Racing: Veteran ends year on top note for Hart

By Michael Guerin

If John Hart's year starts anything like 2013 ended, then Durham Town has got a hell of a chance in the Railway Stakes at Ellerslie today.

Hart, the former All Black coach, capped a magic end to last year when Pembrook Benny overcame a check at the 400m mark to win his third Manukau Cup at Alexandra Park yesterday.

He also shares in the ownership of Durham Town, who will carry equal topweight in the group one sprint at Ellerslie today.

"We won big races with both of these horses a few days apart during Cup week in Christchurch and it was just magic," said Hart yesterday.

"We actually had four horses race at Cup week in Christchurch and they all won so with this win today we have had a pretty incredible end to the year.

"So to start the new one by winning the Railway tomorrow, well that would be something special."

While the Railway has the glamour, Pembrook Benny's win in the comparatively cheaper $30,000 race yesterday was still almost as special for Hart and his fellow owners who adore the veteran.

"I know there are better pacers than him but how many horses win around $100,000 a season for six or seven seasons in a row?" said Hart.

"He is an amazing old horse and we were so thrilled to get a group one [the NZ Free-For-All] with him last month because he deserved it."

The win was Pembrook Benny's 20th and takes him past $800,000 in stakes, a remarkable achievement for a pacer who looked to be ready for retirement when he returned from a Sydney campaign last winter.

He now heads to Cambridge on Friday night to take on Christen Me in the $60,000 Flying Mile.

Yesterday's race wasn't all plain sailing for the 9-year-old after the scramble when leader Easy On The Eye galloped after jumping a light tower shadow at the 400m mark.

That took both Easy On The Eye and second favourite Franco Nelson out of play and saw Besotted shoot to what looked to be a winning break before he was gunned down late.

"He actually jumped the shadow the first time he went past it, too, and it got a bit hairy there for a few strides," said Easy On The Eye's driver Peter Ferguson.

"So while it wasn't good it could have been worse because I thought he might hit the deck."

Later, Snooki stamped herself an Oaks filly beating the older pacers in the last race thanks to a genius Tony Herlihy drive.

- NZ Herald

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