Andrew Neal. Photo: Trish Dunell
A very quiet start to the season was soon forgotten about for local trainers Andrew and Lyn Neal when they prepared a pair of winners at Cambridge Raceway on Friday night.
After 28 runners to the races without a victory to start the season, the husband-and-wife duo scored with maiden trotter Credit Master and two-win pacer Makers Mark.
The former Auckland Cup winning trainers have long been a ‘strike-rate’ stable with a small but select team that have had a high level of success.
But, as Andrew points out, the numbers, nor horsepower are there at the moment, nor might they be again.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a quiet phase, more a winding-down phase.”
Neal didn’t go as far to say that the couple, who have successful businesses outside of the racing industry, would be quitting the game all together.
“It’s just hard to go to owners and think of a good reason to tell them to buy a yearling, pay up for all the races and training to then go out and race Mark Purdon.
“We are still breeding a few ourselves, but we’ve had mostly fillies recently and they haven’t done what we’d liked them to have.
“We’ve got a few nice colts coming through and we are looking forward to racing them.”
In Credit Master they also have a promising type, the horse finally delivering on his potential with a faultless display last night.
They think a lot of him, but he had been misbehaving, though trips to Auckland and Palmerston North helped him mentally, Neal reckons.
“It’s just been a trotter’s thing with him; he’s just starting to do everything right now.
“He’s had a few little niggly problems – like last time at Cambridge he was losing ground on all the corners.
“So, we made a few shoeing adjustments that have sorted that out.
“The trip to Manawatu helped a lot – he came back a better horse for it and now when he lines up I feel confident in him that when he trots away I’m not going to ‘lose’ him.
“And that’s a big part of racing, being able to step well and settle handy.”
Makers Mark is a handy Christian Cullen entire raced by former horseman and amateur driver, Kevin Judson.
He was purchased by him, through the Neals, in the middle out of last year out of the Canterbury stable of Nigel McGrath, with whom the Neals have a close association.
He’s no world-beater, but it was his second win from the stable.
“Kevin is back selling cars in Morrinsville,” said Neal.
“We’re training it for him and we’ve only really seen him a couple of times at the stables in the morning.
“He did say recently that if we wanted to put him in an amateur drivers’ race, he would be keen for the drive, so we’ll see what happens.”
Peter Ferguson drove Makers Mark to victory while Andrew Neal drove Credit Master.