Billie Jean rocks punters

NZ HARNESS NEWS

Billie Jean rocked the punters at Addington on Friday night, using a whirlwind sprint to win her maiden at odds of 73 to one.

But the performance came as little surprise to her trainer Jack Harrington.

In fact, she merely confirmed what her connections had known about the four-year-old American Ideal mare all along and ended a frustrating run of setbacks and bad luck dating back some 18 months.

“We knew she was very good as a two-year-old and I was setting her for a Group race in Invercargill,” said Harrington.

“But the day we took her to the trials to qualify with Renezmae she came up lame and a stress fracture was discovered.

“That put her out for six months and then when she was coming back for the good filly races, she had a crash on the track at home and that led to another long spell.”

Billie Jean got her ticket in her first qualifying trial in July and then finished second to Kingmaker in a trial, but her debut at Addington later that month was a write-off after she was checked and galloped.

A week later she “raced too fiercely” and tailed the field home and Billie Jean also made no impression at the Kurow meeting.

“She’s always shown a lethal sprint in training at home, but she showed nothing at Oamaru and we just put that down to an off day.

“But everything fell into place tonight and she showed what she can do.”

Billie Jean bobbled away from the stand and settled beyond midfield, but Stephen McNally saved her up for one dash at them and she raced past the pace making favourite It’s A Shawthing to score going away by over a length.

Harrington has won 27 races in New Zealand since the first three years ago and this was the first time Stephen McNally has handled one for him.

That was due to an association between McNally and owner Jim Geary, who bought Billie Jean at the Premier Sale for $8000.

“Jim has had horses with Stephen before and when we thought about putting someone different on to get another opinion, he seemed a logical choice – he’s a very underrated driver and horseman.”

Billie Jean was Harrington’s first winner for the season and later in the night, his only other starter Baileys Knight went super in finishing third to Saying Grace.

The Christian Cullen gelding missed away and subsequently had to circle the field to sit parked, but stuck on bravely behind the two frontrunners.

“We’ve nominated him for the Cup and we’ll just look at backdoor ways of improving his rating and maybe making the field.”

Renezmae is in the paddock and won’t be seen until the autumn.

“She won’t be doing much as a four-year-old this season outside of a few races later on and her focus is really about her five-year-old return next spring.”

Meanwhile, Thefixer stitched up his spot in the New Zealand Cup with another strong performance to win the Maurice Holmes Vase, the race nothing more than a sprint home and a glorified trial.

The Bettor’s Delight gelding sat parked over the last lap outside Captain Dolmio and wore him down over a last quarter in 26.4, while Dream About Me and Alta Orlando finished on for the placings and Forgotten Highway also caught the eye in making good ground for fifth.

The fact the qualifying race for the Cup finished in a time only two seconds faster than Billie Jean’s maiden pretty much summed things up.

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