Former captain having a sweet time training racehorses

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  • May 09, 2024
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Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Jim Sweetensen spent decades at sea captaining merchant ships, but there was always one thing that he couldn’t shake – a dream to train racehorses.

For decades that dream remained exactly that, however, when the Australian native retired to New Zealand a few years ago, he decided to bite the bullet and try and make that dream a reality.

“I am an old ships captain and my whole time at sea I always wanted to be a racehorse trainer,” Sweetensen said. “I am from Aussie and my family have always been punters and love the racing game, and I have always loved horses.

“It (training) was a pipe dream, something I would really like to do, but I didn’t think I was ever going to do it. My family moved over here (Manawatu), and I bought a lifestyle block, and I thought it (training) was something I could think about.

“A good friend of mine, Mark Goodwin, has been in the game for a while and he got me into it (racing).”

Sweetensen, 74, fulfilled his training dream at the start of the decade and said he has been having the time of his life caring for his small team, which includes Niagara six-year-old mare Liffey, who has recorded all of Sweetensen’s five training victories over the last four seasons.

“This is the highlight of my life now that I have got my little string. They are all well-behaved and I think if you show them tolerance and affection, they aren’t difficult. I really enjoy it,” he said.

Sweetensen, who also bred Liffey, has a soft spot for the mare and is hoping she can attain black-type within her next couple of starts.

Initially set to compete in last month’s Listed ANZAC Mile (1600m), she was scratched at the gates due to barrier manners and Sweetensen is hoping he can get her preparation back on track at Wanganui on Thursday ahead of some stakes targets.

She is set to line-up in the Guthrie Bowron 1360, where she will jump from barrier six with Kate Hercock aboard.

“I think she will go okay,” Sweetensen said. “She got scratched at the barrier in the ANZAC mile at Otaki a week and a bit ago after being badly behaved. We had to get a barrier certificate, so we took her to Waverley, and she trialled really well. She broke 59 for the 1000m and was running away from them.

“She likes Wanganui, she has won their twice already over the same distance. I think she will run a good race.”

Sweetensen said he was beyond frustrated at his mare’s antics at Otaki but has taken solace that she will likely get another two bites at the stakes cherry in the coming month.

“Frustrating is understating it,” he said. “She is quite straight forward usually, but that time she jacked right up, but she went in perfectly well at Waverley, so I am quite confident that she will behave herself.

“I am after black-type for the mare. She is going to run in the Rangitikei Gold Cup (Listed, 1600m) at Trentham on Saturday-week, and after that there is a black-type race at Wanganui (Listed AGC Training Stakes, 1600m). That will do her for the season.”

Liffey is a clear stable favourite for the Foxton horseman, but he also has high hopes for another stable runner.

“She (Liffey) is very affectionate and so easy to manage, she is a really cool mare,” Sweetensen said. “She is just a superb athlete and loves racing. She may fall asleep at the tie-ups, but when she goes to the track, she is a beast. She just loves racing and if she is the same next year, I will probably bring her back for another season.

“I have another in work called Later Boy, she is an Alamosa that I bred myself and she is coming on. She is rising five, but the family take time. She has had a couple of races and Lemmy (Douglas) rode her and said she would be a nice staying mare, she just needs education. She will win races, but it will just take time.”


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