Isdale and Hewetson's first training win sweetens tough times

Gemma Hewetson was at Ruakaka in charge of the stable's first winner Almarie.

Gemma Hewetson was at Ruakaka in charge of the stable's first winner Almarie.

Clinton Isdale was due a change of luck - he's had some tough recent battles.

The former Australian jockey arrived in New Zealand last year at the behest of his homesick Kiwi partner Gemma Hewetson.

There's been times when he's questioned the wisdom of the move to Te Awamutu the town his partner calls home, but the smile was back on his face after the Ruakaka Beach Front Motel Maiden at Ruakaka on Saturday.

It was the first career training success for Isdale a well-travelled, accomplished horseman who shares ownership of the 4-year-old Alamosa mare with Hewetson.

At Ruakaka Hewetson shed a tear after jockey Mark Du Plessis kicked the consistent mare to victory while Isdale was in Te Awamutu "doing the work".

Whether they were tears of relief or joy was hard to tell -  maybe it was because the plain mare was a birthday gift from her thoughtful partner.

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"We bought her from an on-line auction - it was Gemma's birthday present," Isdale said.

Or maybe Gemma was remembering what the couple have been through to get to taste sweet success.

They have battled and scraped their way to the winner's stall battling through an horrendous injury to Isdale along the way.

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Isdale was speared by a flying piece of wood projected in his direction after a horse he was breaking-in careered into a fence.

The object pierced his small intestine, bowel and colon and incapacitated him for several months including a lengthy stint in Waikato Hospital.

"I couldn't walk - I couldn't do anything," he said. "It's been a struggle at times but tough times don't last but tough people do."

It was a major setback at a time the couple who supplement their income riding track work for fellow trainers, were busy getting established after years working in Singapore and Australia.

A schoolboy mate of Paul Snowden, Isdale cut his teeth in the yards of leading trainers John Hawkes, Chris Waller, Godolphin when Peter Snowden was in charge and for a time after he moved on with son Paul, and was assistant trainer to Bruce Marsh in Singapore.

"Gemma got homesick and we came to New Zealand and decided to try doing our own thing," he said. "We buy a few, break-in a few and have a few outside owners but it hasn't been easy."

The  $2875 birthday present had started nine times for two minor placings, earning just over $2000 in prize-money when the winning bid was placed.

Since then Almarie has lined up in another 14 races, with her breakthrough win coming after a further six placings, earnings now nearly $16,000.

"It took us a while to get a grasp on her," Isdale said. "We worked out she didn't like wet tracks. We vary her work - Gemma takes her eventing, jumping, for a gallop up Mrs Browne's hill and to the Raglan beach.

"We decided to do things a bit different."

It took Isdale 33 attempts to ride his first winner.

"And I think today Almarie was my 33rd runner as a trainer," he laughed.

"Today I couldn't be at the races. We've got six horses in work and it's just the two of us doing everything, so we take turns at the races. 

"The win means a lot to both of us."

 - Stuff

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