A night to remember for Donnelly

NZ HARNESS NEWS

It was a night to remember for local horsewoman Arna Donnelly at Cambridge on Thursday, her familiar blue and white colours in the winner’s circle four times.

Victories with Liberal Arden, Westburn Yield, Patanjali and Fira – all former South Island horses – set a new career mark for her.

“It was definitely a real career highlight for me,” she said.

“We had three winners at Hawera once, and maybe one other time, but definitely not four before.”

Donnelly admits to being quietly confident once Liberal Arden and Westburn Yield capitalised on good runs to win.

“I thought the last two (Patanjali and Fira) were good chances, so once the first two won I was thinking, what’s going to happen here?”

The last of the quartet of winners was Fira, a trotting mare by Thanksgiving who was only having her fifth run from the stable.

“She had been going really good, but the Auckland way around had tipped her up a few times.

“She’d trotted right through it, and as a rule she’s got really good manners.”

Fira was sent north by the Mounce family from South Canterbury, who bred and own her, and with whom Donnelly has forged a good association.

“I’ve stayed with them at Blenheim and we see each other in the Central Districts from time to time.

“We were doing a bit of Karaoke one night and John Mounce said I’ll send you up a horse one day.

“They really enjoy racing their horses and I’m kind of glad they weren’t on course because today’s hangover wouldn’t have been nice.”

Westburn Yield is owned by American David Litvinsky, from New York, and has been with Donnelly since October after being purchased relatively cheaply out of Ivan Court’s Christchurch stable as a maiden.

Four wins have come since, including three with stable junior Alicia Harrison, who recorded her 20th career win behind the daughter of Bettor’s Delight on Thursday night.

Litvinsky previously purchased former Donnelly horse Poppy Drayton, who is now racing with distinction in North America.

Patanjali shared favouritism with About Turn in the second last on the card, but an aggressive Scott Phelan drive swung the race her way.

Phelan burned her off the gate to the lead and after some sedate middle sectionals, that was ‘all she wrote’.

“She’s a lovely mare that had a tricky gate but it was a great drive from Scott, so full credit to him,” said Donnelly.

Phelan is a huge part of Donnelly’s continued success in recent seasons, their partnership really becoming quite potent.

“I don’t ever give him any instructions; I do my part and he does his.

“And it seems to be working out really well.”

Donnelly is working 23 with full-time workers Harrison and Kaleb Bublitz while Rodney Frampton, who drove Liberal Arden to win the amateur drivers race at the start of the night, also helps out part time.

“It’s a really team effort, our whole operation.

“I’ve got fantastic staff and everyone chips in and helps out.

“We’ve got a really good team going there at present so full credit to all of them.”

Stable star Double Rocket, an impressive winner of a $30,000 Sires Stakes Graduate last week, is heading to Christchurch for the $200,000 New Zealand Derby in a fortnight.

“He’ll race down there next week and then hopefully in the Derby. He flies down on Tuesday.”

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