Heza Sport wins hectic Holmes Vase
By Jonny Turner
The cool hand of Colin De Filippi won out when one of the most competitive New Zealand Cup lead-up races in recent seasons was run at Addington on Friday night.
The veteran-trainer driver booked himself yet another ticket into the New Zealand Cup when he timed Heza Sport’s winning run to perfection in a hectic running of the Maurice Holmes Vase.
If the remaining lead-ups into New Zealand’s greatest race have as many fireworks as Friday night’s feature then harness racing fans are in for some enthralling viewing right through the spring.
After only making a fair beginning, Heza Sport was dragged into the race after landing in the running line, which got closer to the speed after drivers traded tactics with an incredible seven lead changes.
In a scene which wasn’t too dissimilar to his perfectly timed run with Kym’s Girl in the 2001 New Zealand Cup, De Filippi and Heza Sport swept to the lead in the straight before holding off a big late charge from The Falcon.
Heza Sport came into the Maurice Holmes Vase after winning a trial in quick time, with the four-year-old knocking off The Falcon in a repeat of Friday night’s result.
Like The Falcon’s co-trainer Geoff Dunn, De Filippi admitted he wondered if that gut-busting trial could had some lingering effects on his pacer.
But with Heza Sport and The Falcon’s one-two finish on Friday night, those concerns were clearly blown away.
“I’m probably a wee bit surprised because after his run at the trials, I thought it could have taken the edge off him,” DeFilippi said.
“But they have run first and second, so it just shows you you can’t always get it right.”
“I’m real pleased with him, he ended up getting a good trip after being slow away.”
“But he felt good in the run and he always felt like he was going to be amongst it.”
Heza Sport is now guaranteed a start in the New Zealand Cup, but DeFilippi will only take up the option if his horse’s form warrants it.
“It was possibility but it was never set in concrete and it is still not.”
“It all depends on probably his last two runs leading up to the cup, rather than this one.”
“But at least you know you are going to get a start, it is a help, so you don’t have to be chasing form.”
There looked to be merit in the efforts of the first eight horses home in the Maurice Holmes Vase with The Falcon and Laver clearly producing the runs of the race outside the winner.
The De Filippi magic didn’t end with Heza Sport’s win with the trainer-driver again timing his run to perfection with Sporty Charlie who took out race 9.
The four-year-old showed a brilliant turn of foot to win first up in De Filippi’s colours when speeding home from off the pace on a fast 26.7sec closing 400m.
The progressive pacer was previously trained by his owner Brad Morris, who races the horse with wife Fleur and mother Lynley.