Mitchell moved into the top five trainers in the North Island with two wins last weekend, one with McAlister at Cambridge on Thursday and Hazel Maud at Alexandra Park on Friday. 

That saw him move to 36 winners for the season, over 50 percent better than his previous personal best of 23 wins in a year. 

And that comes on top of Mitchell’s new-found love for thoroughbreds, which he now also trains four of.

While some days that means little more than the gallopers jogging behind the sulky, on fast work days it means Mitchell is at he Cambridge galloping track at 4.30am. 

“I’ll go there and take care of the gallopers so they don’t interfere with the standardbreds later on,” said Mitchell 

“I always wanted to train a galloper, and after I won a race with Electronic Socks this season I got a few more. 

“It’s enjoyable; after all, all you need is a saddle and a bridle, but it’s still very much a hobby. 

“The harness horses will always be my main business.” 

So much so that the four-time New Zealand Cup-winning driver Mitchell has 29 standardbreds in work, even after selling five this season. 
McAlister is one who has tested the boss’s patience but rewarded it with an easy win last Thursday. 

“He is a funny horse, because while he works well right-handed at home he doesn’t handle Alexandra Park under race night pressure. 

“And he hasn’t really gone that many good races on all-weather track until last Thursday either. 

“So that mean he only has certain options.” 

Mitchell was primarily going to aim McAlister at the country cups grass circuit next season, but after his sweeping win last Friday he says he may re-think that. 

“I hadn’t actually trained him any different leading into that race, so I can’t really explain why he won so well. 

“Maybe the softer tracks, for training and racing on, at the moment are helping him,” 

He finds it easier to work out how Hazel Maud made it back to the winners circle with her speedy recovery at Alexandra Park last Friday. 

“She had gone some good races since coming up here for the winter,” explains Mitchell. 

“Two starts ago she was going to run third until she galloped, so I put a bit more weight on her and also added some spreaders because she can just flick a knee a bit. 

“They seemed to help her, and she has the speed to do a good job up here.”