Contrasting days for Hart and O’Reilly at Manawatu
By Garrick Knight
Two vastly-contrasting days at Manawatu Raceway saw a change of leader in the Australasian Young Drivers’ Championship on Tuesday.
New South Welshman, Cameron Hart, had been perfect through the first three races of the series, going unbeaten.
But the wheels fell off in a big way when Hart’s first two drives took no part in their races and were pulled up, giving him the least possible points yield.
In contrast, Canterbury’s Sarah O’Reilly has\d a near-perfect day, recording two wins and a second placing to leapfrog to the top of the table with three heats to go.
“I was lucky to drive some nice horses today,” said O’Reilly.
One of them was Auckland visitor Ace Strike, who was too good in the last on the card despite sitting parked.
“He had good gate speed but Rake wasn’t going to hand up to me.
“So, I just let him do his own thing out parked and he was nice and relaxed.
“I thought rounding the last bend that we could pick the one in front up because he just kept responding.”
The tour was only originally supposed to have two heats at the meeting, but an excess of nominations meant the juniors were treated to three heats.
“I would like to thank the trainers who put their horses in the champs,” said O’Reilly.
“I’m having a great time so far and it is great to meet new people on the trip.”
O’Reilly sits on 65 points, seven clear of Hart, who managed a fifth behind Scelta Uno in the final heat of the day, while kiwis Benjamin Butcher (45) and Sheree Tomlinson (39) are next best, then Perth’s Corey Peterson (36).
Half a dozen for busy House
Ordinarily, a trainer recording six wins at a meeting would be headline news, but it’s becoming old hat for Michael House, who has dominated Manawatu Raceway for the past few seasons.
He racked up another half-dozen on Tuesday, his first real flex of the season and for once, Blair Orange wasn’t his most successful driver.
That fell to Mark Hurrell, who was on his first trip to Palmerston North and picked up a treble of House-trained wins, one more than Orange while Sarah O’Reilly also chimed in with one.
Hurrell partnered classy trotting mare Sundons Flyer to victory off a massive 80-metre handicap, the largest of its kind in New Zealand for nearly a decade – since Braig won off the same mark on the same track back in late 2010.
“Mark stood up under pressure today, which is a testament to him,” said House.
“Credit to Bruce Negus, who usually trains Sundons Flyer, for organizing Mark to drive her in this race several weeks ago.
“It’s not very often horses of her calibre haven’t won a penalty-free race, so it made sense to use that in our favour.
“I actually thought he was in the juniors’ champs and that’s why I promised a few drives. It was only on Monday that I found out he wasn’t.”
You could forget House for getting flustered as his stables’ resources are being stretched far and wide this week.
“We had 21 race at Palmy today and most will go around again on Thursday.
“There are eight racing on the two nights at Auckland this weekend, six at both Winton and Akaroa on Sunday and another half-a-dozen at Winton too.
“Plus, I have four going to the Rangiora trials tomorrow (Wednesday) and I’ll have my two gallopers at Invercargill on Saturday.
“The whiteboard has 67 starters listed for this week and, ironically, the only place I’m not going is my home track – Addington.
“How long this will last for, I have no idea, but we have a few more reserves in the background coming through and we are just planning what we do with them
“The phone doesn’t stop ringing with new horses and that’s good because I sacked a couple before they’d even gone past the finishing line today.”
One horse House wanted to make special mention of was Mogul, who recorded his 12th win in the days’ feature pace.
“The rating system has been bashing him lately, but he’s a lovely horse and I was happy to get a penalty-free win with him.
“He’s only racing today because of ACS (Autologous Conditioned Serum).
“He’s the first horse I’ve used it on and it’s turned him around. His ankles are so much better and he’s no longer getting down on his bumpers.
“Regenerative medicine is the way of the future; a lot of people just don’t understand it.”