Aussie invasion still strong
By Michael Guerin
The Aussie harness invasion could be larger than expected this spring but it will be without both their team captains.
Pleasing numbers of Australian-trained horses were nominated for the Inter Dominions which start at Alexandra Park on November 29 when they closed yesterday, although defending champions Tiger Tara (pacing) and Tornado Valley (trotting) were not among them.
But that still left 25 Australians among the 55 pacing entries for the Inter Dominion while the trotting series has been brought to life with 66 entries, of which only nine are from across the Tasman.
As well as not defending his Inter title, Tiger Tara will also miss the New Zealand Cup, the race he was such a heroic second in last season.
His trainer Kevin Pizzuto believes the veteran pacer has struggled since a below par Blacks A Fake performance in July and he will now not only miss the New Zealand features but the Victoria Cup on Saturday week.
While he is well into the veteran stage Tiger Tara’s relentless racing style always adds pressure and therefore drama to the elite races so his loss will be felt.
Also missing from the Aussie glamour ranks will be Chicago Bull, who is spelling after failing to return to his best after his horror stable fall last year while leading Victorian trainer Emma Stewart has not nominated any horses for the series, although she has rarely targeted New Zealand races.
But the likes of Thursday’s Kilmore Cup winner San Carlo, Queensland star Colt Thirty One and a brilliant comeback winner on Saturday night in Bling It On will provide plenty of quality in the Aussie pacing team for the Inters.
With 54 entries the series could afford to lose 20 and still have three heats per night for three rounds but the enormous numbers nominated for the trotting series, with so many being locals and therefore more likely to actually want to start, does leave the ATC with options.
They could, in a radical departure from the norm in the historic series, look at running three trotting heats per round if the pacing nominations fell away enough that there were only two heats.
“That is in the conditions and a real option for us,” says ATC racing manager Regan Cotter.
“Obviously we want to have as close to full field as possible, which is 12 for the Interdoms.
“After the first acceptance payments on October 25 we should have more idea who is serious about the series and ideally we would like to run three pacing heats for the three rounds.
“I think that would be the case if we had, say, 30 horses so 10 per heat.
“But if we got below that number we could have just the two pacing heats and then hold three trotting heats because I am confident we will have way more than 36 trotters whose connections want to start in the series.”
It is not in the conditions to be able to run three heats for both gaits.
While Tiger Tara is out of both the Inters and the New Zealand Cup, the chances of defending Cup hero Thefixer making it to the NZ Cup reduced ever so slightly yesterday.
He is still having hoof issues and will miss Friday’s Canterbury Classic and trial next week but would need to be racing by Ashburton on October 28 at the latest it would seem if he is to make it to Addington at his peak.