By Duane Ranger
Five-year-old trotting gelding Northern Muscle has been a licence to print money lately and Denis Smith and sister-in-law Kathryn McLachlan are loving the idea.
Smith trains the son of Down Under Muscles at Purga. McLachlan owns and bred him out of her lightly tried Sundon mare, Solar Gift.
Up until yesterday’s close-up second at Albion Park, when he gave the winner a 20m head start, Northern Muscle had won his last three starts in-a-row.
Remarkably he has greeted the judge first on 10 occasions this season, and 17 times since making his debut at Marburg on April 16, 2017.
Racing Queensland’s senior harness racing handicapper, Andrew Whitehead, said that nearly every time Northern Muscle wins he picks up a $1,000 QBRED Cash Bonus.
“His latest win last Tuesday (June 18) was his eighth $1,000 bonus. When factoring in the 3yo and 4yo Bonuses the gelding has now won $18,000 in QBRED money to add to his $73k in official stakes.
“Being just a 5-year-old squaregaiter, there’s hopefully many more wins in store for him."
Smith was over the moon and especially pleased for his sister-in-law, who had been breeding and owning standardbreds for more than four decades.
“I’m really delighted for Kathryn because she has given so much to the industry for a long time. This is the best horse she has bred and the best I’ve trained since Fox Valley Appeal,” Smith said.
“I applaud what Racing Queensland has done regarding the bonus scheme for trotters in this State. I’ve been around a while and I really believe in what they are doing. It gives local breds a bit of protection and a chance to more than survive.”
Smith, who is now 75, has been a hobby trainer for 55 years. He is a retired engine driver and fitter and turner. He has a valve in his heart.
“Kathryn has bred a lot of the horses I’ve trained over the years and I’m the first to admit I might have stuffed a few up, but this fella is the best of them,” he said.
“She has bought a lot of horses from New Zealand over the years but the dam (Solar Gift) and the grand-dam (Powderhall Gift) are both locally bred.”
He believed McLachlan paid about $2,000 for the 1991 Speed Supreme mare, Powderhall Gift. Northern Muscles’ dam, Solar Gift, was the second of four foals out of Powderhall Gift.
“Solar Gift only raced twice for a fourth and a second. We took her down south to compete in the two-year-old Foundation Series and she went amiss, so Kathryn decided to breed from her,” he said.
“The mare then left three foals and is now in foal to My High Expectations. Northern Muscle is her third foal, but foal one, Solar Fling (by Fling It) and foal two, Silknsun (by Lawman) both won a race each.”
Northern Muscle will be back for more at Albion Park this Saturday. He will start from 10m behind in race six – the $13,000 Ultimate Tools June Trotters Cup.
“We will just keep racing him though until our main goal - the $50,000 Open Trot at Albion Park on July 13,” Smith said.
“He’s still only five so he’s got plenty of trotting left in him yet,” he added.
Northern Muscle has now raced 55 times for 17 wins and 15 placings. QBRED bonuses aside, his current bank balance sits at $75,231.
His fastest mile rate of 1:57.9 was recorded three starts ago at Albion Park when winning the Pryde’s Easifeed Trot on June 11.
Adam Richardson has taken over the driving duties from Smith in Northern Muscle’s last four starts.