A surreal time for the Kennards
NZ HARNESS NEWS
They say a week is a long time in racing and Christchurch owners Phil and Glenys Kennard have well and truly given weight to that over the past seven days.
Their brilliant three-year-old pacer, Ultimate Sniper, took out the $250,000 Woodlands Northern Derby at Alexandra Park on Friday night in a thrilling finish.
It came six days after they won the calendar’s richest race, the A$1 Million Miracle Mile in Sydney with Spankem.
But in the week between those wins, they had to call time on the career of their one-time budding superstar, and Ultimate Sniper’s older brother, Ultimate Machete.
And they had to scratch second-stringer Another Masterpiece from the Derby due to illness.
Regarding Ultimate Machete, who was the Three and Four-Year-Old of the Year the past two seasons, he reached the bottom of a slippery slope that started 15 months ago in Perth.
He won two Group 1 four-year-old features over there, shortly after winning the New Zealand Free For All at Addington on Show Day of 2017.
But he was injured soon after and didn’t race again until October.
He was the favourite for the New Zealand Cup but had to be withdrawn just a week before the race.
A further setback and then two final starts came and went, the last at Auckland last week.
But a suspensory injury finally signaled the end for the sizeable entire and time was called on his career after just 32 starts.
“It’s been incredibly frustrating with him, especially the last two months,” said Phil Kennard.
“Having to scratch the favourite seven days out from the Trotting Cup, it wasn’t easy.
“Luckily we had Thefixer to step in and do the job.”
There was a point there where anyone you talked to would have declared Ultimate Machete as the heir apparent, the next superstar of the sport.
And Kennard said he’d be lying if he didn’t think the same way.
“The night we got the Group 1 double in Perth with him, and Lazarus winning the Inter Dominion.
“It was a pretty special night for us all and we were all looking to the future with him.”
Fast-forward and he’s now the subject of what Kennard calls “a bit of interest” from various studs.
In fact, it could be his little brother that is the next king.
He sprinted home in 54.9 for co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen to record his third feature win, and second Group 1, at just his eighth start, all this season.
Kennard freely admits they are rather fortuitous to even own Ultimate Sniper as, at $85,000, he was pricier than they are usually comfortable paying in the sale ring.
“We’ve been a little bit lucky actually, owning this horse, because when you’ve got such a good horse already in Ultimate Machete, we umm and ahhed a lot at the sales about whether we were going to back up and buy the brother.
“But, fortunately, we did and everybody hoped on board and away we went.”
After an early butting of heads with Bettorstartdreaming, Ultimate Sniper got a very sedate first half of the last mile, setting up for a sprint home.
Stablemate Jesse Duke rallied for a close-up second while Supreme Dominator was just a pixel away in third.
Rasmussen said the horse had to dig deep to win and was probably feeling the effects of a lackluster lead-up run seven days earlier.
“The team have done a great job with him but maybe just last week he didn’t have a good hit out, like a really sold hit out.
“He maybe just lacked that a bit on the night, but he’ll bounce back.”
“He felt pretty good at the top of the straight but I just think that last 50 he just got a little bit tired.
“The other two that ran second and third, they weren’t in that early burn, so I think he did a good job to hang on.”
For the Kennards, it ended an amazing three week period.
“To go and line-up with Spankem and Thefixer in the Miracle Mile and run the quinella, then win the Derby tonight, it’s been a real surprise.
“If you’d told us that it would happen 21 days ago, I would have laughed at you.
“It’s a surreal time.
“And tonight, too, is extra special because it’s our wedding anniversary, and our daughter’s wedding anniversary.
“It’s a big day in our house.”