News & Events

Kiwis dominate Super Sunday

By Michael Guerin

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Sometimes things have to go a little wrong to go right.

And that is exactly what happened as an army of Kiwi trainers produced one of the most dominant days in the history of trans-tasman harness racing rivalry at Melton yesterday.

New Zealand-trained pacers won four of the rich pacing finals, worth nearly A$1million in stakes and their domination was almost total, actually providing the trifecta in two races. But on a day usually dominated by leaders and trailers, all four Kiwi winners had to overcome bad draws and tough runs to win.

The glory was shared around, with four different trainers on the winner’s list as well as young gun drivers Dexter Dunn and Zac Butcher.

The richest victory went to Bit Of A Legend, driven by Dunn and trained by Cran Dalgety overcoming the unruly to down Border Control and Franco Nelson after the latter pair had burned early. That early speed set up Bit Of A Legend to get to the parked out position effortlessly at the bell and he was too fast for the leaders, extending Dunn and Dalgety’s wonderful run at Melton, where they have already won ABC finals and a Victoria Cup. It was the win that almost never was, with Bit Of A Legend’s connections having despaired after an early gallop in his semi final got him a good barrier.

The turning-bad-luck-into-good pattern started with Miss Moonlite, trained in Canterbury by Andrew Stuart, storming home to beat NZ-owned Victor’s Delight in the four-year-old mares final. It was the biggest win of Stuart’s career and his last start with Miss Moonlite, who he will leave in Australia to be trained by yesterday’s driver John Caldow because of her better racing opportunities there.

“It has been a real thrill to have her but she belongs over here and what a way to go out for her,” said Stuart.

“I’m just a small time trainer with 20 horses so to come over here and beat the big boys is a real thrill.”

Cheer The Lady’s win in the three-year-old fillies pace confirmed the great depth of the New Zealand crop, as she headed home a trifecta over Twist And Twirl and Precious Rose. When you consider that trifecta came without NZ filly of the year O Baby being in the race, or NSW Oaks runner-up Elusive Chick, the New Zealand fillies stand a long way ahead of their Australian rivals.

Perhaps the most complete New Zealand victory was that of Fly Like An Eagle in the three-year-old male pace. He settled well back from a wide draw, moved three wide and then gave favourite Texican a big start but still cruised clear in the home straight. That gave his trainer-driver Mark Purdon, who was expected to rule the day, his only winner from four favoured representatives.

“He is really in the zone and did a great job, whereas the rest of them didn’t have things go their way,” said Purdon.

“Border Control just got in slightly the wrong place at the wrong time, Twist And Twirl was great but had to sit parked and Cyclone U Bolt just didn’t feel right.

“He was almost a case of a horse who had worked too well during the week because he got out on the track and started hanging and mucking around.”

Fly Like An Eagle will return home with a string of Australian wins next to his name as well as being the New Zealand Derby winner. Yet incredibly he may only be the third best three-year-old pacer in Purdon’s super stable, and maybe not even in the 10 most glamorous horses he trains.

The only major loss for the Kiwi pacing team was Its Onlyforyou, who started a hot favourite in the two-year-old fillies pace but dropped out after leading.