Andrew Carston was full of praise for his team following the winning treble at Riccarton on Friday that cemented his position as the leading South Island Trainer of the 2022-23 racing season.
It was a positive end to a traumatic season for the Carston Racing team, who lost an integral member in December last year, when stable apprentice Megan Taylor was killed in a race fall.
“I’m just so proud of my team,” Carston said. “It’s been a tough year. We had a disaster in December with the loss of Megan, she was a big part of our team and losing her was incredibly hard.
“I’m lucky to have a super and loyal team around me, we stuck together and held it together and we’ve come out on the top of the South Island premiership which is just unbelievable.”
Carston went into Friday’s meeting one win behind reigning champions Michael and Matthew Pitman, with 39 wins to their 40 and ended the day with 42 wins, while the Pitmans remained at 40.
“I thought I had a nice team of horses, but I didn’t expect to win three races,” Carston said. “Obviously I thought the Pitmans had some nice chances too.
“I knew that I had a great season either way, I’d achieved my personal best and I went into the day with an ‘it is what it is’ attitude.
“I did think I had had a good team of horses, but racing on the Polytrack is really tempo dependant, if they go hard you can win from the back and if they go slow, you can’t so you need some luck.”
Carston has taken full advantage of the Polytrack since it opened in August 2021 and has had a lot of success on it.
“I love the Polytrack,” he said. “For instance, two days this week we wouldn’t have been able to work the horses if we didn’t have it, it’s a godsend.”
Three-year-old filly Mumbo Jumbo levelled the premiership in the fifth race on the card.
“She’s a filly that I’ve always liked she went in fresh today without a trial, so I thought her win was pretty good and she’s a filly I do like and I think she’ll progress nicely,” Carston said.
Six-year-old mare Russian Fable was the next to salute, she won by a head in race seven and in doing so put Carston on top of the premiership.
“I recently took over the lease of her from the estate of Nigel Babbage, who unfortunately passed away earlier in the season, so that was a fitting result,” he said.
“I thought Russian Fable would run well but Mumbo Jumbo was a bit of a shock and didn’t know what to expect in the last race, but I had three chances.”
Of those three runners, five-year-old gelding Demand Respect was the one that cemented the premiership win with stablemate Bad Flamingo just a neck behind him in second position.
“It felt good to seal the deal by getting the quinella in the last race,” Carston said.
“I’ve had Demand Respect from day one. He’s an old war horse and he’s gone some good races and he deserved to win today he’d been knocking on the door for a while.
“His owners Diane and Noel Cournane have been a loyal supporters of mine. Diane’s had a horse with me the whole time I’ve trained so that was a nice result too.
Carston said that both Demand Respect and Russian Fable had benefited from a change in routine having spent time with fellow trainer and showjumer Nayton Mitchell at his West Melton property.
“I have to thank Nayton too the change of environment that he’s been able to give the older horses has been working wonders.”
Having spent seven years working for Mark Walker at Te Akau, followed by four years with John Sargent in Sydney, Carston started training in his own right in 2016/17. Since then, he has made a steady progression to the top, winning the gavelhouse.com Newcomer to training award in 2018, finishing third on the South Island premiership in 2020/21 and second last season.
Reflecting on the past 12 months, Carston admitted that he was relieved that premiership battle was over, and he said he was looking forward to celebrating with a weekend away and change of pace over the coming months.
“It’s been great I’ve had so many messages of support, but I have to admit I’m exhausted now and it will be a quiet August for us runner wise.”