Racing: Trotters need their day in sun

By Michael Guerin

Lyell Creek. Photo / Cushla Mahoney
Lyell Creek. Photo / Cushla Mahoney

There are not many things New Zealand harness racing can learn from its Australian counterparts.

But tomorrow's all-trotters meeting at Maryborough might be one of them.

On the whole, New Zealand harness racing outshines the rival transtasman product, with greater market share here and an overall better standard of horses.

Victoria still has an edge in marketing, NSW has deep pockets after the sale of Harold Park and the industry is strong in Western Australia because of high stakes and the central location of Gloucester Park.

But while those states have the high points, no Australian state has the overall depth of racing quality, outstanding trainers and drivers, facilities and non-racing revenue streams harness racing in Auckland can boast.

Which makes you wonder why somebody in this country hasn't come up with a day to honour the straight-out trotter.

Many of the true greats of New Zealand racing, particularly in the past 20 years, have been trotters.

Lyell Creek leads an illustrious group that includes Sundon, Pride Of Petite, David Moss, Take A Moment and more recently I Can Doosit.

Our best trotters are truly world class yet they still race for far less money than our open class pacers.

That may never change but a day to honour them, a meeting for just the trotting purists, would be a start, especially considering many of those who love trotters have a near-religious devotion to them.

After all, thoroughbred racing has a meeting devoted to jumpers, who often really are the ugly ducklings of the racing world.

Cynics would argue New Zealand doesn't have the population of trotters to hold an entire meeting for them, as we breed only about 600 of the gait each year.

But every time you look at a grass track meeting in the South Island there seem to be 18 maidens and four ballots in the trot.

It doesn't need to be an Addington or Alexandra Park extravaganza, but a meeting to celebrate the beauty and complexity of the trotter is well overdue in this country.

Tomorrow's Maryborough meeting contains 11 races, including an old-school saddle trot, and will have plenty of Kiwi flavour.

Harness Jewels winner Cyclone U Bolt is the warm favourite for the A$75,000 Victoria Derby, over Triumphant Monarch, Aldebaran Shades and Amore Stride, all of whom either raced or were sold at the yearling sales here.

Trainer Mark Purdon is thrilled with Cyclone U Bolt, who has won both his starts since joining the stable and thrashed Victoria's best, Aldebaran Shades, in a heat of the Derby two weeks ago.

He faces a second line draw but that shouldn't bother him too much over a 2690m trip that will test many of his rivals.

Pukekohe trotter Bonechip is the third favourite for the A$50,000 Redwood Classic, the 2-year-old feature which is strangely run from a standing start.

He galloped in a standing start trials two weeks ago but has a decent motor, which he will need against a local crop with some class about it.

- NZ Herald

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