Alexandra Park track to be re-laid before Rowe Cup meeting

By Michael Guerin

Alexandra Park will be re-laid this week to save a repeat of the sub-standard track conditions that dogged last Friday’s premier meeting.

Many drivers were left annoyed by the extremely sloppy track conditions for last week’s Taylor Mile meeting that one senior driver called “as bad as the track has ever been.”

A downpour before the opening race last Friday left the track beach-like and drivers complained of not being able to see as most returned after races with their faces caked in wet mud.

Auckland Trotting Club vice president Jamie MacKinnon admits the track was less than perfect but says staff were caught out by the severity of the pre-race downpour.

“The track was conditioned on Thursday to soften it up and provide enough top,” explains MacKinnon.

“Then our crew checked the rain radar on Friday around 2pm and while some rain for forecast nothing like the deluge that we got.

“So with the track having the top needed to provide cushion for good weather once it rained that hard it got too sloppy.

“We admit that and it was just a case of the weather turning and the track not being prepared for that eventuality. But we couldn’t see that coming, it was just bad luck.”

Alexandra Park is usually one of the best wet-weather tracks in the country because much of the surface is shell so the water runs off in to the inside, especially as the track is well cambered.

Club officials considered re-topping it with new shell last week but thought it was good enough to race on but that work will now be completed this week before Friday night’s Rowe Cup meeting, Alexandra Park’s biggest night meeting of the season.

“We are not trying to hide from it, the track wasn’t good enough last week but it will be better this Friday,” says MacKinnon. While the excessive kick back of wet surface may have been less than ideal the times were still quick for most of the night and it didn’t seem to greatly effect the results.

Of the 10 winners four led, which is less than would usually be expected for a premier meeting, even though increased kick back would seem to favour leaders.

Of the other six winners two came up the passing lane, two from off the markers in midfield and the other two won coming wide from near last.

Considering most premier harness meetings are dominated by the horses on the speed, the differing positions the winners came from suggested fair, if uncomfortable, racing.

One trainer hoping not just the track improves between the two Fridays but also his stable star is Phil Williamson with Majestic Man.

The speedster led but buckled in the Anzac Cup won by his arch-rival Sundees Son and Williamson says he was caught off guard. “It was a tricky prep because he came back from Australia in March after a very busty schedule there and he need a quick break,” Williamson explains.

“But that meant we couldn’t get a trial into him before Friday and he just blew out.

“I am sure he will be a lot harder to beat in the Rowe Cup this week but in saying that he hasn’t been quite as successful over 3200m as the sprint trips.

“So I think he can run a place but they might all struggle to handle Sundees Son.”

But Williamson thinks he can claim group one glory this Friday with Leaf Stride in the Northern Trotting Derby if the three-year-old can draw to lead.

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