Dylan Stratford - A Rising Star

Harness Racing New Zealand’s 2014 Cadet of the Year will leave for the United States in late October to, as he puts it, ‘kill two birds with the one stone’.

Dylan Stratford, aka Bob, was named the Primary ITO sponsored Cadet of the Year at the annual New Zealand Harness Racing Awards in Christchurch on 16 August.

He said it is now time for his OE before he returns to New Zealand in about a year to pursue a“full-on”training career.

“This is probably the last chance for me to see the sights of the world before I return here and undertake a training career.

“Training has always interested me more than driving. It will also be a chance for me to see how some of the bigger stables operate in North America.

“I’ve had a chat to a few stables but nothing concrete has come of it just yet. It will be a learning curve and hopefully I will be able to use what I learn when I come back home,” Stratford said.

The Nelson-born and Waimea College-educated 23-year-old said he was proud to have won the national Cadet title from Auckland’s Jack Mackinnon.

“This is a huge honour for me and something I will always be proud of. I had so much fun taking part in the two competitions – both the Canterbury regionals and the final.

“There was everything – even two holes of golf. It was a great concept and I’m very proud to have won this title. Hopefully it will help my career,”Stratford said.

Stratford said he wants to return to New Zealand because he likes the way Harness Racing New Zealand was heading.

“You always get your negative-heads who love to complain, but for me HRNZ has done some really good things in the last 18-or-so months.

“There have been some real positive changes made within the industry and that encourages me. The times are a changing for the better. It is that sort of positivity that makes me want to return home and make a go of it here,” said Stratford.

Stratford has trained one winner in New Zealand and driven one winner in Australia since entering the game in his mid-teens.

“My grandfather (Roger Williams) trained out of Richmond for years and my Mum (Jan Williams) still trains so harness racing has been in my blood for as long as I can remember.

“It’s what I always wanted to do. I only really went to school to eat my lunch. My thoughts were always consumed about working in the harness racing industry,” Stratford said.

He worked for Murray Pash before and after school, and the school holidays. When he left school he was employed by PAK’nSAVE in the afternoons and evenings, allowing him to work at Pash’s stable in the mornings.

Then, not long after he turned 16, he travelled south to Christchurch to work for Tim Butt for 2 ½ years before transferring to Nigel McGrath’s stable for 12 months.

“After that I went and worked for Dean Braun. I learned a lot from him. He was a really astute horseman. I had about 15 drives over there for one win. That was Bold Jester at Cranbourne on 15 May 2010.

“I have no desire to drive much. I see myself as a trainer,” Stratford stressed.

When Stratford returned to New Zealand in May 2012 he worked briefly for Butt again before hooking up with Mark Jones. 

“That’s when I decided to work a couple of my own. I really enjoy training them. Diedre’s Flash provided me with my first training win in August 2012,” he said.

He also has a promising 3yo Love You colt named The Grande Armee.

“I wanted to give him one prep before I head away. Mum will take over his work because I didn’t renew my trainer’s or driver’s licence this season because I won’t be here.

“I will renew my trainer’s licence when I come home,” Stratford said.

“But for now there are quite a few overseas things I want to tick off my bucket list and it’s important that I do it when I’m young,” he added.

Stratford said there were so many people that had helped him achieve his two wins and Cadet award.

“There are so many people I want to thank, and it wouldn’t be fair to single out anyone, except for maybe Ross Pagan who has Rural Web Designs.

“He sponsors me. We teamed up last year and he has been a great supporter of mine. He creates really nice websites at a great price,” he said.

By Duane Ranger
Courtesy of Harnessed (HRNZ Monthly Magazine)