Riding hack produces NZ &  Australia winners within two days for Hunters 

By Duane Ranger 

Two siblings out of the now 13-year-old Lis Mara riding hack, Lottie Franco (13-year-old Lis Mara – Lonnie Franco – Falcon Seelster three-win mare), last week won within two days of each other – in both New Zealand and Australia. The second and third foals (of three) out of Lottie Franco) – proved two good in Rangiora and Sydney on August 27 and 29 respectively.

Shelley and Henderson Hunter

Lottie Franco’s 4-year-old Gold Ace brown gelding, Country Gold, justified his favouritism in race four at Rangiora Harness Racing Club’s meeting on Sunday. 

It was Country Gold’s first win in five starts for his owners and breeders Henderson and Shelley Hunter. The former does the training at Woodend Beach. 

Then two days later on Tuesday at Tabcorp Park Menangle, foal three, 3-year-old He’s Watching filly, Twilight Bonnie won her fourth Australian start in a row in race six, the Hyland Ladyship Pace. 

Unraced in New Zealand Twilight Bonnie’s has now won $20,844 for her Goulburn (NSW) trainer and driver, Brad Hewitt. Her most recent win of 1:54 was a personal best. 

“You never look a gift horse in the mouth,” joked co-owner and breeder, Shelley Hunter, of Woodened Beach. 

“Lottie Franco was actually one of three horses given to us in October 2014 by renowned Canterbury alpaca breeder, Mrs Shirley Grant.  

“We won a race with her, and then she left us three foals, and after the third one was born – Twilight Bonnie – we gave ‘Lottie’ away as a riding hack for Andrew Bailey’s (vet) son to ride.  

“We had so many horses on our property at the time. Perhaps now we might get her back when the lad goes to university, especially now that Country Gold and Twilight Bonnie both won last week,” Hunter said. 

“It was such a thrill to see them both win, especially ‘Bonnie’, who is named after our grand-daughter. That time was unbelievable for a 3-year-old filly. I’m not sure her brother could run that time. 

“Mind you he’s (Country Gold) only had five starts for a win and two placings, and the track is a lot faster Sydney,” she added.

Shelley and Henderson with following one of Country Gold’s successes

The two other  giveaways were the late unraced 2011 Bettor’s Delight – Princess Of Diamonds – Christian Cullen mare, Star N Diamonds; and the maiden 2011 Mach Three – Lucky Pocket – In The Pocket gelding, Lucky Three. 

“Sadly, Lucky Three broke his shoulder, but we have managed to breed four foals out of Star N Diamonds before she died – and the first three have all won races and the fourth, a 3-year-old, A Rocknroll Dance colt, Star On The Rocks we sold on Gavelhouse, and is yet to race,” Hunter said. 

And speaking of A Rocknroll Dance, that’s exactly who Rangiora winner, Country Gold’s father, was supposed to  be.  

Lottie Franco’s first foal, the 2017 A Rocknroll Dance gelding, Country Rock, was a bleeder and never made it to the races, so the Hunters re-booked the mare into A Rocknroll Dance again. 

“We like to breed our mares at home, so when we went to get the semen A Rocknroll Dance had 32 mares to serve that day, and they asked us to come back, or would we like Gold Ace there and then. 

“I always loved Gold Ace as a racehorse. He was beautifully formed and had great conformation and a nice gait, so after talking to Henderson we opted for Gold Ace – and I’m glad we did,” Hunter said. 

She said she sold Twilight Bonnie at the 2021 National Yearling Sale in Christchurch. 

“We sold her for $11,000  to a lovely Methven man, Mr Stephen Williams, who then later on got an offer from Brad (Hewitt) that he couldn’t refuse. He didn’t initially want to sell but then later said because of his age the thought why not. 

“I’m pleased for the new owners because she certainly has a nice sprint on her,” Hunter said. 

She said both Country Gold and Twilight Bonnie had the potential to be the best standardbreds that she had bred. 

“They have a little bit more to prove yet because they are so lightly raced. However, that was ‘Bonnie’s’ first start at Menangle after three races at Riverina, and she’s already proved herself in the city. She also won well over 2270m the start before. 

“Arnoux (2006 Elsu – Margaux H – In The Pocket seven-win  brown gelding ($55,116). He was actually one of the best we bred he was by Elsu he won 7 here before we sold him to Perth where he finished his career All up when he finished racing in Perth the winner of 27 races and $168,870. We had a breeding share in Elsu. 

“Perhaps American Sniper too (6-year-old He’s Watching – Onedin Emerald two-win mare), or his mother Onedin Emerald (2010 12 B m McArdle – Onedin Dancer – Presidential Ball one-win win mare, Onedin Emerald, because they were both good breeders. 

“Or perhaps Star Watch He’s Watching – Star N Diamonds – Bettor’s Delight) two-win gelding.” 

The Hendersons have two daughters Charlotte and Anna. 

Hunter’s husband, Henderson, is best known as the part owner and trainer of the 1978 New Zealand Cup winner Trusty Scot (Scottish Command – Fledgeling – Flying Song entire). The 1972 bay won 21 of his 98 ($129,280) starts between 1975 and 1981.