Racing: Sensation as Raydon upsets the punters

By Michael Guerin

Rayon, driven by Tony Herlihy, leads the field. Photo / Greg Bowker
Rayon, driven by Tony Herlihy, leads the field. Photo / Greg Bowker

One Interdominion trotting king saw his chances soar while another saw his plummet in a sensational 30 minutes at Alexandra Park last night.

Tony Herlihy, who is set to become the most successful driver in Interdominion history, has a legitimate winning chance in next Friday's $250,000 Trotting Final after Raydon upset punters in the third trotting heat last night.

But Australia's king of the trotting series, Chris Lang, had his challenge for the final halved in strength when two-time defending champion Sundon's Gift was scratched just before the race with a suspected tying-up problem.

That puts him out of the series and almost certainly out for the season.

But while Sundon's Gift was bowing out, Raydon was stepping up for trainers Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan and Herlihy.

It was a return to form for the big trotter, who arrived on the open class scene with a boom last season.

He was set to become the dominant open class trotter in New Zealand this year until he struggled to find his best form on a southern spring campaign and has been on the back foot ever since.

But last night he was good enough to wear down favourite Sovereignty before holding out Stylish Monarch in the depleted heat.

It was a vindication of the faith champion trainer Purdon has kept in Raydon, even when he was only running battling races over the summer.

"He is a good horse and I always knew he would come back to his best," said Purdon.

Herlihy says he has felt that in Raydon's recent starts and he actually could have won more easily last night.

"He hit the lead and knocked off tonight but it was still a good win," said Herlihy. "But he has been improving for the last six weeks or so and Barry and Scott have done a great job to get him back."

The win will give the harness racing backwater of Woodville a presence in the Trotting Final, as Raydon is owned there and was trained by Matt Hickey there for the first three years of his career.

He will give Herlihy a shot at a record fifth Interdominion Trotting Final win, after having won the title with Pride Of Petite, Buster Hanover, Diamond Field and Delft.

The withdrawal of Sundon's Gift swings the momentum in the trotting series back in New Zealand's favour.

While he was disappointing in his heat last week he still would have been a major winning chance at his best form had he drawn well next Friday.

Now his trainer Lang turns his attention to stablemate and series favourite Let Me Thru.

"It is a real shame to lose Bernie [Sundon's Gift] from the series but he can't start below his best," said Lang.

"I warmed him up before race three and he obviously wasn't right and when the vet looked at him he said we shouldn't start.

"We don't know exactly what the problem is but I think it is a tying-up issue.

"The bottom line is he is not right and he will have a break now while we work out what is wrong."

That means Sundon's Gift will not only not defend his Interdominion title next Friday but will also concede the Rowe Cup he won last season on May 6.

"But at least we have another really big chance in the series so we have to do the best for him now."

Inter shockDefending champion Sundon's Gift is sensationally scratched from the Interdominions.

He cannot defend his title or next month's Rowe Cup.

Raydon wins the first trotting heat at 16-1.

He gives driver Tony Herlihy a shot at his fifth Trotting Final win.

Inter shock

* Defending champion Sundon's Gift is sensationally scratched from the Interdominions.

* He cannot defend his title or next month's Rowe Cup.

* Raydon wins the first trotting heat at 16-1.

* He gives driver Tony Herlihy a shot at his fifth Trotting Final win.

- NZ Herald

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