There was a familiar look to the results after racing was concluded at Riccarton on Saturday with the local training duo of Matthew and Michael Pitman racking up another winning double on the day.
The Pitman-trained Carson River made it back-to-back wins when he stormed home to take out the rating 91 1400m on the card before stablemate Turncoat provided stand -in rider Lee Callaway with his first victory since December last year when he proved too strong for his rivals in a rating 97 1200m event.
Callaway was substituting for experienced jockey Chris Johnson who was stood down for the day by stipendiary stewards after failing a breathalyser test following the running of race one on the card.
Michael Pitman had no hesitation in booking Callaway once Johnson was made unavailable and was full of praise for his handling of the lightly raced eight-year-old who Pitman had labelled earlier in the day as a solid winning chance.
“I was interviewed earlier in the morning and I said then I thought Turncoat was our best winning chance,” Pitman said.
“He was very unlucky last time when he just got beaten and, on his work, I thought he would go very close again.
“It was a no-brainer to put Lee on once Chris was unavailable as he had ridden him to win before for us.
“I didn’t realise he hadn’t actually ridden a winner for some time but you wouldn’t have thought so on that ride as he handled him beautifully and positioned him in exactly the right spot throughout.
“He (Turncoat) lugs in very badly in all his races but we’ve learnt to work around that and he has been a real good earner for us since we bought him from up north.”
Turncoat did his early racing out of Allan Sharrock’s New Plymouth stable, where he won twice before being bought by Pitman who races him in partnership with long time stable client, John Carran.
It was a memorable day for the duo who also share the ownership of Carson River, another who did his early racing in the North. Both horses are by Westbury Stud sire Swiss Ace, a fact not lost on Pitman.
“It is very nice for John Carran who isn’t in the best of health at the moment,” he said.
“We bought both horses quite cheaply and they have done us proud. John has been a long-time supporter so it’s great to have a day like this for him.
“We also have an unbelievable record with Swiss Ace’s and these two are an example of that.”
The brace of wins also moved the Pitmans two clear of Allan Sharrock at the top of the National Trainer’s premiership.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been in this situation at this time of the year as we don’t normally hit our straps until later in the spring,” Pitman said.
“We did do well over the COVID-19 lockdown with having our own property as we had all of our staff at home in the bubble and we seem to have hit the ground running a lot earlier than normal because of it.”