That’s a hatrick for Greg and Jolene Bennett
By Duane Ranger
This time last year Balclutha farmer, Greg Bennett, had no idea what it was like to breed a winner.
Now some 357 days after breaking his duck, Bennett has now bred three winners, thanks to the Pukekohe father-and-son training team of Peter and Vaughan Blanchard.
Noel and Ian Bennett
And the trio have all come via the promising 4-year-old pacer – Miki Noel, a bay son of Always B Miki and Clifton Christine (Washington VC).
“I could get used to this,” said Bennett, who admitted he knew nothing about standardbred breeding until his father, Noel, passed away nearly eight years ago.
The Peter Ferguson-driven, Miki Noel, proved too good in race seven at Cambridge Raceway on Thursday (June 22), leading all the way from gate three to win by three-quarters-of-a-length.
The $2 favourite has now won three of his 14 starts and placed in four others for A S Lowe, C A Neal, P T Blanchard, V P Blanchard, J P Lowe, F Mata’utia, E Puna, and J L Lau.
Bennett bred Miki Noel with his wife Jolene.
“If you had asked me 20 years ago if I was going to breed one standardbred winner, let alone three, I would have laughed at you – but I did it for Dad, and I reassured him that the day before he passed away. I said I’d still race them so his name and breed could live on,” Bennett said.
“I was a sheep and beef farmer, but unlike Dad, Jolene and I didn’t know much about the horses. Miki Noel is out of one of Dad’s favourite mares – the unraced daughter of the 2011 Washington VC mare, Clifton Christine.
“He thought a lot of her and believed she had a lot of potential as a breeding mare. Dad also bred from her mother Clifton Joan (by Falcon Seelster).
Bennett said he sold Miki Noel as a 2-year-old to clients of his trainers.
“Peter bought him after he won a Workout at Wyndham (October 2021). Alex Milne jacked it all up. Peter liked him so much he also bought his younger Sunshine Beach half-brother named Sunshine Shelby.
“He’s a striking black gelding, who placed in both of his Winton and Wyndham Workouts in December, before heading north. I think we should see him racing soon,” Bennett said.
“We were getting too many horses and Dad told me that in order to make ends meet you sometimes had to sell the good ones as well as the not-so-good ones to stay afloat,” he added.
Greg and wife Jolene with Shonagh Kirk in the background
He explained that his father was good friends with Keith Norman, who stood Washington VC.
“Keith was a huge help when Dad died. He advised us at Bryleigh Stud which mares crossed with what stallions etcetera when we were starting out.
“Marty Denton also gave us a lot of support after Dad died. He had been helping Dad with his horses while he was ill and Marty was a great help to us while starting out, and he is a great friend today.
“Without the help from Marty, Keith, Mosgiel trainer Craig Buchan, and Uncle Ian Bennett, who also breeds horses in South Otago, we would have gone into all of this blindly.
“There’s been many other helpful people as well, including our current trainers, Alex Milne and Brad Williamson, but I’ll never forget the help we get
from these guys in particular,” Bennett said.
Bennett is breeding from two of his late father’s mares – Miki Noel’s dam, Clifton Christine and the 2006 Live Or Die – Clifton Croupier (Holmes Hanover) mare, Clifton Flier.
Miki Noel was born on October 2, 2018, and was followed by Sunshine Beach, who was foaled on October 19, 2019.
Clifton Christine has also left a “beautiful” yearling full-sister to Miki Noel, which is currently roaming on Bennett’s South Otago farm. Her name is Shonagh Kirk.
“We had trouble getting her in foal to Always B Miki again, but she is holding to Fear The Dragon who served her in early December. I think I’ll probably go back to always B Miki again – especially after what Miki Noel is doing up north.
“Peter and Vaughan really like him, which is pleasing and also great for the owners,” Bennett said.
Bennett said he took over the breeding with Clifton
Flier (16-year-old Live Or Die – Clifton Croupier (Holmes Hanover) maiden mare, after her one-win Mach Three mare, Clifton Jessie was born in 2015
“That was the last foal Dad bred and probably his biggest concern was where his baby was going to go.
“We have bred another three from Clifton Flier ‘Jesse (2015 Mach Three one-win mare) was the mare’s third foal. There’s also a 4-year-old maiden mare (seven starts) Washington VC mare named, Lotties Luck; a 3-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven (one-start-so-far) filly, Shangri La; and an Ultimate Machete yearling colt named Diamond Jack.
“We’ve had some fun times. Dad had been involved since the early 1980s and we did grow up around the races and horses on the farm.
“The best horse he had was his last one – the 2010 Mach Three – Clifton Joan gelding, Starsky’s Dream, who won nine races and more than $50,000 in New Zealand.
“He raced the year Dad died and was exported to the United States where he won a lot more races. That was a highlight.”
Bennett said he had been very lucky with the help and guidance he had received since his Dad died.
“To be honest, we enjoy the breeding side of the industry, working with the young horses. I enjoy the racing, and now see the thrill Dad got out of it. We love the foals and the different personalities they all have.
“Dad named a lot of his horses after the suburb we farmed in, at Clifton (15 minutes from Balclutha). Like him I now take a lot of pride in the progeny that his broodmares are leaving,” Bennett said.