By Duane Ranger
One of the North Island's leading junior drives nailed his first hatrick at Waipa on the Te Awamutu grass on Saturday.
Tony Cameron, who has won 10 races this season – six behind the pace-making Ben Butcher, saluted the judge behind the Michelle and Bernie Hackett trained duo of Madhubala (race two) and Blood And Whisky (race six), and the Frank Cooney & Tate Hopkins trained Somewhereinbrooklyn (race seven).
“I’m rapt. That’s my first treble. I’ve drive two winners at a meeting twice at Alexandra Park before, but this is even better. The grass has been good to me over the years.
“I’m just so grateful to the owners and trainers who put me behind their horses. I think they are starting to believe in me a bit more now.
“It’s a bit like rugby. It’s hard to prove your worth sitting on the benches. I just want to get out there and show them I can drive,” Cameron said.
“I’m also getting behind better quality horses than what I used to, and that helps a lot,” he added.
Cameron was bred to be a good reinsman. His Dad, Dale, is a quality horseman and his father’s cousin Robert was the 1983 world driving champion - and is also a member of the coveted 1,000 wins club.
Cameron, who is the number two driver at Tony Herlihy’s (MNZM) Strike Won Stable at Ardmore, paid a tribute to Wallis and Hackett.
“They are very good trainers of trotters and have Blood And Whisky especially, going real well
at the moment. He felt big and strong. They had him trained to the minute and I don’t think that will be his last win.
Cameron said it was a pleasure getting up every morning and working for the legend that is Herlihy.
“Suzanne and Tony have always been big supporters of me and their patience is starting to pay off. They never rush things. They are very thorough and really nice people to work for.
“I often watch Tony driving and try and imitate his style. In fact I seldom miss a race. I tape almost all the races on TV and especially like watching how he, Maurice McKendry and Ricky May drive their horses. They all inspire me,” he said.
Cameron also respected what his father had to say.
“He’s always the first to congratulate me and is always the first to tell me where I went wrong. He calls it ‘constructive criticism’. It may not come across too well sometimes but I always take in what he says. He’s been around the game a long time and knows his stuff all right,” the 30-year-old said.
Cameron said he would love to win the North Island, New Zealand and Australasian Junior Driving titles, but that wasn't the ‘be-all-and-end-all’.
“If that comes along that would be great, but for now I just want to keep racking up those wins and repaying the faith that people have put in me. Beating my personal best of 16 wins (2016-2017) in a season would be nice,” he said.
“This is my last season as a junior so I really want to make the most of it,” he added.
Cameron had eight drives from 11 races at Waipa and two the night before at Alexandra Park. Yesterday he also had two thirds behind the Jason Cossey trained Red River dash in race five and the Herlihy trained Forever Pearl in race nine.
“If you had told me six months ago that I would have had eight drives at a meeting I would probably have laughed at you.
“Like I said earlier I’m just so pleased that people are now starting to believe in me because I know deep down I have what it takes to win races,” he said.
Cameron has driven 48 winners and placed 85 times ($393,724) since getting his driver's licence in 2012.
He also trained his first winner on January 5 when he drove $2.70 favourite, All Over The Stars, to victory at Cambridge Raceway.
Meanwhile, the feature event on the Waipa card – the $10,000 Brown & Pennell Te Awamutu Grass Cup for the R80 to R86 pacers, was won by the Doug Gale trained and Jay Abernethy driven Black Chevron.
Starting from gate six, the 4-year-old Bettor's Delight gelding settled in the midfield not long after the start, and was three back on the outside with cover at the bell.
Abernethy had him six lengths off the pacing makers turning for home and then in the straight they loomed up six-wide before out-sprinting his 10 opponents to win by half a length from favourite Classie American (Dylan Ferguson). Brydon Ideal and Maurice McKendry were two lengths back in third.
Black Chevron paced the 2450 stand in 3:23.6 (mile rate 2:13.7) and came home in 62.3 and 32.2. It was his fifth win in 16 starts ($30,660) and he was the $3.60 second favourite.
Summary from Saturday's meeting were:
Race 1: The Cheree Wigg (Kumeu) trained and driven REDMARO (9 Ch g Badlands Hanover - Margaret Franco)
Race 2: The Michelle Wallis & Bernie Hackett (Waiuku) trained MADHUBALA (4 B m Great Success - Malabar Mahal) Tony Cameron j.
Race 3: The Andrew & Lyn Neal (Cambridge) trained DOUBLEDELIGHTBRIGADE (3 B f Bettor's Delight - Smithie's Delight) Todd Mitchell.
Race 4: The Philip Fleming (Stratford) trained CAITLIN'S SURPRISE (5 B m Pegasus Spur - Milldorf) David Butcher.
Race 5: The Adrienne Matthews (Glenbrook) trained and driven MRS ZIPPY (4 B m American Ideal - River Liffey).
Race 6: The Michelle Wallis & Bernie Hackett (Waiuku) trained BLOOD AND WHISKY (5 B g Pegasus Spur - Our Super Ann) Tony Cameron j.
Race 7: The Frank Cooney & Tate Hopkins trained SOMEWHEREINBROOKLYN (4 B g Somebeachsomewhere - Saddle Ridge) Tony Cameron j.
Race 8: The Doug Gale (Bulls) trained BLACK CHEVRON (4 B g Bettor's Delight - Waihemo Rainship) Jay Abernethy.
Race 9: The Roger Villiger (Morrinsville) trained SPARE CHANGE (6 B m Changeover - Abz) Zac Butcher.
Race 10: The Rex Peni (Morrinsville) trained MCDAKNIFE (5 Br g Shark Gesture - Mer Cruza) Peter Ferguson.
Race 11: The Nicky Chilcott (Cambridge) trained TAHLIA FRANCO (5 B m Badlands Hanover - Tarania Franco) Luke Whittaker j.
Top Junior Driver: Tony Cameron 3 wins.
Top Driver: Tony Cameron 3 wins.
Top Trainer(s): Michelle Wallis & Bernie Hackett (Waiuku) 2 wins.
Top Stallion: Badlands Hanover, Bettor's delight, and Pegasus Spur - 2 winners each.
Extensive results can be viewed here:
Past winners of the Te Awamutu Grass Cup at the Waipa Racecourse have been:
December 2016: The John and Josh Dickie (Clevedon) trained JOANEDNOBETTOR (Josh Dickie).
2015: The Brian Hughes (Ardmore) trained PRICILLAS GIRL (Zachary Butcher).
December 2013: The Hayley Morgan (Muriwai Beach) trained MACS CREATION (Sailesh Abernethy j).
2012: The Michelle Wallis & Bernie Hackett (Waiuku) trained THE WILD CARD (Nicky Chilcott).
December 2011: The Nicky Chilcott (Cambridge) trained and driven PRESIDENT TOMADO.
December 2010: The Michelle Wallis (Waiuku) trained TODDY (Todd Macfarlane).
December 2009: The Gareth Dixon (Ardmore) trained CYCLONE NIGHT (Peter Ferguson).
December 2008: The James Stormont (Pukekohe) trained and driven ITZ CHERRY RIPE.
December 2007: Race abandoned
December 2006: The Michele Wallis (Waiuku) trained THINGA ME BOB (Tony Herlihy MNZM).