The love of the Johnson family for squaregaiter Skybreeze is obvious.
Trainer Lane Johnson, and driver, his son Corey, can’t stop talking about Skybreeze and why wouldn’t they after the gelding’s brilliant win at Globe Derby Park on Saturday.
After a two-year absence from the track, the six-year-old has returned in spectacular fashion with two wins from three starts and the family is upset about the defeat.
“He was first up in a heat of the Trotters Cup and his half hopples broke,” Lane Johnon said.
“He was leading at that time but has made up for it with two wins since.”
On Saturday, Skybreeze ($5), sprinted home strongly to win The TAB App Trotters Mobile (2230m) by eight metres from Get Lucky ($21) with My Used To Be ($2.25 fav), nine metres away third.
Johnson explained that after a win at Globe Derby Park in August 2021, the gelding had broken his tail in a paddock accident.
“With the soreness, he then put added pressure on his back, and a result damaged a tendon in his foreleg.
“Rest was the only cure so he was out in a paddock for more than a year before I put him back in work in January, and slowly built him up, so he could race again.
“Touch wood, everything has gone along well to this point.”
Driver Corey Johnson loves Skybreeze and is at his happiest when riding him through the seawater at Port Parham.
“I take him out there a few times a week and ride him through the water, he loves it.
“It is good for his legs and generally there is hardly anyone there.”
Johnson settled Skybreeze three back on the fence early from his barrier eight draw and the gelding travelled beautifully.
When an opening appeared about 400 metres out, Skybreeze took the run himself sprinting strongly to go into a challenging position.
Past Norman’s Gate and the gelding powered forward to take the lead and race away to an easy win.
Driver Mario Borg found the front in the roughie Get Lucky and drove a masterful race with the favourite My Used To Be sitting outside him.
Borg allowed Get Lucky to run quick quarters of 29.9 and 29.1 seconds for the second and third quarters of the last 1600 metres which put pressure on the favourite and did enable his drive to finish in front of My Used To Be.
But those sectionals also cleared a way for Skybreeze to come off the inside and he quickly rounded up the leaders to score well and take his record to seven wins from just 11 starts.
Skybreeze was the third leg of winning treble for Johnson who won earlier on Winsome Ruby and Mariahs Shadow for trainer Suzanne Grace.
“I waited 30 years to train a double, now these two mares have given me three,” Grace said.
“They both won at Kapunda in April last year, then again at Globe Derby Park on October 9, now again tonight.”
Johnson took Winsome Ruby ($2.20 fav) to the front from gate five in the Hygain Micrspeed Trotters Mobile (2230m) and she was able to control the race and win by three metres from Piesridingshotgun ($4) which chased her throughout, with Horse Of Course ($13), four metres away third.
Mariahs Shadow ($2.40 fav) took advantage of gate one to also lead throughout in the Southern Cross Finals Night December 2 Pace (1800m).
She scored comfortably by five metres from Boss Major ($7) with Childers Road ($3.50), four metres away third.
“They are such different mares,” Grace said.
“Ruby is such a lady and so easy to work with, but Mariahs Shadow is a lot more aggressive with her attitude. In fact, I had to stop her work on Thursday she was pulling so hard.”
During the run, Mariahs Shadow was keen to go, and Johnson was laying back in the sulky, but she was still good enough to win comfortably.
One of the most popular wins of the meeting was by Rupert Ross which had a big cheer squad to get him home.
Trained by Lance Holberton, and driven by his son Josh, Rupert Ross ($3.30) led throughout to win the SA Pony Trots Three-Year-Old Pace (1800m) by two metres from Always Steamed Up ($7.50) which ran home powerfully along the inside with Hereforagoodtime ($17), 2-1/2 metres away third.
The victory was the gelding’s sixth in a 21-run career and his first since scoring at Globe Derby Park in June.
Lil Miss Crocker has been racing well for trainer Ingrid Smith and finally broke through in the TAB Live Sly Racing Vision Two-Year-Old Pace (1800m).
Driver Michael Smith took the filly ($3.50) to the front from gate three and was able to dictate the tempo which saw her victorious by a metre from Resurrects ($5) which trailed her throughout with The Reginator ($18), 4-1/2 metres away third.
A winner at Bathurst in April, Lil Miss Crocker had been racing well in stronger company, and once in front, was always in control.