News

Dunn to stay with Titan Banner for Cup

NZ HARNESS NEWS

Champion driver Dexter Dunn confirmed Titan Banner will be his drive in November's $800,000 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Trotting Cup after reining him to win at Addington on Friday, September 1.

Dunn celebrated his 28th birthday and a return to NZ race-driving after competing in Canada and Australia through August by winning the night's Group Three feature, the $26,400 Allied Security Maurice Holmes Vase.

He wasn't fazed by the late winter conditions, sending Titan Banner clear after 500m, trailed Art Union from the 1700m and had the the Westwood Beach (South Dunedin) trained pacer travelling like the winner turning for home.

Trainer Graeme Anderson had him ready to deliver without a lead-up trial in his first race since April 15 but Dexter said the horse was feeling it over the closing stages.

"He'll definitely take improvement from it," Dunn said.

"I think he's quite a good Grand Circuit horse. Shooting over for the Victoria Cup (October 14) wouldn't a bad idea for a horse like him," he said.

The Maurice Holmes Vase win ensured Titan Banner automatic entry to start in November's 3200m New Zealand Cup, but he was fifth on the first rankings for the cup anyway.

Titan Banner ran third behind Lazarus and Tiger Tara in last year's New Zealand Cup when prepared by leading trainers, Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, at Rolleston.

He's been trained by Anderson for most of his career, only transferring to Purdon and Rasmussen as a late four-year-old for the Harness Jewels, running third, and for last year's New Zealand Cup.

He returned to Anderson after running eighth in the Auckland Cup last December.

Titan Banner, raced by trainer Anderson, with Dave McHugh, John Cheesman, Jeanette O'Connor, Pauline Gillan and Hartley Blakely, has now won 13 and been 13 times placed in 37 starts, for $212,038 in earnings.

He paced the 2600m (stand) in 3:21.5 in the slushy conditions.

Micky Gee, who led early, then eased two and three back on the markers, ran him to three-quarters of a length, with late closing stablemate of the winner, New Years Jay, who was shuffled four back on the markers over the last 1700m, running on along the inner for third.

Rory McIlwrick, driving front-running Art Union, in his first race for 20 months, said he felt like he was travelling like the winner rounding the home turn, but he blew out over the last 150m, finishing sixth.

Alderbeck notched her first win in six starts at Addington for top Oamaru trot trainer Phil Williamson, and driver son Brad, when she just held backmarker Habibti Ivy by a nose in the Haras des Trotteurs Handicap Trot.

The Pegasus Spur mare again showed a good turn of speed coming off the trail turning for home and established a winning break when favourite Habibti Ivy (handy outer) was forced wide and lost momentum when Hey Yo (parked) drifted out a touch rounding the turn.

This was her ninth win in 20 starts, taking her earnings past the $50,000 mark for owners, Denis Stumbles and Jim Hunter.

It was also a memorable night for junior driver Mikayla Lewis, who reined her first winner at just her third race-drive behind outsider Petite's Blue Chip in the junior drivers pace.

Driving for her Temuka employer Brent White, she gave Petite's Blue Chip every chance, leading out, then trailing, and finishing too well along the sprint lane.

White racked up a winning double and his 100th training win milestone in the next race when Christmas Toyboy led for regular driver Stephen McNally to justify his favouritism in the first leg of pick6.