Ben and Karen Calder
Photo credit // Taylor Strong – Stuff

Foundation breed produces cup star for Calders

By Jonny Turner 

Southland owner-breeders Ben and Karen Calder are keeping their feet on the ground despite Old Town Road producing one of the New Zealand Cup trials of the decade.

Few missed Old Town Road’s (Bettor’s Delight-Lucy’s Way-In The Pocket) stunning performance in the Ashburton Flying Stakes where he flashed home from the rear, passing several key New Zealand Cup rivals in the process.

The Calders already had a brilliant horse on their hands, but the second placing effectively clinched the Bettor’s Delight pacer’s place in the cup, as well as taking him right to the top of betting for New Zealand’s greatest race.

“We are pretty excited, which you have got to be going into the cup,” Ben Calder said.

“He is the new kid on the block, it is only start number 13.”

“There are not many horses you can say have only had 12 starts going into a cup.”

“It is everyone’s dream to have one in the cup, but it is a different kettle of fish if you’ve got a real, live chance.”

The Calders race Old Town Road with trainer John Dickie and his son Josh.

The Southland couple’s association with the Dickies came through John stabling several of the their star trotters during their northern campaigns.

“John used to look after horses like Sunning and Sundon’s Luck for us when they raced up north.”

“John’s just salt of the earth and the Dickies are lovely people.”

“We had Paramount King with John, he was a great horse and did a phenomenal job.”

“He won at the Jewels and he set a national record at the Interdominions.”

“It has been a great association and it has been a great ride.”

The cup-bound Old Town Road is a direct descendant of the Calders’ first horse, Grinaldi (Soky’s Atom-Tanisa-Smooth Fella), which their Southland property is named after.

They bought Grinaldi at the National Yearling Sales before he went on to win ten races – the yardstick needed to get into the New Zealand Cup.

Ben then purchased his dam Tanisa (Smooth Fella – Tanya Lee) a couple of years later.

Tanisa is the granddam of Lucy’s Way (In The Pocket), Old Town Road’s dam.

Lucy’s Way has been a handy producer for the Calders, but she has taken her game to a whole new level with Old Town Road.

The mare’s breeding days are over with Old Town Road her second-last foal and an American Ideal filly her last foal.

Grinaldi made it to the New Zealand Cup in 1996, running eighth behind Il Vicolo.

The pacer started 12/12 in the betting for Geoff Small and Brent Mangos.

If one thing is certain, Old Town Road is set to start at a much, much shorter price.

“To have Grinaldi start in the cup and then come back 26 years later with one from the same family is great.”

The only slight apprehension the Calders have is how Old Town Road will handle the pressure of Cup Day and it’s huge crowd.

The pacer got stirred up and missed the start of a race at Cambridge earlier in his career, the only time he has missed a top-two placing.

Ben Calder said the Cup Trial would be vital experience at Addington for Old Town Road.

The Calders have scaled back their breeding operation in recent years.

The couple have Harbour Queen (Love You-Sunning-Yankee Reb), a Love You four-year-old daughter of their champion trotting filly Sunning (Yankee Reb-Sungait Song-BF Coaltown) off to stud this year.

The four-year-old has won once and placed eight times from Kevin Townley’s stable.

Harbour Queen can only be described as beautifully bred given she’s by Love You and her dam is a half-sister to superstar sire Sundon.