Herlihy picks up drive on NZ's Best Pacer

by Michael Guerin

New Zealand’s greatest ever harness driver Tony Herlihy thought he was going to Alexandra Park this Friday without an open class drive yet has ended up on the best pacer in the country.

Herlihy didn’t enter his stable star Bolt For Brilliance for the open mile trot at Alexandra Park’s huge meeting on Friday as he will keep him fresh for the National Trot next week and the major trotting races ahead next month culminating in the Rowe Cup.

Remarkably since Herlihy is our most successful ever domestic driver or jockey he has been without a serious open class pacing drive for much of the season so was facing watching both of Friday’s elite races from the driver’s room.

Instead he finds himself in the hot seat behind last start The Race winner Self Assured in the $100,000 Dawson Harford Taylor Mile, with the favourite facing the outside of the front line as he did when winning the $900,000 slot race at Cambridge last Thursday.

The Taylor Mile has clearly benefitted from The Race, with Australian pacers Mach Dan (9) and last Thursday’s runner-up Majestic Cruiser (10) sticking around for it while it has also attracted Spankem, South Coast Arden and Krug, the next three home in The Race.

Add to that 2018 Taylor Mile winner A G’s White Socks and Cranbourne and the Mile shapes as one of the strongest pacing races in New Zealand in recent seasons, albeit missing the still recovering from injury Copy That.

Herlihy gets the Self Assured drive after co-trainer and regular driver Mark Purdon was suspended for his whip action in the closing stages for The Race.

Purdon originally offered the drive to Maurice McKendry as he has driven Self Assured to win before but McKendry opted to stick with his regular open class partner Hot And Treacherous so Purdon turned to Herlihy, his brother-in-law.

Herlihy will need all of his tactical genius come Friday as not only has Self Assured drawn the outside of the front line but many of the big names who drew inside him last week are there again on Friday.

While last Thursday he had time to settle and come sit parked, it is highly doubtful the 1609m at this level will allow Self Assured to do that again.

That could even swing the market toward his stablemate Spankem, who should be a big improver from The Race and has the gate speed to use barrier 4 in the Taylor Mile, a race he won in 2019 when he was restricted to its traditional four-year-olds but has now bene opened to pacers of all ages.

While Bolt For Brilliance will be missing from the open mile trot, which features the next round of Muscle Mountain versus Sundees Son, Herlihy will bring last season’s Jewels juvenile trot winner Double Delight back to the races for the first time this year.

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