HRNZ Media Bites, March 20

J Scott Latest News


  • Great Southern Star this Saturday: The Great Southern Star, to be held at Melton on Saturday night for the trotters has to be one of the most exciting harness racing events for some time. As fate would have it with I Can Doosit missing and Stig being out of sorts too the heats and final scenario is an exciting one littered with possibilities. The Great Southern Star is the Australasian version of Sweden’s Elitlopp. Heats will be run at Melton at 9.00pm and 9.33 NZ time on Saturday night with the final run around midnight our time.

    The first three trotters in each elimination heat make the final automatically. The final four spots in the final will be made up of the four fastest unplaced runners. All races of the Great Southern Star will be run over the sprint trip of 1720 metres. One of the interesting aspects of the Great Southern Star is that the better you are in the heats the better barrier draw you can get yourself in the $250,000 Final. Winners get to choose their barrier first, then the seconds and so on.

    From a completely unashamedly Kiwi perspective it would be great for one of our trotters to win. We are represented by four top-liners: Stig, Sovereignty, Vulcan and The Fiery Ginga. If you were thinking of a race/series that was designed for a horse you might think Stig is that horse but there still remain questions over his ability to trot around those bends in Australia. His run last week behind Vulcan a case in point. Driven by Gavin Lang his was shaky around the bends but he still managed to run a much improved second. The way he picked himself up after losing ground around that last bend showed the champion qualities the horse possesses. The term ‘heart of a lion’ is bandied around a bit but that does Stig a disservice. In my 27 years I have not seen horse with a greater will to win or bigger heart – whatever you call it. And this will to win still prevails despite all the adversity he’s been through in his career.

  • Premier Racing returns to Addington: Four Group races this Friday night at Addington will act as key lead-ups to some big races in coming weeks. Those races being the respective Derbies for pacers and trotters, the Easter Cup, Welcome Stakes and NZ Trotting Championship. Northern Derby star Ohoka Punter renews acquaintances with Franco Nelson and Border Control in the Vero Flying Stakes. Sensational Chariots Of Fire winner Christen Me returns to his home track in the Gotta Go Cullen FFA. Many exciting four and five-year-old trotters (Stent, Springbank Sam, Cyclone U Bolt, Phil’s Gift) clash in the Glenferrie Farm Trotters Championship and Habibti will be looking to carry on her winning way in the Storer Motors NZ Trotting Oaks.
  • Passing of harness racing identity: Well known, successful and respected racing owner Graeme Blackburn passed away suddenly on Monday. Blackburn, half of the prodigious Blackburn/Street (harness and thoroughbred) racing partnership, Blackburn enjoyed phenomenal success in both racing codes. The “Lincoln” brand is just about to head into a new era too with their stallion Sir Lincoln standing at stud next season.

    Horse numbers holding up: Despite the continued talk of waning horse numbers in New Zealand and exports bleeding the horse population, Handicapper and National Programme Co-ordinator, Darrin Williams, was able to report to us earlier this week that as of the end of this week harness racing will be down just 20 horses to the same point last year. With that it should be noted that the gap is actually closing on last season, rather than widening. Williams is hoping to be close to par with 2011/12 by the end of March, which could, in the best case lead to slight growth by season’s end.

  • Breeding numbers: latest estimates of breeding numbers for the season forecasts a 5% drop, which is much better then some pictures painted earlier in the season. The latest numbers received by HRNZ saw Christian Cullen register a healthy 118, while third season trotting stallion The Pres has topped out at 79, which puts him second on the trotters list just behind Monarchy. Christian Cullen has now sired the winners of more than $27 million in NZ.

  • Ken Barron one win away: Ken Barron is now just one win away from the magical milestone of 1000 wins in NZ. Interestingly last Sunday at the Akaroa meeting Barron won the race he sponsored to get to 999. He won with Hot Toddy. Barron has several chances the two Canterbury meetings to reach the milestone with weekend.
  • Harness Racing Dream Team competition to launch soon: HRNZ is putting the final touches on a new online competition that will link closely to the Harness Jewels. Full details of the competition will be released with the launch of the competition, which is due to commence on Derby night at Addington on Friday 5 April.
  • Quick Bits: last week Habibti broke a NZ Record for a 3YO trotting filly over 1950 metres (1:57.4 mile rate). Northern Southland host a rich $25k Futurity Final on Saturday at their meeting. Canterbury visitor Saveapatrol will be a ruling favourite. Tony Herlihy drives at Methven this Sunday. Star Of Isis continued a great run of form at Palmerston North on Sunday. She won the Manawatu Cup, following on from the Palmerstonian on Thursday night. The daughter of American Ideal has won seven of her last nine starts and is now being put aside for a tilt at the Harness Jewels.

Courtesy of Andrew Morris, Marketing & Communciations officer, Harness Racing New Zealand.