Big upset continues family tradition
by Michael Guerin
One of the biggest shocks of the Alexandra Park season wasn’t a shock at all if you ask the man behind it.
Because not only did Andrew Neal co-train and drive Harder Than Diamonds to score a 50-1 win in race two at Alexandra Park on Friday night but he told a couple of mates to back it.
Harder Than Diamonds led all the way at her second start to hold out trainer Te Amo and the late run of Alta Wiseguy in one of those races that was a punter’s nightmare, unless the punters listened to Neal, who trains the filly with his wife Lyn.
“We thought she could win,” Neal told HRNZ.
“She went a big race on debut when she didn’t have much luck and to be honest she needed that race, we threw her in late when the noms were left open and they needed numbers to make up the field.
“So we thought she would improve and she did. So some of my mates backed her and we aren’t surprised at all.” Of course neither the Neals nor Harder Than Diamonds’s family are strangers to Alexandra Park upsets, having pulled off one of the biggest of all time time when Flight South won the 2000 Auckland Cup at 106-1 beating Yulestar and Holmes D G.
Harder Than Diamonds is related to Flight South through her dam Three Jewels, who won 11 races herself and is out of a half sister to Flight South.
“It has been a great breed and this filly can continue that,” says Neal.
“She still has plenty of improving to do and it is not outside the realms of possibility she could win a couple more and qualify for the Jewels.”
That great day returns to the Neals home track on Cambridge on June 6 this year.
While Andrew did much of the work in Friday’s win he admits he had some help during the week leading into the race.
“Lyn and I had a few days in Queenstown so we asked Matty White and Sean McCaffrey to pop around and work a couple of our horses in fast work day.
“Matty drove Ideal Agent and Sean drove this filly and she made him (Ideal Agent) work to hold her out.
“Matty was so impressed he text me after looking for the drive but I told him now this week. Not yet.” Neal doesn’t drive anywhere as much as he used to at 62 but by no means because of age as the couple show no signs of slowing down, more re-prioritising.
“We have eight horses in work at any one time and that is enough because we want to have the time to so other things as well and enjoy life.
“So usually these days we might drive one to keep get it educated and then hand the reins to somebody else.”
Other stars of the Alexandra Park Friday night meeting were Gaz Man, who returned to his best with an all the way win in a good three-year-old trot while trainers Steve and Amanda Telfer won three races to make it six in 26 hours after a treble at Cambridge the night before and they are closing in on third, possibly even second on the premiership by the end of the season.