Rowe Cup success after double heart-break for breeders

By Duane Ranger

Rowe Cup champion, Love N The Port (Love You – Ngaire Margaret, Sundon), would never have existed had co-breeder Keith Ussher not gambled ‘one last time’ with a sire he had always respected.

His partner and co-breeder, Sylvia White, explained that Love N The Port was the result of one last breeding attempt back in late 2016.

Keith Ussher & Sylvia White

The Ohoka couple were despondent and only went to Love You after the first two Majestic Son siblings – Malcolm Kenneth (2015) and Jennifer Margaret (2016) died before they made it to the races.

Thanks to Love You, Love N The Port is the third of five foals out of the now 16-year-old Sundon – Wheels On Fire (Armbro Invasion) four-win mare – Ngaire Margaret – who was named after Ussher’s mother.

“Keith always wanted to go to Love You, but we were both ready to chuck it all in after we lost the two younger siblings to a paddock accident – both within a couple of months of each other in 2018.

“I’m so glad we did go to Love You, because ‘Percy’ (Love N The Port) has now provided us with our greatest moment in the sport. Outside of family the greatest thing to happen to us.

“It’s also very rewarding to provide the Williamson family with their third Rowe Cup winner (One Over Kenny 2007 & 2009) and Matty’s his first,” White said.

“Phil has been right up there up there with the best trainers of trotters in Australasia for a few years now. That’s why we sent a good horse to a good stable,” she added.

It was actually White’s son, horseman and farrier, Adam, who suggested that his mother consider taking what he considered very good trotter to a very good stable.

Team ‘Percy’ aka Love N The Port

“I was the instigator in it going to the Williamsons after he broke in quite nice. I remember Mum and Keith saying where should we send him? I replied there was only one place to send Percy to – and that was the very the best, said Adam.

“When we approached the Williamsons Matty answered the phone and said his dad was pretty busy and put Bev on the phone.

“Thankfully Bev liked the Love Yous’, and it’s all blossomed from there,” White (Sylvia) said.

“Then they turned down a lot of money for him as a 2-year-old, and I was given the job to talk so sense into them, but that fell on deaf ears, thankfully,” White (Adam) said.

“It was just one for the little guys. He’s not a champion horse, but all the stars aligned Friday night. Just a good bloody story. I still cry every time I think about it. I’m just so pleased for mum and Keith,” he added.

Sure enough, ‘Percy’ won his debut trial at Oamaru in June 2020 with Matty Williamson in the bike.

So how did White and Ussher get into the Love N The Port breed?

Sylvia said about 30 years ago (1993), she and Keith were co-owner of the Rodger Austin and Jill Smolenski trained Burnup (Gee Whiz II – Delpelo – Armbro Del six-win gelding).

“There were six of us in the owners, including ‘Bolty’ Paterson, and we all had a lot of fun. Then through ‘Bolty’ we bought the unraced Noel Kennard-bred mare Wheels On Fire (2000 Armbro Invasion – Lady Ophelia – Chiola Hanover mare).

Celebrating the Majestic Man quinella at Cambridge

“We bought her after a lot of bagging from Adam and Todd Macfarlane if I remember rightly at the time.

“We bred two foals out of Wheels On Fire -‘Percy’s’ mum – Ngaire Margaret and Dubai Abbe (2011 Monarchy filly) who died when she was three.

“After ‘Percy; Ngaire Margaret has left us two more foals – Majestic Son yearling filly named Majic N The Port and a What The Hill weanling colt named Whats N The Port.

“We left her empty this time around, but we may go to What The Hill again, or perhaps another sire. We will have to put our thinking caps on now that we have produced a Rowe Cup champion,” White said.

She said Majic in The Port was exactly like her mother, a cantankerous female who was not to be messed with.

“To be honest they are an image of each other. Mother-like-daughter. Trent Yesberg, who is a wonderful sales preparer said Majic In The Port was the worst behaved yearling he had ever presented.

“She was passed in and we sent her to Matty in Oamaru. Apparently by all counts, she’s still a handful.”

Love N The Port’s biggest victory in 34 starts saw the chestnut lead and then trail, before going on to win untouched by two-and-a-half lengths, trotting the 3,200m stand in 4:06.8 with a 2:04.1 mile rate.

“I think it’s quite pertinent to note that this horse was set for the Rowe Cup by Phil several months ago. He had a sixth, an eighth, and a sixth placing going into the big race, but the trainer was still confident he could give the Rowe Cup a good shake.

A victorious Matty Williamson with Love N The Port saluting in the Rowe Cup at Alexandra Park

“That just goes to prove what a great trainer of trotters the Williamsons truly are. Phil was dead right on the night,” Ussher said.

Ohoka-based White said she was still shaking two days later after having just landed back in Christchurch.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to now realise that we have bred and owned a Rowe Cup winner. It’s finally sunken in. We’ve had horses before, mainly pacers, but I think we love the trotting breed way more now,” she said.