Racing: Beat goes on for veteran hoop

By Mike Dillon

Art Beat beats Innovation (not in picture), Khemosabi (grey) and I Am Sam (rails), who finished fourth, in the Winter Cup at Riccarton on Saturday. Photo / Race Images
Art Beat beats Innovation (not in picture), Khemosabi (grey) and I Am Sam (rails), who finished fourth, in the Winter Cup at Riccarton on Saturday. Photo / Race Images

If you are about to release a jockey's autobiography you may as well ride the winner of the biggest race in New Zealand in more than a month.

And do it in style.

Noel Harris won Saturday's $100,000 Winter Cup on Art Beat in the dramatic home-late way he has won so many of his biggest career victories.

"I told you I had a big race winner for you before you walked away," said co-trainer Wayne Hillis to Harris after the veteran jockey dismounted from Art Beat.

Harris hasn't told us the date of his proposed retirement, but it's likely he's about to.

But then consider this, he's already a total freak in being able to retain his stunning balance and judgment of pace well into his 50s.

There haven't been too many signs of his age recently, although there was a touch of breathlessness after Marea Alta scored a recent tough win at Tauranga.

So why give up just yet.

After Saturday's victory, Noel Harris, the individualist we've always admired, may not.

A racing season without Harris won't seem quite right.

It is extremely difficult to keep mares and fillies up to their best after tough races in testing footing at this time of year and Wayne and Vanessa Hillis have done marvellously with Art beat and also Smartly, who was narrowly beaten in the next race at Riccarton.

A bit of Hong Kong experience shone through when Mark Du Plessis landed hot favourite Wanabefamous a narrow winner of the $30,000 Gold Club Premier. Wanabefamous staged a home straight-long battle with Waitaha Toa, getting the better of him only when Du Plessis sat down to ride hard in the closing 80m.

It was the first New Zealand raceday for Du Plessis since his Hong Kong contract finished at the end of last season.

Tick Tock Turbo recorded his fifth win at a Grand National meeting on Saturday at the age of 11 by upsetting his younger rivals in the Millennium Hotels Sprint over 1200m in the hands of Robert Hannam.

Tick Tock Turbo, owned by his Awapuni trainer Lisa Latta, had been off the winning list since he won at the National meeting two years ago in the hands of Jonathan Riddell. Hannam notched a double on the gelding at Riccarton in 2009 one year after he shed maiden class for Bruce Herd.

He further showed his liking for the meeting by running third in the Winter Cup and fourth in the Winter Classic last year.

It was a great day for Latta, who also won with Platinum Lincoln and Princess Lincoln for Lincoln Farms.

However, perhaps the effort which would have impressed her most came from Grand National Hurdles hopeful Waitaha Toa, who had the Rating 85 stayers stretched in the Gold Club Premier.

The Wellington Hurdles winner showed he was ready for Wednesday's big test by succumbing to Wannabefamous only in the last two strides.

- NZ Herald

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