A G's White Socks to fly the flag across the Tasman
By Michael Guerin
The rigours of New Zealand’s vastly changed harness racing calendar are set to decimate the team of talent invading the upcoming Queensland carnival.
So much so that veteran pacer A G’s White Socks, on a one-way ticket, could be the only really big Kiwi name at the lucrative Constellations carnival which reaches its peak in July.
The Constellations is the name given to the revamp of the Queensland winter harness carnival and it boasts some great stakes which lured New Zealand-trained superstars like Copy That, Amazing Dream and Krug last season.
But since then Harness Racing New Zealand has undertaken a huge revamp of their racing dates, partially because of the change of official birth date of harness horses to January 1 and also to avoid holding major races in winter.
That has had two major effects: a very busy autumn for New Zealand’s open class pacers and winter now being used at the spelling time for good horses so they can target group races in the first five and last three months of the year.
Plenty of the biggest names who contested the open class pacing races capped by Auckland Cup night last Friday looked tired while three-year-old stars like Akuta and Franco Indie have had their freshen up but are months away from racing.
The one huge name who doesn’t look tired is Self Assured but his owner Jean Feiss wants him to have his break now so he can be set for the New Zealand Cup while Copy That is just starting to work back up after an injury.
With Spankem having fallen sick in Queensland last season his connections have chosen not to head there again while South Coast Arden isn’t racing well enough to undertake an expensive trip right now and also looks in need of a break.
That leaves Kiwi harness fans looking for a parochial pin-up boy for the Constellations having to settle for A G’s White Socks, who hasn’t won a race since the Ballarat Cup nearly two and a half years ago.
He has been both strong and brave this autumn so trainers Greg and Nina Hope will let him race on and he has joined the Sydney stable of Luke and Belinda McCarthy, with no return ticket booked.
“At this stage he is going over there to race out his career, however long that may take,” says Hope.
“He hasn’t had as busy a season as some of the other open class horses and standing start races really don’t suit him so Australia is the best place for him.
“He is already at Belinda and Luke’s and we are leaving all the decisions up to them, we have told them to train him like he is their own horse.
“We hope he ends up at the Constellations but if they decide to keep him to racing at Menangle so be it.”
With natural gate speed and a love for hard run races A G’s White Socks is ideally suited to Australia and with King Of Swing retired and the rest of the Kiwi big guns not going to Queensland, A G’s White Socks could snare a decent race at the winter carnival.
Meanwhile, the Hope’s outstanding trotter Muscle Mountain is still at least two weeks away from coming back into work after being allowed to miss last Friday’s Rowe Cup and he will follow a South Island spring campaign before the Great Southern Star in Victoria looms as his Australia debut target in February.