By Frank Marrion courtesy of the HarnessXpress
There was a time when the one thing that Kristie Hill wanted for Christmas was a grey trotter.
So when the time came for her pacing-bred trotting mare Ruby N Diamonds to go to stud, she sent her to Monkey Bones and Milliondollarmonkey arrived in December, 2013.
This did not prove to be plain sailing however – quite the opposite in fact.
When forced off the scene almost two years ago as a five-year-old, Milliondollarmonkey had won three of his 23 starts, meaning he had galloped at some point in the other 20.
But he sure has been looking like a million dollars just lately.
He has absolutely bolted away with two races since reappearing – on the grass at Oamaru then a week later at Orari.
“I’m pretty sure he has only trotted the whole way on five occasions – that is the five times he has won,” said Hill.
But he has looked very solid and stylish since resuming and Milliondollarmonkey probably had an excuse for being rather erratic before.
“After he’d been doing things horribly wrong for a while two years ago, one day he had heat in a hind leg and we discovered he needed some bone chips removed.
“That may have been the reason for his behaviour for a while, but not entirely.
“I reckon for about the first four years of his life, he bucked every day, and sure had a bag of tricks.
“He’s a character, but he has a lovely temperament to do anything with and once on the journey, he’s a beautiful trotter.”
Father Brian had been training Milliondollarmonkey for Kristie and her mother Cheryl in Nelson and got him back to the trials in September, but again there were issues.
He galloped away when resuming in a Methven trial, although it wasn’t his fault on that occasion, and then in two Rangiora workouts, Milliondollarmonkey galloped in the run home.
“In the first one they went 3.22 (for 2600m) and then he ran into Sundees Son and they went 3.21.
“But it turned out he’d jarred up and needed to be swimming, so he went to Regan Todd the week before Cup Week.”
The Rangiora track was a shocker at that time and all through the spring and it caused issues for a lot of horses, but it has been fixed in recent weeks with the addition of sand and is good now.
So the ground work had been laid by the Hills and Millionmdollarmonkey was only with Todd for a fortnight when he resumed at Oamaru and picked up a free win in the Invited Driver series.
Sent out favourite despite no trial form, Milliondollarmonkey won untouched by over two lengths for Peter Ferguson and one would go a long way to see an easier win, where the last quarter on the grass was in 28.
Then at Orari, Milliondollarmonkey settled at the rear from a second line draw in a full field and was still last at the 400m.
But he merely circled the field from that point, going “9000 wide”, and was in front at the top of the straight, going on to score by over two lengths, again untouched.
A hour later, Blue Chip Delight went oh so close to also winning again for George Hill, Brian’s brother.
The Bettor’s Delight four-year-old had won at long odds at Motukarara six days earlier, giving Jo Herbert her first winning drive in 11 and a half years.
Blue Chip Delight belongs to George’s good pacing family that earlier gave him Blue Chip Rock, the 2004 Easter Cup winner when trained by his late father Joe.
That breed goes back to the Lordship mare Staggers, whom George was breeding from in the early 80s, and it has been a consistent source of winners for him.
Brian’s breed that led to Milliondollarmonkey has been in the family longer and goes back to another Lordship mare in Single Majesty.
Brian had acquired the Ted Lowe-bred Bachelor Hanover mare Single Girl and won four races with her in the early 70s.
Again Single Girl was pacing-bred but wanted to be a trotter.
Joe trained Single Girl and she was handled by either Brian or George as junior drivers, but Brian drove her to the four wins, which included a double at Hutt Park in the spring of 1972, or 48 years ago.
Single Girl belonged to Lowe’s maternal line that had produced dual Cup winner Lucky Jack along with top pacers in Grouse, Samson and Stortford Lodge.
Her first foal to Lordship was the top pacer Single Lord and her second foal to Johnny Gee was the top trotter McShane.
Single Lord won nine races including a Rolfe Memorial in Auckland and McShane won nine races including a Canterbury Park Trotting Cup and a heat of the Inter-Dominions in Auckland in 1983, when he beat Scotch Notch.
Both were trained by Brian and would be sold for big money to America during that boom period.
Single Majesty was a sister to Single Lord and she produced Carmenchita, a daughter of Dancing Master who won three races as a pacer.
Kristie usually drove Carmenchita as a junior and won her first race with her at Nelson, later also scoring at Greymouth and Motukarara.
Carmenchita’s first five foals are winners in Ruby N Diamonds (3 wins), Maddison Hill (5 wins), Sunchita (7 wins), De Real Diva (1 win) and Sunny Bill (3 wins), with one to come in Magnitute, a four-year-old by Majestic Son who was born during the Kaikoura earthquake.
“We bred Carmenchita to Iraklis because she was a small mare and he was a big horse that we had really admired.
“But she never paced a day in her life, even with the hopples on, and later Bob Cameron told us that Iraklis was a good trotter as well.
“But by the time we found this out, we’d bred Carmenchita to Live Or Die to get Maddison Hill.”
Later bred twice to Sundon, Carmenchita produced the trotters Sunchita and Sunny Bill.
Sunchita was a good trotter, but has been a source of great frustration as a broodmare, having missed in her first four seasons at stud, initially to the frozen semen of Andover Hall and Quaker Jet but more recently to Peak and Majestic Son.
But she is now in foal to One Over Da Moon and due in the next week or so.
“Sam and Mitzi Taylor have done a great job sorting her out, finally getting her in foal with really fresh semen.”
Milliondollarmonkey is the first foal from Ruby N Diamonds, who has since left a four-year-old gelding by Majestic Son in The Crown Prince and a yearling filly by What The Hill.
Milliondollarmonkey qualified as a three-year-old, but he was a late four-year-old when he finally got things right on two occasions, winning during separate trips to Manawatu in the autumn of 2018.
“We’d sometimes take a wee team away to Manawatu as it was just as close as racing in Canterbury.
“The stakes were also higher and the competition lower.”
Having sold their hops farm, Brian and George moved from Brightwater to Canterbury a little over two years ago.
Brian is in Broadfield and training from Jack Smolenski’s old place.
Kristie is now living in Lincoln and working for Dunstan Feeds.
She’s been the Nelson HRC president in recent years and is gearing up for their meeting in the New Year, where the second day will again be ‘Mile Day’ for the pacers.
Milliondollarmonkey would go on to win on a wet grass track at Rangiora two years ago after being well back early for Jim Curtin.
After a run of outs, he was the rank outsider in the field bar one and paid $51.90, but he gave a glimpse of his real ability on that occasion.
Then came another run of outs on the Westport-Nelson-Marlborouigh circuit, leading to the op in March last year.
When he resumed last month, Milliondollarmoney had not raced for 20 months, and Kristie Hill has counted the days.
But he has certainly been worth the wait.