How the David Luke-bred Sassy Star became a trotter 

 By Duane Ranger 


Ashburton breeder, David Luke, liked the unraced 1979 pacing mare, Spinster Star, so much, he tracked down the owner, bought her, and then crossed her with trotting stallion, Pernod Eden. 

That was in late 1991. And so started David and Gay Luke’s 32-year-old Spinster Star (Adios Bachelor – Victory Star – Tuft) trotting line. 

In fact, the great-great-grand-daughter of Spinster Star – Sassy Star – was a convincing three-length winner of race eight at Addington Raceway on Sunday (July 30) – the BetaVet R35-R45 Trot. 

Elated David and Gay Luke with Kimberly Butt and Brent White

The 4-year-old daughter of Majestic Son – My Mums Astar (Earl) is trained by Brent and Tim White at Ashburton Raceway – on the same Racecourse Road that the Lukes live and one of three Ashburton properties where they house some of their 25 horses on. 

Kimberly Butt did the steering from the awkward 12 draw. It was Sassy Star’s third win in 23 starts for her owners and breeders – the Lukes, and the late Mrs Mavis Hensman.  

The bay mare has also placed twice since her debut at Addington Raceway on November 28, 2021. 

“She’s exactly like her name suggests – ‘real sassy’. In fact, a lot of the breed have been fired up and run like mad – and I think that’s why some of the best horses we have bred have only had, sometimes no more than 10 starts. 

“We’ve bred some nice ones over the years like Houdini Star (2002 Sundon – Star’s Girl – Gee Whizz II 16-win ($483,906) gelding), and Prince Sundon (1997 Sundon – Queen Charlotte  Stortford Lodge 11-win ($128,333) mare), 

“But as for this girl (Sassy Star) she just wants to go for it. Of the 23 starts she’s had I’d say she’s only trotted in six or seven of them,” he said. 

Luke believed that the combining pacing blood and trotting stallions had ensured quickness in the Spinster Star breed. 

“Before I got involved in the family Spinster Star had been crossed with Sapling three times and Keystone Provider twice, for just two wins from one horse. 

“I introduced Pernod Eden via the fifth foal and Star Of Eden (1992 one-win mare) was the result. 

“Then I crossed Spinster Star with other good trotting stallions like Gee Whiz II, Chiola Hanover, and Grant Our Wishes, and the trotting family was established from 1992 on,” Luke said. 

The former Otago plumber and now longtime Ashburton property and standardbred owner/breeder, said Sunday’s winner (Sassy Star) was the third of three foals out of 2008 Earl – Wannabea Star (Sundon) My Mums Astar. 

“She left a Peak colt in 2016 (Helsinger), who  

won a race, and then the following year she left a full sister to Sassy Star named Buffy Northstains. She won six races and now ‘Sassy’ has won three,” Luke said. 

“Alabar actually bred the first two and the deal was they send the mare back to us in foal – and that’s how Sassy Star came about,” he added. 

Asked how many wins he had registered in his breeding career, Luke replied: 

“A mate of mine up north, Steve Cornwall,  was counting how many breeding wins I had got. He got into the 90s about seven years ago and then we lost count, so I’m picking I must have bred say 120,” he added. 

He said he was excited about a couple of juvenile fillies yet to hit the racetrack. They were the promising 2-year-old Majestic Son – Sheza Star Filly (Monarchy) filly, Startling, who is about make her debut in Australia; and Jazzy’s Upstart – another promising unraced Downbytheseaside – Shikaka (Village Jasper) filly, who is  trained by White. 

Luke remembers the days when he used to muck out the boxes as a teenager at his beloved Forbury Park. 

“I’m a former Kings High School Old Boy and was born and raised in Dunedin before I went to Queenstown and then settled in Ashburton more than 30 years ago. 

“I’ve always loved breeding and now that there’s a couple of nice young ones coming through, it makes it all worthwhile,” the 69-year-old said.