Fingers crossed for Bolt's latest comeback

By Michael Guerin

One of the forgotten heroes of New Zealand harness racing is back at work for what his trainer admits could be his last campaign.

Wonderful trotter Bolt For Brilliance has ridden a brutal racing rollercoaster since he demolished the likes of Sundees Son in the Rowe Cup two years ago, a victory that put him on the doorstep of greatness.

But while the horse they call “Bolt” got that far, the door never opened.

The two-time winner of the Harness Jewels, Bolt For Brilliance was at least the physical equal of Muscle Mountain but his body has put the emergency breaks of his career not once but twice since his greatest open class performance.

Bolt For Brilliance went to Australia later in 2022 and was red hot for the Inter Dominion title but broke down during the series after pushing subsequent champion Just Believe close in a heat where he was later found to have fractured his pedal bone.

Sure, Just Believe wasn’t as imperious then as he is now but to think Bolt For Brilliance could test him when so disadvantaged confirms what a machine he was at his best.

Machines break though and the injury meant Bolt For Brilliance spent 10 months away from racing before returning with a national-record win over 2700m at Alexandra Park last October.

With Sundees Son retired only Muscle Mountain seemed to stand in Bolt For Brilliance’s way here. Until Dominion Day at Addington in November.

Bolt For Brilliance led up but faded to fourth in the Dominion and trainer-driver Tony Herlihy knew that just wasn’t him.

“He was making a noise (with his breathing) during the race and I knew he wasn’t right,” says Herlihy, our most successful ever driver.

“We brought him home and had him examined, including being scoped while working, and eventually found an epiglottic entrapment so he had the surgery for that, which is quite minor.

“But when he was coming back from that and we were hoping to get him to the slot race (TAB Trot) he pulled a muscle in his hind quarters and I thought ‘this is him telling me he needs a break.”

With that break completed Herlihy got his stable star back into work this week, hopeful but realistic.

“We have had him jogging on the lead the last few days and he doesn’t seem to be making a noise so it is a case of so far, so good.

“But he is seven now and while he only had a few starts last season we all know he has had his issues.

“So we will press on and let him show us he wants to get back to the races but if anything major comes up again he will be retired.”

While Herlihy won’t be driving anything quite with Bolt For Brilliance’s horsepower at Alexandra Park tonight he does have several drives who punters could be wise to follow.

Herlihy trains and drives talented mare Monarch Hill (R7, No.9) a sister to his recent Northern Trotting Derby winning filly Inasinglemoment.

“She is working well and while a 10m handicap can be tricky over 2200m she is well up to this grade,” he says.

He has handy pacers Skipper (R6, No.9) and Busload Of Faith (No.4) in race six and while neither has finished winning for the winter, they do meet some classy rivals in Better Knuckle Up and Artisan.

But Herlihy’s best drive should be Hawkeye Pierce (R2, No.5) who was a huge third in a super fast 2:39.5 time over 2200m last start.

"He is a really nice horse and I am sure he will improve on that last run,” says Herlihy.

Lil Whip also drops enormously in class in Race 3 tonight after racing in the best three-year-old trots last month.

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