Dickie dares to dream
Trainer John Dickie is daring to dream he can end the year with three huge wins, two on the track and one off it.
Dickie has had an up and down 2023 with his stable star Old Town Road, who at his best has placed at group 1 level in Australia and finished second in the $1million Race by Grins but has suffered an array of issues and bad luck that have made wins hard to come by.
Dickie believes he has the real Old Town Road returning at Alexandra Park to take on Akuta and Don’t Stop Dreaming in the $60,000 Lincoln Farm Franklin Cup on Sunday, the highlight of what used to be one of Auckland harness racing’s biggest nights of the year.
With the Auckland Cup now moved to May, Sunday’s meeting may not have the same glamour but it still has the Auckland Cup winner in Akuta and his clash with Old Town Road is just one reason Dickie is looking forward to the twilight fixture.
He has also taken over as the trainer of Resolve for the next few months and she will defend her Greenlane Cup title in the $50,000 main trot tonight while even more important than on-track glory is the fact Dickie’s son Josh will drive at tonight’s meeting and is moving home from Australia in a few weeks.
“To have Josh coming back is wonderful and we are really looking forward to having him and Sammy (fiancée) home,” says Dickie.
The father and son used to train together and became a feared partnership, especially with trotters, but while John is thrilled to see his son home they will actually be rivals in Sunday’s Franklin Cup as Josh will be driving Allmericanlover for new boss Steve Telfer.
As good as Allamericanlover is, Old Town Road looks the best northern chance of upsetting Akuta and his three-year-old stablemate Don’t Stop Dreaming.
“I think I have got him back where he needs to be,” says Dickie.
“He got a skin infection that ruined his New Zealand Cup campaign but he is over that and happy to be home.
“He worked brilliantly this week and with a 15m start over Akuta I think he can go close to beating him.”
Akuta will still be the hot favourite because while he faces a 30m handicap he has actually settled last or close to it in his two biggest spring wins before looping the field and still winning.
That may be harder to do at Alexandra Park but the small field helps and his trainer Mark Purdon opts for him over open class newcomer Don’t Stop Dreaming as his best chance.
Dickie has taken over Resolve from usual southern trainer Paul Nairn and while she was beaten by race rival Dream Of You last time they clashed Dickie is confident he will have a better mare on Sunday.
“Last start she had raced on the Sunday in Christchurch and up here five days later but she has had two more weeks to settle in now and she seems really well.
“Dream Of You was excellent last start but I think we can beat him.”