Most owners and trainers who come away from the sales with a pacing bred yearling, rarely give a thought to the possibility that it might trot.  Many potentially good trotters have gone undiscovered, because they’ve never been tried at the alternative gait.

Just lately three ex pacers have won at Menangle, and one of them, a three year old called Drop The Hammer looks very promising. Trained by Darren Hancock, Drop The Hammer is by Bettor’s Delight from a Christian Cullen mare. Mind you Bettor’s Delight can get a trotter, as evidenced by the deeds of Darren Hancock’s grand campaigner On Thunder Road, recently sold to the USA. Now a 7 year old,Thunder Road won 33 races and $410,000 in prizemoney. He won a pacer’s race at Menangle, but went to another dimension at the trot.

Drop The Hammer wasn’t disgraced as a pacer, posting 7 placings from 12 starts, but always looked like he was dying to trot. Darren produced him from a standing start at his trotting debut, in a 2300 metres heat of the 3 year old Foundation Series. He was in big trouble 8OO metres out, when shuffled back by a tiring horse. He was giving the leaders a big start on the turn, but by golly he was strong down the running getting up to beat Blake Fitzpatrick’s talented trotter Castlereagh.

Then followed third placings in another Foundation heat and the Trotter’s Derby behind visiting Victorians Wobelee and Kyvalley Finn. In the Foundation Final on May 19th he looked something special with a spectacular winning margin of 25 metres.

Drop The Hammer's manners deserted him last Saturday night at Menangle when he rolled into a pace during the score up, and galloped hopelessly. "We'll forgive him this time" said trainer Darren Hancock at Menangle yesterday. "He's usually foolproof and I'm tipping a bright future for him at the trot". 

Six year old mare Iona Grinner was a $7000 yearling purchase, and trainer Troy Williams tried her initially as a pacer, even though her dam was a half sister to the great trotting mare La Coocaracha. She did in fact pace at her first two starts but not quickly enough, finishing a mile from the winner on both occasions.

Troy took her to the Hawkesbury training track one morning with the intention of giving her a strong gallop. All she wanted to do was trot, and has been trotting ever since, posting 19 wins and 22 placings for $172,000 in prizemoney.

Iona Grinner’s success has generated Troy’s profound interest in the trotting breed. He’s Vice President of the Trotters Association of NSW and works tirelessly to promote this important component of the industry.

You would not expect a trainer to consider converting a pacer to the trot, when that pacer had just won at Menangle in a 1.55.4 mile rate. But that’s what Blake Fitzpatrick opted to do with Kayteeoh Denario (Rock And Roll Hanover from a Presidential Ball mare). Blake felt she would trot, and his instincts were proven right. The mare won a standing start event in January, and has registered 7 minor placings. Blake is confident she’ll win more money trotting than pacing.

The daddy of all converted pacers is the New Zealand bred Mister Zion who joined Geoff Webster’s stable in 2009.He won 13 races as a pacer for Geoff including the South Australia Cup, leading throughout to beat the great Smoken Up in a rate of 1.58.7 for 2645 metres.


Images Courtesy Of Stuart McCormick stuart@racedayphotos.com.au

He made the transition to the trotting gait by sheer accident. Geoff needed a galloping pacemaker one morning to cart a couple of pacers along. He was confident Mister Zion would gallop unhoppled, but the further they got into the work, the better he trotted.

“He fairly flew the last 400 metres, and was never going to gallop”, recalled Webster.” I couldn’t wait to get back to the stables to put a set of trotting shoes on him”

The remarkable horse won 9 races as a trotter, including the Group 1 Australasian Trotters Championship. To win Group 1 races at both gaits sets Mister Zion aside as one of the best horses of his generation. On retirement his record stood at 78 starts for 24 wins and 20 placings, with a prizemoney tally of $393,000.

Trainers, if that horse you’re working at the moment gives you the slightest hint it might trot, give it a try! You can always put the hopples back on.