Ford family do it again in Dominion Handicap
NZ HARNESS NEWS
Oops, they did it again.
West Melton’s Ford family took out New Zealand’s richest trotting race at Addington on Friday afternoon when Marcoola scored a sensational victory, 12 months after his stablemate Amaretto Sun scored at upset odds.
Ken Ford trains both horses and last year it was his grand-daughter, Sheree Tomlinson, that was the toast of the town after driving the winner.
But this time it was Ford’s son, Clint, that got the spoils on a horse the pair own in partnership.
After sitting well back on a sedate pace, and copping a bit of a check at the 900 metres, Ford launched Marcoola down the back straight and hit the front on the point of the bend.
The rest were chasing a memory thereafter as Marcoola powered clear for a jaw-dropping win.
Clint, a full-time earthmoving contractor, and self-confessed driving novice, didn’t profess to have any real plan while he was out there.
“I’m probably not experienced enough to know whether we were going too slow, but I felt like my horse was nice and relaxed and always travelling.
“I thought I’d try and come out on the bend out of the straight and flush some of the good drivers out, Anthony Butt, Tony Herlihy and what not.
“Anthony half came out and then Harriet Of Mot tried to follow him so I had to go back in.
“I was thinking, shit, I hope I don’t hit a wheel here, it could be the end of it.
“So, when we got in to the back straight I thought, bugger it, I’m off.”
With his customary speed, Marcoola circumnavigated the field and belied the race tempo to surge to the front.
He chimed in with such ferocity, Ford was sure he was about to be run down.
“I thought someone might be coming as we got to the top of the straight, and I kept looking back, but no one was there.”
He was happier for the horse than himself and is just pleased that his year-long undertaking to return the former star three-year-old to his best has come to fruition.
Marcoola raced just four times last season and was put aside after disappointing in the New Zealand Trotting Free For All.
“Last year he was very crook that horse. I don’t think people realise how crook he was. I certainly didn’t realise at the time.
“He had a quarter crack in each front foot and I think he might have had stomach ulcers.
“I turned him out the day after Cup Day last year and brought him back in six months to the day.
“He had three or four months’ jogging and then I’ve slowly brought him back by spacing his races.
Indeed, he only had three runs in the two months before Friday’s Dominion, but managed wins in the Ordeal Trotting Cup and Ashburton Flying Mile.
“I’ve kept treating him for stomach ulcers this time in, and his feet have been shod expertly by Paul Howlett.”
Ford admits to being slightly over-awed by the race and the occasion, but decided to just go out there and do his best.
“The biggest fear I had was failure. Not so much on the horse’s behalf, but mine.
“I’ve never driven in a race that big before. I’ve driven in Derbies and what not, but they don’t get much bigger than the Dominion.”
It’s been a good race to not just the Ford family, but also Marcoola’s.
His grand-dam is a half-sister to three-time winner Lyell Creek and his dam is a half-sister to Amaretto Sun.
He’ll now head to Auckland and try and win the race named after one of those two horses next month.
“That first night up in Auckland, there is a race named after his great uncle, Lyell Creek, and I’d like to win that.
“We are bypassing the Inter Dominion in Melbourne.
“I personally thought he would handle it, but some others in the family think otherwise.”
Australian visitor Kyvalley Blur finished on strongly for second while northern visitor Lemond poked through late to head off race favourite Speeding Spur for third.