Murray Little talks victory from The Sognefjord
By Duane Ranger
Even 17,907km in Norway, Invercargill lawyer and standardbred breeder, Murray Little, still managed to deflect the credit of his latest breeding success to Canterbury horsewoman, Jill Smolenski.
“Mach’s Back is still winning all these years later as a 9-year-old, because of the faith that Jill had in the gelding’s grand-dam.
Murray and Lorraine Little
“To be honest, Mach’s Back should never have been born, and most would have not persevered with the grand-dam either,” Little said while undertaking business and holidaying in Norway with his wife, Lorraine.
Mach’s Black’s grandmother – the unraced 1995 Soky’s Atom – Nardia (Nardin’s Byrd) mare Solitaire, was born with a deformed jaw which showed all along one side of her teeth. She was also born with just one nostril.
“Jill put a lot of faith in a mare which didn’t look good above the shoulders.”
However, she knew how good the breed was, and so did I. Nardia’s mother was the eight-win Lordship – Deft (Captain Adios) mare Olga Korbut. Deft won 10 races. The family also dates back to Noodlum. That’s why me and a couple of mates got involved in the breed,” Little said.
“We leased Solitaire from Jill, and the deal was we could have a foal from her when she finished. Jill bred Dream Angel and we paid $10,000 for the foal as a weanling.
“Jill looked after the deformed foal and her breeder, Freeman Holmes gave it to her because she showed a lot of care towards it.
“We could breed one foal from her, and my breeding mates were keen to breed from Solitaire’s first foal, but I always thought the second foal out of any mare was the one to breed from,” Little said.
“They were a bit impatient, which in the long run cost us,” he added.
Mach’s Back’s mother, the now 20-year-old Dream Away – Solitaire (Soky’s Atom) mare – Dream Angel – was the result. She never raced.
The second foal was a 2003 Dream Away mare named One Dream, who went on to win multiple Group One races on both sides of the Tasman, and almost $900,000.
“That’s the luck of the draw, but Lorraine and I am grateful that we were able to breed from Dream Angel.
“She has left us eight foals between 2006 and 2019, and then I sold her to Gavin Forbes, and since then she’s left A Rocknroll Dance 2-year-old filly and a Lord Forbes weanling colt for him. I believe she was served by Captain Crunch in December,” Little said.
Little owns Havtime Breeding Limited. His latest success coming at Winton in race one last Friday (June 30), when the Forbes trained, and Kirstin Green driven, Mach’s Back got up by three-quarters-of-a-length.
The 9-year-old old Mach Three gelding is owned and was bred by Little. It was his ninth win since making his debut victory at Invercargill 74 starts ago. The bay has also placed 13 times and banked $96,952 in purses.
“That’s his second win at Winton now (April 14, 2018), in fact all but one of them have been in Southland, except for the one win he had at Alexandra Park in 2021 (July 30) when he had 11 races up there for Logan Hollis and Shane Robertson.
Little said Mach’s Back ended up in Pukekohe thanks to the Christianshavtime (6yo American Ideal – One Christian – Christian Cullen six-win gelding) connection.
“Logan and Shane bought Christianshavtime off us. He placed in the Group Two City Of Auckland Free-For-All (2021), and the Three Founders Cup (2021) against some nice horses like Copy That.
“Sadly, he broke down this year. Potentially he and Mach’s Back are the two best horses that I have bred. I did own Havtime (2015 Mach Three – Bettor Move It – Bettor’s Delight mare) with my nephew Malcolm (Little) and his wife Sandra, but I never bred her. She was bred by Phil Creighton,” Little said.
Havtime, who recorded a 1:50 mile in Australia, won 10 races and $385,788, including the Listed NZ Yearling Sales 2yo and 3yo Finals in 2018 and 2019: plus the Group Three 4yo Mares Stakes at Menangle in March 2020.
“Bettorhavtime (2014 Bettor’s Delight- Donthavtime (Mach Three), would be up there with the best I’ve bred too. He had two unplaced starts here and then went on to win 28 races and $112,939 in Australia.”
Little said Mach’s Back campaigned at the Hollis and Robertson barn for 11 races (one win) in the Winter of 2021, before he was retired in April 2022.
“He actually ran second in a Listed race up there behind Dance Time (June 18, 2021). It’s amazing to think he got passed in at the Sales, and he’s now gone 1:52 twice, and still holds the Wyndham track record of 1:52.5. He’s a lovely horse to be around. I can actually ride him.
“But after I retired him I noticed he was still spritely and full of energy. He had a year off but yet he was still doing good work on the jogger, so I decided to have another crack with him.
“He’s now been back with Gavin (Forbes) for his six starts so far this campaign. It made sense. He was telling me he still wanted to run, and I thought training at Oreti Beach would be kinder on his legs,” Little said.
“It was really pleasing to see him win again,” added Little while speaking from The Sognefjord while en-route to a lawyer’s conference in New York.
He said The Sognefjord was Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, which stretches 204 kilometres inland from the coast north of Bergen.
Murray with the next generation of his Havtime youngstock
Mach’s Back is the most successful foal in New Zealand (by eight wins) that Little has bred out of Dream Angel.
In 2010 he received $18,000 for Dream Angel’s second foal, the 2008 McArdle gelding named Low On Wine. She won one race.
The following foal – the 2009 Christian Cullen mare, One Christian won one of her seven starts before being put to Net Ten EOM is 2015 by Macca Lodge.
That colt named Sa Fact never won a race, but Little said One Christian had left eight foals between 2015 and 2022 and is currently in foal to Bettor’s Delight.
“She has done an amazing job at stud.”
He said Christianshavtime (1:55.4) was foal two, followed by the 2017 unraced Sweet Lou mare, Justhavtime.
“She has a Downbytheseaside weanling filly named Havtimeforme, and was served by Captain Crunch in October,” Little said.
Foal four, 4-year-old Betterthancheddar mare named Mighthavtime has now won five races including a nice 2.2 metre victory at Gloucester Park on June 16.
“The mare has also left a 3-year-old Art Major filly named Girlshavtime, who has placed once in 12 starts for Brett Gray, and an unraced 2yo Art Major filly named Ladieshavtime, and a Downbytheseaside weanling filly. Brett trains all our younger horses,” said Little.
Little, who guesstimated he has bred between 80 and 100 wins since he started to get serious in about 2008.
“We have really started to get serious about standardbred breeding in the last 15 years. I’ve got a small sand track and like to do four at a time for six or so weeks before passing them on to a trainer.
Little enjoys pre-training his youngstock
“I’ve got six fillies and one colt at the weanling stage. Malcolm and I are really excited about Havtime’s first foal this year. She was served on December 20 and is still on my property,” Little said.
Little, who is married to Lorraine, is a property, trust and estate lawyer. He is usually down at the stables by 5am tending to his young horses before going to his Invercargill law practice at 8am.
Little is then back with his horses when he finishes work at 4pm.
“I love standardbred breeding and racing. I think it’s more than a hobby now. It’s a passion. I’ve really enjoyed the partnership with Malcolm these last five years.
“I’ve yet to breed a Group One winner yet, so that’s the main goal from here on., but that’s the luck of the draw. It’s solely my passion. Lorraine doesn’t really like the horses much, and never comes to the track.
“It’s in my blood though, and Lorraine okay with that,” Little said.
Little and his wife are currently visiting Norway, the United States, England, and are expected back in Southland in mid-July.
Footnote… Mach Black’s little 3-year-old Sweet Low half-brother, Lous Dream is also doing well across the Tasman for Jack Butler, having won four of his seven starts in Queensland – the first four in a row.