Johno Benner to take indefinite break

Johno Benner
Otaki trainer Johno Benner. Photo: Race Images Palmerston North

Multiple Group One-winning trainer Johno Benner will take an indefinite break at the end of this season.

The Otaki-based horseman has enjoyed a lengthy and successful involvement within the industry and feels the time is now right to step aside from the rigours of a demanding profession.

“You can feel a bit like a rat on a wheel in this game and I’m going to take a break, I can’t say for how long at this stage,” Benner said.

“I’ve been doing it pretty much since I left school and racing has been very good to me and I’ve done relatively well out of it.

“I’ve got no complaints but just feel that it’s time for a bit of a break.”

Benner rode eight winners during two years of his apprenticeship before weight issues forced him out of the saddle and soon after took out his trainer’s licence for the 2008/09 season.

An early association with respected horseman Chris Rutten set him on his way and in the ensuing years he has trained 157 winners with 14 at Group or Listed level.

Since 2015, Benner has trained in partnership with Hollie Wynyard, who will continue in her own right.

“From the start of the new season, Hollie will take the reins solo and is keen to press on with it and I’ll have a bit of down time,” Benner said.

“I’ve had a bloody good time of it and achieved most things in racing in a relatively short career, but now is a good time for me to step back and re-evaluate things.

“It’s all I’ve known since I left school. I was an apprentice and one thing led to the next (training).

“I’m 36 and there’s plenty of time for me to come back if I want to. Racing is demanding and a very hard industry and you have to do what’s best for yourself.”

Part-owned by Rutten, Vespa was Benner’s first elite level performer and prepared the champion two-year-old to win the Group 1 Diamond Stakes (1200m) and the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m).

He returned as a three-year-old to claim the Group 2 Wellington Guineas (1400m) and finished runner-up in the Group 1 Easter Handicap (1600m).

“Vespa was the first really good one and it went on from there, racing has been pretty kind to me,” Benner said.

With Wynyard, he also won the Group 1 Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) with Wyndspelle and the Group 1 Levin Classic (1600m) with Bonham.

“It could have been a lot more, but we tended to sell all the better ones, which sets you up and I’m not complaining,” he said.

“It’s a big trading industry, unless you’re operating with 60 to 80 or 100 horses it is very hard to be competitive with the big stables now.

“Hollie and I made a lot of sacrifices through those years, but we got the rewards out of it.

“It’s really hard work, there’s no two ways about it and I admire everyone in the industry, it’s a 24/7 job if you’re doing it properly.”

Benner has no set plan for the immediate future and happy to take it as it comes.

“I’m at the stage I need a freshen up and I’ll cruise along for a bit and see what opportunities might present themselves,” he said.

“I’ve got a few horses to tidy up, a couple I own myself, and see what happens in the future.

“Ultimately, I’ll be back in some sort of capacity, I just don’t know what or how yet and that will take care of itself.”

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