Racing: Getting a boot from Robbie

By Michael Guerin

Driver Clint Ford and Marcoola are hoping to do the double tonight. Photo / Race Images
Driver Clint Ford and Marcoola are hoping to do the double tonight. Photo / Race Images

If Marcoola becomes New Zealand's latest dual Trotting Derby winner tonight, driver Clint Ford will have an unusual mentor to thank - champion rugby coach Robbie Deans.

After clearly outstaying the same rivals in the Sires' Stakes last Friday, Marcoola looks perfectly suited by tonight's 2700m mobile at Alexandra Park and may have gained enough respect to earn himself the lead.

If he does that, it would seem only High Gait, who was a brave fourth after galloping last Friday, should test him, especially if she trailed from the ace draw.

But as so often happens with three-year-old trotters, Marcoola looks to be holding his peak form and it will take a very good horse to run him down.

Which puts Ford in a group one hot seat, a place he is starting to feel more comfortable even against driving superstars such as Herlihy, McKendry, May and Rasmussen.

Ford does the driving of Marcoola in a family training set-up which sees his father, Ken, officially train the three-year-old while sister Amanda Tomlinson also works horses from the same Canterbury property.

"It is a real family affair but I do all the work with this horse," says Clint. "He trotted great last week but it almost wasn't until about half an hour after the win last week it sunk in what we are achieving.

"When you are out there driving it is just like a maiden race, it's the same type of stuff but it's after you win a race like the Derby you realise it is quite a big deal."

Ford says while driving in the big time initially took him out of his comfort zone, that was the same when he played rugby, in which he made it all the way to the verges of the Canterbury NPC squad.

"Back then my coach at Canterbury Country was Robbie Deans and he always said if you want to get anywhere near the top, you have to be able to push through your comfort zone.

"I have never forgotten that, it has always stuck with me. So when I started getting out here driving in these big races, I tried to enjoy it, even though I wasn't comfortable to start with.

"And now I am a lot more relaxed."

So too is Marcoola, who even after a hard run last Friday has thrived this week.

As good as High Gait is, she is probably going to need the perfect trail and one passing lane shot to get past the southerner tonight.

While Ford is still coming to grips with the big time, one of the most relaxed men in harness racing will dominate tonight's other group one trot.

Ricky May should only have to keep superstar trotter Monbet out of trouble to win the $150,000 Rowe Cup, even though it is his first start over 3200m.

The four-year-old has been sensational all season and with the three other best trotters in the country sidelined, tonight's race is his to lose.

His draw of one on the second line is hardly ideal but it also allows May to drive conservatively before moving mid-race, not the worst scenario for a young horse against the hardened pros over the extreme distance.

Of those rivals only Sheemon is a serious group one winner so looks the obvious threat in a race that suits him.

- NZ Herald

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