500 not out

Gavin Smith didn’t want to be one of those people who gets stuck in the nervous nineties for too long.

Three months was long enough as it is, so when Imola took apart a tidy field of pacers in Sunday’s Rangiora Summer Cup, the North Canterbury horseman allowed himself a sigh of relief as he notched up the 500th driving win of his career.

It’s been a long 12 weeks, but Smith can head into the busy Christmas and New Year racing period with the weight off his shoulders now and just enjoy the fact he has achieved something that only a small percentage of drivers get the privilege to do.

“I certainly didn’t want to get stuck on a mark for too long,” Smith said.

“It’s nice to have finally reached 500 wins, a bit of a relief, but a pretty cool feeling at the same time.”

It was fitting too that Smith was able to reach the milestone on one of his own horses as the training side of his harness racing career has become a major thing in the past few years.

Based out of the immaculate Dancingonmoonlight Farm in Ohoka, Smith’s success in the past few seasons as a trainer has been excellent and he’s slowly building a consistent and more than capable team of horses around him.

Sunday’s winner Imola is the perfect example of that.

The Jereme’s Jet gelding won once in 10 starts as a three-year-old but has come back this season and performed with distinction, winning four of his 14 starts so far and placing on a further two occasions for stake earnings of close to $25,000.

He’s also picked up a Met Multiplier cheque from Addington Raceway worth $7,500 – making for a profitable month and a bit for his owner, Aaron Johnstone.

“We targeted getting the met multiplier and probably raced him at Addington a bit too much to get him there.

“He’s actually been racing really well for most of the season, but getting away from Addington has probably helped him a bit too.”

Smith said the Nelson Cup in January was a potential target now for the progressive pacer.

His 500th win comes almost exactly 15 years after his first, Went Motoring for Jeff Whittaker at Methven.

His 61 winners last season was a personal best tally for a 12 month period and coupled with 28 training wins, things are ticking along quite nicely.

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