What The Hill has poked his nose back in front to lead the three-year-old trotting money list after a bold showing in today’s (May 21) Anne Thompson Memorial Graduation Final at the Rangiora Harness Racing Club.
His three-year-old daughter, Celtic Arden, was an impressive winner and recorded back to back wins in the series by scooting up the passing lane to claim the thick end of the $17,200 stake.
The Robert and Jenna Dunn trained trotter has always shown ability, but with the penny now dropping and displaying manners to match the motor, essentially won todays feature trot once she stepped brilliantly for pilot, John Dunn.
The pair found the front 200m after dispatch before handing up to the Greg and Nina Hope trained Te Rapa and it was there they remained until the sprint lane presented itself.
Celtic Arden burst clear and went to the line with John Dunn barely moving a muscle.
The daughter of What The Hill was a $22,500 yearling sales purchase at the NZB Standardbred Sale in 2021 on account of John and Judy Stiven at Arden Lodge.
Celtic Arden was the first foray into the trotting game for the Tapanui couple and the pair were naturally delighted with today’s result.
To see the race click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aqi3VGy1D6k
“We saw her dam, Surfin Sunsation advertised and we knew the mares owners, Adrien and Terry Taylor having raced Arden’s Darlin at the same time they raced Sleepy Tripp.
“I knew they had that trotting mare and that she was a three quarter sister to Allegro Agitato and Skyvalley which meant she had the depth of pedigree we are always looking for in a mare. I gave them a ring and ended up buying her.
“We sent her to Love You first because she had one by him that was doing a reasonable job and had won a couple of races but invariably we realised we needed to go fresh as weren’t having any luck.
“I had been in the States and seen Muscle Hill in the flesh and that was why we bought a trotting mare in the first place because we had always wanted to breed one by him. I missed the boat in that regard for one reason or another but decided to give one of his best sons a shot who had just become available in the flesh at Woodlands Stud.
“We put her to Father Patrick and got a filly but it had extreme bad luck and had to be put down when it was a yearling.
“We then sent the mare to En Solitaire when he arrived at Macca because he had Love You in his pedigree and he is out of one of the best maternal families in France. That mating produced a cracking colt and Amber Lethaby purchased him and is just over the moon with him, he’s broken in good.
“We’ve since got a replacement by Father Patrick with a colt we have just weaned. And I decided with the Muscle Hill theme and being something new we would give Zenith Stride a chance being a son who was fresh with a great pedigree of his own.
“It’s been quite cool the whole journey with Celtic Arden because Nigel Armstrong had reported back to us that he had watched her being broken in and showing plenty of ability and that they really liked her. His wife ended up taking a share and we have kept in touch with him and check in with his beach reports to see how she is progressing. “We are trying to keep our numbers in check which is a hard job when you have a horse disease like I do,” he laughed.
“But now we have a trotting mare of some substance, we wouldn’t mind keeping a filly out of her to breed on with.
Surfin Sunsation and foal Celtic Arden
Celtic Arden has now won two and placed on two occasions from just eight starts.
The winning time for the 2600m stand was 3:31.0 with a mile rate of 2:10.5 and closing sectionals of 59.9 and 29.1.
Celtic Arden wasn’t the only progeny of What The Hill to make a big impression in the seventh on the card at Rangiora with the Mark Jones trained What The Belle storming home from a hopeless position to claim a second third placing in as many weeks.
The Trevor Casey bred and owned gelding looks to have inherited plenty of the family ability being a half-brother to the champion trotter, Stent.
Another Mark Jones trained son of What The Hill in Eyre I Will was a commendable run for fifth after being parked out for much of the last lap.
The trio between them earned a smidge over $11,000 in stake money for their sire, which incidentally was the exact amount What The Hill finds himself in front of Father Patrick with the pair well clear of the chasing pack for top 3YO trotting sire honours.
Story by Brad Reid for Harnesslink with extra photos added.