Staff Profiles

REGAN TODD

Regan_ToddRegan Todd, right-hand man of the Woodend Beach arm of the Mark Jones Racing Stables, has 22 training wins on his own behalf.

He has made a valuable contribution with the maintenance of top trotter Master Lavros, and pacer Saveapatrol, along with other Overport Lodge horses requiring beach training.

Regan had success as a driver before moving his attentions to the training field.

He reined his first winner _ Die Another Day _ at Addington on Friday, June 30, 2006, when on loan to Woodend Beach trainers David and Catherine Butt.

Regan, who began working for Wyndham trainer Brendon McLellan, spent 3 months during the winter with the Butts’ in 2006, and the following year made a permanent move to Canterbury.

After further experience with David and Catherine Butt, Regan was firmly established as a successful junior driver when he teamed up with Mark Jones.

Regan, sponsored by the Yaldhurst Hotel, is the latest generation from a heritage of successful horsemen.

His father Barry co-raced former smart pacer Happy Patron, trained by Brendon McLellan and driven by Ricky May, for an upset win in the 1986 Flying Stakes (Group Two) for 3YOs at the Addington easter meeting. Barry  also co-raced good Southland pacer Rathbone (9 wins) before his sale overseas two years ago.

Regan’s late grandfather Ray was responsible for developing former top 1960s trotters, Le Chant and Stylish Major, and 1970s pacer Adios Adieu.

Regan’s uncle Mervyn has also made a solid contribution to Southland harness racing, developing former top Grand Circuit pacer Sokyola, before he was sold to race for Victorian trainer Lance Justice.

Regan’s late great grand-father “Doody” Todd, previously trained Blue Mist, who gained fame by setting a world mares’ mark for a mile and a half in West Australia in 1953.

Regan gained his first win in the training role with Del Sur at Gore on September 7, 2010, sporting the former colours of Regan’s late grand-father, Ray Todd.

Del Sur was driven in the Gore victory by Brendon McLellan.

Regan’s training wins have come consistently in recent years.

He has prepared mutliple winners bred by supporter, Clemence Drilling Contractor’s principal, David Clemence, from Star Rhapsody (In The Pocket-Venetian Star), including Geo Star (two),  year younger half-sister Strata Star (by Bettor’s Delight), won five in NZ and a further three in Australia, taking a 1:53.3 mark, Sandvik Star (five wins), and minor winners, Greywackee Star and Vai Star.

Star Rhapsody is a 1:58 half-sister to Anvil’s Star (1:54.8, 15 wins & $444,705).

Grand-dam Venetian Star was a Lordship sister to former top pacer Starship (TT, 1:54.5, 16 wins & $341,975), and half-sister to Our Ian Mac (16 wins & $A194,852).

This is also the same family as the former good Mark Jones-trained winning mare Crystal Star (11 wins & $148,406).

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SAMANTHA OTTLEY

Overport Lodge Burnham foreperson and successful reinswoman Samantha Ottley joined the team in October, 2015.

“She is a big asset to the stable with her experience and driving ability,” says Mark.

Sam has been the regular driver of smart stable mare Rocker Band during her 4YO season, combining first-up with her for a career best 1:53.3 mile at Winton.

Samantha Ottley, after winning at Winton with Rocker Band. Photo: Bruce Stewart, Southland Harness Racing.

She won her first three drives behind the daughter of Rocknroll Hanover and 2005 NZ Cup-winning mare, Mainland Banner, and ran third in the $40,000 Premier Mares Championship.

The wins have come regularly again for Sam since returning from an injury layoff in December.

Sam Ottley was NZ’s top junior in 2014 with 52 wins, 10 ahead of Sailesh Abernethy.

She racked up 122 wins during her junior career.

Sam won her first raceday drive on her 18th birthday behind Nigel Paul, a horse trained at Orari by her mother Denise, in a one-win race at the Kurow meeting at Oamaru on August 3, 2008.

Her junior career blossomed under the guidance of trainers Colin and Julie De Filippi.

During her early career, she partnered former Dominion Handicap winning trotter Stylish Monarch, two low-grade races in 2009.

She also scored an upset win in the 2012 Geraldine Cup behind the Colin and Julie De Filippi-trained mare Just Rose, and partnered that stable’s top trotter Stent, for a race win, and also a second in the Group One 2013 NZ Trotting Championship.

Sam also racked up 41 wins in her first season as a support open driver in 2014-15 when attached to the Robert Dunn stable.

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ROBBIE CLOSE

The Mark Jones stable has no shortage of driving talent with 2015 champion junior Robbie Close, joining the Woodend Beach arm of the  Overport Lodge stable, a few months before enjoying a golden run to the end of his junior status.

He tied with a former Overport Lodge employee Stevie Golding on 42 wins apiece for the Junior Drivers Championship title in 2014-15.

Robbie Close salutes at Addington.
Robbie Close salutes at Addington.

Robbie made the most of his final term as a junior, winning both the McMillians New Zealand Junior Driver Championship and the Australasian Young Drivers Championship within the final three months of the season.

He also racked up his 100th driving win during the NZ Drivers Championship in July.

Robbie was appreciative of the positive advice given to him by Mark, a former world drivers champion, and Regan Todd, after joining the stable.

Despite restricted opportunities in his first term as an open driver, he’d still brought up 19 wins by mid-February.

Robbie,  a former South Aucklander, had stints with Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett, and Barry Purdon, before moving to Canterbury in search of opporunities in  2010.

He spent three years with Robbie Holmes before transferring to fellow North Canterbury trainers Greg and Nina Hope.

He was rewarded with a New Zealand Cup drive behind the Hope-trained Jason Rulz in the 2013 New Zealand Cup, finishing eighth behind Terror To Love.

Robbie  also finished fourth with Jason Rulz in Christen Me’s 2013 Group Two Glenferrie Farm Canterbury Classic.

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AMBER LETHABY & JILL SMOLENSKI

Amber Lethaby, daughter of time trainer Ray Jenkins, and Jill Smolenski, daughter of the late two-time premiership-winning trainer of the early 1970s in Jack Smolenski, are accomplished horsewoman, working at Overport Lodge.

Both have are successful drivers in their own right.

Amber, who won a race in her first season as a junior in 2002, has racked up 69 career wins.

She had the pleasure of driving veteran squaregaiter Quality Invasion, then 11, for his last of 19 wins at Oamaru in June, 2015.

Jill Smolenski began working for Overport Lodge in 2010.

Both Amber and Jill are valued members of the team.

Jill brought C1 trotter In Like Magic with her to Overport Lodge and won another two races with him in Mark’s colours.

She only drives her own runners these days and scored a win this year with grey trot gelding Shadow Galleon, which she has a licence to train.

Jill has inherited the famous colours of her father, the black jacket with the mauve sash and white sleeves. Like Mark Jones, Jack Smolenski also reined over 1000 winners during his legendary career.

A month after winning with Shadow Galleon, Jill also won the second heat of the Lady Invited Drivers races at the Timaru May meeting in May 2015, after leading early, then securing the trail behind eventual winner Jack Hammer.

Jill Smolenski and Amber Lethaby have been participants in the 2014 and 2015 Timaru Lady Drivers Invitation races, along with latest Overport Lodge reinswoman, Samantha Ottley.

Amber won the second invited lady drivers pace at the 2014 Timaru May meeting with Franco Revel, while in the first heat that day, Jill prevailed with Lurah, beating Amber driving Classiegent.

Sam and Jill were unplaced in the inaugural Timaru Invited Lady Drivers Pace in 2013, when Charlotte Hunter scored with Little Miss Sunshine.

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LAURA McKAY

Laura McKay, the latest junior driver for the Mark Jones stable, didn’t take long to record her first win, at just her third racedrive with trotter Kowhai Whiz, at Rangiora on November 5, 2015.

Laura McKay, after winning her first race with Kowhai Whiz at Rangiora on Thursday, November 5, 2015.
Laura McKay, after winning her first race with Kowhai Whiz at Rangiora on Thursday, November 5, 2015.

She brought the Now Another Look gelding home with a strong finish to take out the mobile 2000m C1-3 Crackerjack Mobile Trot.

Mark Jones watched Laura’s win unfold in behind with Danke, who finished sixth.

Laura, a jockey-sized grand-daughter of long-time successful harness racing owners, Clive and Rona McKay, has followed the path of Mark, initially working for three year at Kentuckiana Lodge for Cran Dalgety.

She then spent eight months in New South Wales with Kerry Ann Turner before returning to Christchurch in the autumn of 2015 to work for Mark.

Laura is enjoying her opportunities and has picked up minor placings behind durable pacer Fair Dinkum Bromac.