NZ HARNESS NEWS
When Kyle Marshall took out his trainer’s licence at the start of this season, getting that special first win was only ever going to be a formality for the talented Cambridge horseman.
But that didn’t make it any less memorable when he guided to Alta Leonie to victory at Alexandra Park on Friday night wearing the colours passed down to him by his father, David.
“It was awesome to get that first winner as a trainer,” he said.
“There are no other words to describe it, really.
“And it was nice to do it on that horse as there is a bit of a story there, too.”
The Big Jim mare is part-owned by long-time Marshall family friend and owner David Higgins, from Te Aroha, who selected her at the 2015 Karaka yearling sale for $7,000.
Friday night’s win came ten years and one day after Higgins’ wife, Jackie, passed away aged just 43 from cancer.
“Dad and David are very good friends and we knew Jackie well.
“It was an emotional win for everyone involved in the horse and it felt fitting that she was my first one as a trainer,” said Kyle.
Alta Leonie, now five, has only raced nine times and Friday night’s was her third win.
The reason for this slow career progress is that she has a number of ongoing soundness issues, according to her trainer.
“She’s a funny horse; she has that many problems but always tries her best.
“It’s a battle just getting her to the races sometimes, but we do the best we can with her.
“She had tie back surgery as a two-year-old (for a breathing problem) and more recently she was diagnosed with arthritis in a shoulder.
“They are just a couple of the heaps of problems we have had with her.”
But he thinks he might be winning the battle.
“Just watching the replay again from Friday night, she looked to be pacing a lot freer than she has been lately.
“She gets injected with cortisone and that helps us keep on top of it.”
Marshall, 24, has driven 124 winners and seemed destined to be one of the rare few junior drivers who make the transition to fully fledged professional driver.
And he’s at pains to say he stills wants to do that in some capacity, but his heart lies with training.
“Training is always something I wanted to do, and the way it worked out was good.
“I came back here to Cambridge after working in Auckland and Dad has a full-time job so was keen for me to take over.
“I’d like to keep up the driving; I think it’s important as a professional to not just drive my own horses.
“You’ve got to be out there every week keeping sharp and I won’t have starters every week.
“I’d even like to think I will get away with going to Palmerston north to drive, too.”
Aside from Alta Leonie, Marshall has a couple of other nice horses amongst his 10-strong team, including promising maiden Eastanbull.
He got beaten by the freakish Major Trojan on Friday night, but will live to fight another day.
“He’s a very nice horse; I just had to do too much out of the gate from the wide draw.
“If you took the Purdon horse (Major Trojan) out of it, he probably would have won the race without that early pressure.”
While he has a lot of experience under his belt for a man of his age, Marshall says he can’t do it alone and he is very thankful to a number of people who help him out.
“Dad helps me in the morning before he goes to work and George Wallis has been a big help too.
“Dad’s partner, Nikki Johnson, always has the horses looking good on race night and my partner, Georgia, has been very supportive as well.
“It’s really a team effort and the win was enjoyed by all of us.”