Sullivan back in winner’s circle

Wintime (Mark Hills) providing the Sullivans with an overdue win at Te Awamutu last Wednesday.

Wintime (Mark Hills) providing the Sullivans with an overdue win at Te Awamutu last Wednesday.

It’s seems a lifetime ago since Lorraine Sullivan enjoyed the heady days with her wonderful galloper Serendiper, but she still gets a thrill from winning races.

Sullivan was back in the winner’s circle at Te Awamutu last Wednesday when Wintime, a Mastercraftsman four-year-old mare she and her husband, Bill, bred and own, broke through for her first win in the Waipa Hire 1150.

It had taken Wintime three previous starts and a few trials to show her best on raceday and for Sullivan it was an overdue win.

Sullivan’s last win had been at the 2011 Hawke’s Bay Spring Carnival with Phar Cry, a mare she and her husband also bred and raced. The daughter of Street Cry had looked very smart, winning four of her eight starts, and she capped off a double with the Hastings win in September 2011, having won the start before at Te Rapa.

Unfortunately Phar Cry’s racing career was cut short through injury and the Sullivans also suffered misfortune with her as a broodmare. She died when foaling her second foal, a colt by Rip Van Winkle two years ago.

The Sullivans, a farming couple, race their own breed and have been sparingly represented over recent years. They had just one runner in 2012-13, the season after Phar Cry retired and none the following season before stepping up more in the last couple of seasons.

Lorraine Sullivan treats training as a hobby, pottering around with a horse or two in work at Cambridge, but there is no doubting her skill.

She has produced a host of winners over the years, none better than Serendiper, a son of Serenader II who was at his peak in the late 1970s- early 1980s.

Serendiper won 12 of his 47 starts and raced against, and beat, some of the greatest horses of his era.

His crowning glory came in the 1978 Gr. 1 Air NZ Stakes at Ellerslie when defeating a star-studded line-up. Dual Wellington Cup and Sydney Cup winner Good Lord (who was also a big-race winner in the United States) was runner-up and the champion mare La Mer filled third berth.

Serendiper also beat top South Island mare Mellseur and Noel Eales star performer Orchidra when taking the 1980 Gr. 2 Awapuni Gold Cup and Orchidra also had to settle for third behind him when he won the 1981 Gr. 3 Ormond Memorial Stakes at Hastings with the Wellington Cup winner Ruanuku the runner-up.

Serendiper was a versatile performer whose wins also incuded a Matamata Cup, while among his major placings was a third to top-liners March Legend and Arbre Chene in 1979 Gr. 1 Lion Brown Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa.

Now 32 years since Serendiper ran his last race, Lorraine Sullivan is still maintaining her interest in racing, particularly as a breeder.

There have been rewards in the breeding field, but the biggest satisfaction has come on raceday, especially with her latest winner, Wintime.

“We’ve had a lot of trouble with her feet,” said Sullivan. “She had really bad cracks up to the coronet and they’re just slowly growing out. We’ve got a good blacksmith who has helped with her feet.”

Wintime showed promise in the third of her trials, at Cambridge 14 months ago, when winning by seven lengths over 950 metres, but the foot problem, along with some unsuitable tracks, prevented her repeating that form on raceday last year. In three starts her best result was beating five home in a 14-horse field, while on the other occasions she finished second-last.

Wintime called on Sullivans’ utmost patience and perseverance and the reward came last Wednesday when she won first-up for 11 months.

After being back in the field, the grey mare was improved along the rail by rider Mark Hills across the top stretch and was up challenging three-wide turning for home. After getting the upper hand she then had to hold out a late charge by Fort Knox to win by a neck.

“She has been brave, fresh-up with no trials,” said Hills after the race. “She took a long time to learn last time in and Lorraine has got her right.”

Wintime became the sixth winner from seven foals produced by Winsome, a talented mare who won four races for the Sullivans and was twice stakes-placed, finishing second in the Listed Tauranga Classic and fourth in the Gr. 2 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes.

A half-sister to Hard Stuff (a winner of six races in Singapore), Wintime gives the impression she could now string together some good form and the way she lasted fresh-up over 1150 metres she may handle a longer trip.

She has stamina in her breeding with her third dam being Fort Street, whose best efforts included seconds in the Auckland and Waikato Cups and the Foxbridge Plate.