Darling Me : 'tough enough to be put in the race and still win"

By Michael Guerin

Few horses sum up the changing nature of New Zealand harness racing more than Darling Me, who should continue her huge season at Addington tonight.

The daughter of champion mare Adore Me will start a warm favourite in the Bodyguard Health Uncut Gem, one of three races that dominate tonight’s meeting and give horses who have never won a Group 1 their chance to compete against each other.

Ironically the Uncut Gems were conceived a few years ago as consolation-type races for the Jewels, which no longer exist.

The loss of the Jewels and races like the Easter Cup but emergence of The Race all came about through the massive restructuring of the dates calendar, one of numerous changes harness racing is undergoing and a mare like Darling Me embodies several of those.

She is trained by Steve and Amanda Telfer, the brother and sister team who are now $1.30 to win the New Zealand trainer’s premiership. They are at 47 for 2022, 10 clear of Mark Purdon and Hayden Cullen.

Team Telfer has the enormous support of Stonewall Stud, whose principal Steve Stockman has emerged as the most feared buyer at the yearling sales.

That in itself is a huge change to harness racing’s landscape but he didn’t buy Darling Me, whose breeder and owners, chose to have her trained by the Telfers rather than Adore Me’s trainer Mark Purdon when his future in the industry was uncertain.

Ask most casual harness racing fans who was likely to win the New Zealand premiership and Purdon/Cullen or the Dunns would be almost everybody’s answer because the Telfer trajectory has taken most by surprise.

They have well-appointed bases in both islands, elite bred stock and top class staff so very quickly they have emerged as a stable to be feared, with horses like Darling Me summing up why.

She is classically bred, can race in the North or South Island seamlessly and crucially for punters at Addington tonight will be driven aggressively even from the outside of the front line.

That is another constant with the Telfer horses, when they are fit and ready to run, they are put in the race and if they are good enough they can win. Which is what should happen with Darling Me tonight.

“I know she has a tricky barrier but I’d expect Tim (Williams, driver) to be positive on her,” says boss Steve Telfer.

“My first look at the field there are a lot of lower-rated mares inside her and plenty who even if they lead usually hand up.

“Our mare is fit and racing very well and she is tough enough to be put in the race and still win.”

Telfer admits while the season has a long way to go the stable’s leadership team have discussed the premiership.

“We have a goal to train 100 winners for the season and I think with some of the talent we have to come back into work soon we can achieve that,” he says.

“Whether that is good enough to win the premiership I guess we will find out.”

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