Inter Dominion dream possible for Dickie
By Michael Guerin
John Dickie thought his chance to win at Inter Dominion was gone.
Which makes having Paramount King in the $150,000 trotting final at Alexandra Park on Saturday night that much more special for the South Auckland trainer.
Dickie is a trotting man. He and son Joshua also train pacers and do that well, but for decades the Dickie name has been conjured up images of talented squargaiters in their maroon, green and gold colours.
Of John’s 581 career wins in New Zealand, 288 have been with trotters. That is just under half but almost all of his flagbearers have been unhoppled heroes.
But the Dickies haven’t won an Inter Dominion Final and in 2012 a crazy decision left John thinking he never would.
The trotting series was canned after that year, with a case made that with it heading to NSW and then West Australia a trotting series wouldn’t fly there. And there was some concerns about brand confusion with people unable to get their heads around by having two Inter Dominion Finals.
It was, of course, nonsense and thankfully the trotters returned last season, with the Dickies eventually running second in the final with Speeding Spur, albeit a promoted one.
Dickie’s sometimes unrequited love of the Inters dates back further, to when Great Life finished fourth to Tussle at Addington in 1987.
“He actually dead heated on the points table with one of Wes Butt’s trotters so the two sets of owners were called into a room and they tossed a coin to see who started in the final. We won the toss and ran fourth in the final.”
With the series now back from the dead, this Saturday will be extra special to the father and son team.
Alexandra Park is their home track these days and John loves having first-night national record setter Paramount King up against the other kings of the gait.
They will all be there: Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, Barry Purdon, Phil Williamson, Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett, Tony Herlihy, Paul Nairn and even Robert Dunn has emerged as a trotting training force. Add in two Aussies and this is a real Inter Dominion Final.
“I thought that chance was gone for us,” says Dickie of the 2012 scrapping of the series.
“So to have it back, to still have a chance of winning it means a lot to me and now Josh.
“We know that might not happen this Saturday, with the second line draw not helping but you can’t win if you aren’t in.”
Paramount King has been the greatest surprise of this series, a former age group talent who has risen to new heights and he is rated one of the six or seven winning chances in the final.
But Dickie, as you might expect from a man who has spent decades piecing together the puzzle that is a trotter, is realistic about what Saturday may hold.
“I am not sure if we can win, especially from the second line draw,” he offers.
“He should be better this week because the first night took a little sting out of him for the next two heats but he might still be a year or two away from winning an Inter.
“To be honest, Winterfell might be a moral. He and Habibi Inta, who we haven’t seen the best of in this series, are the two in the final I think can work and win so maybe Winterfell will be too good from his draw.
“But even if that happens we will be happy. It is great to have the trotting series back and back at Alexandra Park.
“They are special things. They bring a lot of different people and horses together.
“It is the Inter Dominion. It is just different from a normal race.”
Dunn to drive for All Stars
After terrorizing the All Stars for the last couple of seasons John Dunn will join them for the $500,000 Pacing Final this Saturday.
Dunn has been the surprise call-up to partner Ashley Locaz for trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen at Alexandra Park
The stable has five in the group one and while three drives were easily settled, Blair Orange will be the new driver for Thefixer and Dunn will partner Ashley Locaz.
There is some irony in the decision as no driver in New Zealand could have parked out All Stars-trained horses as much as Dunn, predominantly driving for his father Robert, in the last few seasons.
It is a strategy that has worked for him and helped make racing interesting and obviously gained him enough respect to be called in as a pinch hitter.
Dunn would still drive regular partner Classie Brigade should that horse, listed as the emergency, make the field.