Mike Stevens couldn’t resist Ilsa Voss 

 By Duane Ranger 


Belfast breeder, Mike Stevens, travelled to Auckland in 1989 to buy one horse at the National Bloodstock Dispersal Sale – the unraced daughter of Scottish Command, Miss Paulette.

Mike and partner Shirley

He paid $5,000 for that 1974 bay mare, but couldn’t resist forking out the same price for one of the best trotters of the mid-to-late-1970s – the Tuft – Soft Magic (U Scott) 14-win mare, Ilsa Voss. 

“She was $5,000 as well and I’d always admired her exploits on the racetrack, so I thought that was a bargain I couldn’t walk away from. She raced against and beat some of the best trotters of her time, like Nigel Craig, Waipounamu, and Framalda. 

“I couldn’t resist her. She was 17 when I got her, and she had seven foals before I bought her. Actually, when I got her she was in foal to Chiola Hanover, so I thought $5,000 was a pretty good deal at the time,” Stevens said. 

He said that resulting foal, a 1990 mare named Ilsa Hanover never raced, but she did leave nine foals between 1994 and 2007, including foal three – the 1997 Sundon two-win mare Sunny Ilsa, who is the dam of Stevens’ latest win. 

That triumph came via the Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan trained Islas Son in the first race – an R35-R47 Trot at Cambridge Raceway last Thursday (July 6). 

It was the 7-year-old Majestic Son’s third win in 32 starts. He’s also placed nine times ($30,988) for his owners, Stevens, Robert Anderson, and his daughter Emma. 

“Ilsa Voss is this fella’s great-grand-dam. Robert is based in Rolleston and Emma lives in Papakura with her partner Scott Phelan. 

“Robert and I have been friends for more than 40 years and he trains my horses since I handed in my trainers’ licence in 2014. That’s how this gelding ended up racing at Cambridge,” Stevens said. 

This fella is Ilsa Voss’s great-grandson, and he goes all right,” added Stevens, who bred Ilsas Son with the estate of his late wife, Glenis. 

Stevens said it was quite ironic that he went almost the length of the country to buy Miss Paulette, and ended up with a float mate for her on the way home. 

“She was the mother of Game Paul (1983 Game Pride gelding), who was a very classy trotter. He won  23 races here ($277,852) and one in Australia. I bred seven more foals out of her with the best being Bionic Rabbit (1988 Power Bunny three-win gelding), who later won races in America.” 

Stevens said the best of Ilsa Voss’s family was Ilsas Son’s mother, Sunny Ilsa. 

“She was certainly the fastest mare I’ve bred, but sadly she went sore,” Stevens said. 

He also said the 2000 Sundon mare, Time To Shine, was impressive.” 

“I lent Time To Shine to Mike Ward to breed out of. She’s a daughter of Ilsa Hanover, and won five races for us before she went on to leave four foals for him, including Majestic Time (Majestic Son), who won eight races and just over $100,000, including the New Zealand Trotting Oaks and Hambletonian Classic (Both Group Threes) in 2014 for Mike. He has done very well with the breed,” Stevens said. 

As to Ilsa Son’s immediate family, he is the 10th of 12 foals left by Sunny Ilsa. 

“She was a really fast mare, who only had 21 starts for a couple of wins and four placings before she got injured. I started breeding from her in 2004, but sadly I lost that Grant Our Wishes colt (Sunny Grant) as a yearling and then I put the mare to Monarchy, and Dragon’s Den was the result.  

“He won six races here and another one in Australia. He’s probably the second most successful foal out of Sunny Ilsa. The best is a very special mare,” Stevens said. 

That ‘special’ 2013 Monarchy mare, Sunny Glenis (1:58.1), was named after Stevens late wife, who was tragically killed in a car accident not far from their North Canterbury home in 2011. 

“Glenis and I were married for 46 years. She is always in my memories and lives on through this horse and other horses named after her. 

“Islas Son came after Sunny Glenis, and then the mare’s last two foals – Sunny Son (2016 Majestic Son one-win gelding) and Glenis’s Sunny (2017 Majestic Son unraced gelding). Sadly, the mare is no longer with us. She died in March 2019,” Stevens said. 

He said he was hopeful about the progeny of Sunny Glenis. 

‘She was the only foal that didn’t need time. Most of our foals were too big and we had to bide our time. Snny Glenis has left us a lovely What The Hill yearling filly named Glenis’s Hill and a Creatine weanling colt named Glentine, who was born on November 6. I really like them both and am quite excited that she’s back in foal to What The Hill again. 

“I really like that sire, and may go back to him again, or possibly Creatine if he’s more readily available,” said Stevens. 

Stevens has been involved in harness racing for most of his life, and has been breeding standardbreds for just over 40 years. 

“Of the two mares I bought back in the late 1980s, Miss Paulette was disappointing, whereas Ilsa Voss left some nice foals. 

Smooth Dominion is undoubtedly the best horse that I ever bred. He was my superstar and could have been a lot superior had he not been plagued with bad luck and injury for most of his racing career. I’ll never forget him,” said Stevens, who trained about 100 winners up until 2014. 

Smooth Dominion won 10 of his 50 starts and placed in 17 others between 1994 and 1998. His biggest achievement was running a half-head-second behind Iraklis in the 1997 New Zealand Trotting Cup. 

“Shirley (partner) and I also bred Majestic Courtney (1:54.8 – Majestic Son – Courtneyrae – Armbro Invasion gelding). We sold him before he raced in May 2018 to Tim Butt where he won 20 of his 78 starts in Australia ($170,834), including the Group One Queensland Trotters Cup in July 2019. This is just one of several horses we have sold to Tim,” Stevens said. 

For the record: 

Ilsa Voss won 14 and races beat the best performers of her time. She was trained by ‘Ripper’ Read at Ashburton, Ilsa Voss has the distinction of winning four races in 10 days. That was achieved over the 1977/78 Christmas holiday period: three races at Alexandra Park, then returning south to take out the Canterbury Park Trotting Cup at Addington. In her wake on those occasions were horses like Nigel Craig (26 wins and the first trotter to break 2.00 in  NZ), Waipounamu (17 wins) and Framalda (22 wins).