Racing: Success for hobby trainer

Ares and trainer Michael Cunningham after the colt's win on debut at Ascot Park on Thursday. Photo by Matt Smith.
Ares and trainer Michael Cunningham after the colt's win on debut at Ascot Park on Thursday. Photo by Matt Smith.
Juvenile pacing races are often the domain of the big stables early in the season but Michael Cunningham is not what you would call a big trainer.

Cunningham prepared the Pay Me Christian colt Ares to a debut win in the 2yr-old race at Ascot Park on Thursday night, and Ares is just one of two horses he has racing at the moment.

''I farm [at West Melton] and [racing] is just a hobby,'' Cunningham said.

While that may be the case, he has some star-power next door which he taps into regularly.

''We're next door to Graham and Paul Court and they've been a huge help to us,'' he said.

Cunningham sourced Ares on a trip to Nevele R Stud with Paul Court and another mate and the youngster caught Cunningham's eye immediately.

''It was just the way he stood. He was an upstanding wee fella as a weanling - he was a very proud-looking horse.''

Ares is named after the Greek god of war and once Cunningham got him home, the colt gave every indication he would be up and running as a 2yr-old.

''Everything he did he took it on board very well and very quickly, and he's very relaxed, even for a colt.''

Cunningham might have a go at the Sapling Stakes at Ashburton early next month.

''I want to give him a few days off when he gets home,'' he said.

''It'll only be a few days but we're not going to rush him.''

Many hobby trainers dabble in beef or sheep, but Cunningham's farm is a little different.

''We fatten chickens for Tegel.''

Cunningham had success at Rangiora on December 23 with Sundons Comet and he also gained a win with the Big Tom gelding Jimi Chew at Timaru in April 2011.

Paul Court picked up the drive behind Ares after their 2yr-old, John Jones, was scratched. and Ares would be much better for the trip, he said.