Rocker Band fulfills the faith in Jewels

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Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones gets no pressure from Queensland owner Greg Brodie. He’s never met him, yet he’s one of his main clients.

The association had its best result yet when speed mare Rocker Band charged home in the hands of Sam Ottley to win the $150,000 NRM Evolve 4YO Diamond at Cambridge on Saturday, June 4, 2016.

Rocker Band and an elated Sam Ottley have the $150,000 NRM Evolve Jewels 4YO Diamond won at Cambridge on June 4.

Rocker Band and an elated Sam Ottley have the $150,000 NRM Evolve Jewels 4YO Diamond won at Cambridge on June 4. (Trish Dunell photo).

Mark gained immense satsifaction with his first Group One training win for Mr Brodie with a horse Mark actually formerly owned.

Mr Brodie, who formerly raced champion youngster Courage Under Fire, is at a stage in life where he’s not interested in breeding horses.

This made Mark’s decision a couple of years ago to swap him Rocker Band for a then former expensive 3YO filly Ultimate CC, who had struck a tough grade, even easier.

Part of the agreement is that Mark gets Rocker Band back for breeding at the end of her race career, giving both men what they want short and long-term.

Rocker Band, a daughter of Rocknroll Hanover and 2005 New Zealand Cup winner Mainland Banner, had already taken a 1:53.3 mile mark at Winton in December, a time she equalled in the 4YO Jewels.

Mark was “gifted” the major Gold Coast owner as a client by Mark’s former employer Bruce Negus, when the latter decided to relocate to Waikouaiti from Burnham.

Mark was recommended to become Mr Brodie’s Canterbury trainer when Mark branched out on his own training career.

Mr Brodie had early success with Mark with the likes of Best Chance, Ok Courage (12 NZ wins from 40 starts), Holme Fire (five wins, sixth from a horror draw in the 2012 3YO Jewels Emerald), Alex, Rockabella, Christian Seel (1:56.1), Mach Kana, Jackaroozy, Courage Tells, Atom Of Courage and Buzz Courage.

But Rocker Band, now a winner of $164,685 from nine wins in 24 starts, has returned Mr Brodie to winning at Group One level.

No less important in the victory was driver Sam Ottley.

Winning combination, Sam Ottley and Mark Jones.

Winning combination, Sam Ottley and Mark Jones.

For Sam, it capped a brilliant comeback from a sickening race smash at Methven last October and fulfilled the faith Mark had in her as a top level reinswoman.

“She was too good a driver to have sitting in the stands,” was Mark’s summation when she signed up as a stable foreperson at Overport Lodge.

Sam, aged 25, the first female junior reinswoman to drive 100 winners in NZ and a former junior premiership winner, had her driving career at the crossroads before transferring to Overport Lodge.

After becoming a senior reinswoman, she was beginning to languish through lack of opportunities but Mark knew she would be an asset to the stable and promised her racedrives.

On Saturday, she joined Nat Rasmussen, another badly injured in that Methven racefall, as the only other female driver to win a Harness Jewels.

Her only previous Jewels drive was an eighth with outsider Canardly Lover for Hamish Hunter in Christen Me’s 4YO Jewels at Ashburton three years ago.

“This is one of the greatest days in my life, if not the greatest,” Sam said after returning to scale.

“We got back further than I wanted and we had a heap of ground to make up but she (Rocker Band) got a chance to show her speed,” she said.

They stormed home wide out to win by a neck, with fellow Cantab Expressive Victor (Blair Orange) charging home along the markers for second, but Rocker Band always had enough in hand over the final 50 metres.

Sam was quick to turn the attention back to everyone who had supported her over the years, especially Mark Jones and Greg Brodie, for giving her a Jewels opportunity.

She said she wouldn’t have had a problem if Mark had wanted to drive Rocker Band himself in such an important race.

But Mark had made the commitment to Sam that she would drive her and she made all the right choices, despite being shuffled four back on the markers from a tricky draw.

“Sam summed it up great,” Mark said.

“She drove her own race. She has been criticised a few times after getting beaten but she’s always looked after her (Rocker Band).”

Mark rated winning the Jewels equal to winning last year’s Dominion Handicap with Master Lavros.

“It was not a winnable race for her six months ago but we set her for it. With a few others missing we went in with a chance.”

Mark had previously trained Crystal Star to run third (to Joyfuljoy and Imagine Me) in the 2009 Harness Jewels 3YO Diamond at Ashburton.

The Jewels win by Rocker Band lifted Mark’s stable earnings as a trainer over the $4 million mark with his 421st career win.


Delightful Memphis, left parked from her wide front row draw for Blair Orange in the $150,000 RA & JV Yarndley 2YO Diamond, fought gamely for second to front-running Partyon.

The winner, another by top sire Bettor’s Delight in the All Stars stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen having just her second start, led throughout from the four gate.

Partyon, raced by the Breckon Farms-The Top Ten Syndicate, which includes former double All Black, former harness racing co-trainer and now Sky presenter Jeff Wilson, was untroubled to hold by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:55.5 (1609m).

She proved too hard to run down over the leaders last 800m in 56.6s and final 400m in 27.3s.

Runnerup Delighful Memphis, who played her part in a siring trifecta in the race for Bettor’s Delight, took her debut season earnings to $107,742 from two wins and five seconds in eight starts.

Both Rocker Band and Delightful Memphis now both return to Canterbury for well-earned spells.


The winning Jewels team of Mark and Sam moved to Ashburton on Sunday with Sam finding another patient drive to land Smoke N Fire home a maiden winner.

Locked away four back on the markers from the inside of the second row, Sam took the short way home along the markers on the favourite to win going away by 1 1/4 lengths in 3:01.7 for the mobile 2400m.

Smoke N Fire was having her second run back since spelling November.

The diminuitive 3YO daughter of Courage Under Fire and Smoke N Mirrors won a race at two, but didn’t thrive when tried in the spring.

She becomes the third to race and third individual winner for her good Pacific Rocket dam Smoke N Mirrors (10 wins), earlier leaving two-race winners Smoke N Grin and the ill-fated Smoke N Santanna.

Luckless first-up at Addington on May 27, Smoke N Fire is raced by her breeders Pete and Debra Smith, and Pete’s aunt, Patricia.

By Jeff Scott