Maurice Holmes Vase to go ahead
By Michael Guerin
Addington have won the battle to get their first open class race of the season off the ground but racing bosses there fear it is a war they will eventually lose.
The $30,000 group three Maurice Holmes Vase on Friday night has been saved after late entries enabled Addington to card the 2600m standing start with six starters after it looked certain to be canned yesterday morning.
But in reality the race contains three open class horses, Classie Brigade, Hail Christian and A G’s White Socks and three who have simply been thrown in to make up the field.
While trainers boosting fields with horses well out of their grade to ensure their better horses get the opportunity to race is common world wide, Addington racing manager Brian Rabbitt can see the writing on the way for the early season open class races.
“It is getting harder and harder,” admits Rabbitt.
“It used to be that trainers wanted to be racing in August to get ready for the New Zealand Cup but the reality is most of them don’t start racing now until September.
“So while we are happy to get this race of the ground maybe we need to look at where it sits.
“But with open class races almost every week down here from the middle of next month, if we had lost it this week it might have been lost for the season, which obviously we don’t want.”
Even the next South Island open class event, the Avon City Ford Cup on September 13 is unlikely to attract significantly bigger numbers as the elite pacers like New Zealand Cup favourites Thefixer and Spankem will only be trialing by then.
While the steady flow of open class horses being sold or exported to race overseas is a major part of the problem, the reality is trainers are bringing their best horses back to the races later and later.
It used to be that four or fives races were seen as the minimum in a campaign before the Cup, much in the same way the late, great Bart Cummings used to say a Melbourne Cup winner needed 10,000m of races in its legs in a campaign.
So the road to the winner’s circle both both the iconic November races, run on Tuesdays just one week apart, appears to have changed for ever.
“I think the Jewels being so late in the season has been a factor as well as the compact racing programme once the horses do get up and racing,” says Rabbitt.
This season that will include four more races in December for many of the best pacers as the Inter Dominions return to Alexandra Park.
One horse who won’t be at the Inters or the New Zealand Cup is WA superstar Chicago Bull, who was nominated for the Cup last week but withdrawn over the weekend.
His trainer Gary Hall is concerned injuries suffered in the life-threatening fall last term are still nagging the tiny pacer and he has been spelled.
Entries for the Cup and Dominion close with Addington today and while most of the big name Kiwis will nominate late, as tends to be the way with so many harness trainers, Rabbitt is thrilled to have Tiger Tara already among the entries.
“We have him and a few from Australia like Uncle Sam and Buster Brady entered while Tough Monarch and McLovin are nominated for the Dominion.”