Itoje makes up for lost time with win on debut
By Jonny Turner
Itoje stood tall to win his debut in style amid a drama filled running of a quality maiden race at Wyndham yesterday.
The five-year-old announced his arrival from the harness racing wilderness with a powerful display to beat a line up billed as one of the deepest maiden fields seen in Southland in many months.
At the ripe old age of five-years-old, Itoje made his debut on the trials track earlier this year for owner-trainer-driver Brendan McLellan, who races the horse with wife Megan.
In his build up to making his debut yesterday, the pacer showed exceptional talent which was on full display as he ran to a comfortable victory in race
“He pretty much jogged it really, he felt really good all the way once he got to the front,” McLellan said.
By Bettathanchedder, Itoje is from the McLellan’s outstanding former race mare Its Ella.
The Group One winning mare has left five other winners, but none have looked as promising as Itoje does.
“Maybe he has a bit more of her ability than what the other ones have had,” McLellan said.
McLellan put Itoje making his debut as a late five-year-old down to him being a slow maturing horse.
“He has been a slow maturer, he is a big horse and he take a while to fill into his frame.”
Itoje kept his cool after a false start and subsequent damage to the mobile arm caused a significant delay to race 5.
A second mobile vehicle at the Wyndham course was used to get the race underway.
The England rugby side will be hoping their Itoje will be in same kind of form as his equine namesake at the upcoming World Cup.
Itoje the pacer is named after English lock Maro Itoje.
Itoje wasn’t the only Wyndham trained pacer to produce an impressive win on their home track yesterday.
Nutcracker used sizzling speed to power home to win from off the pace in race 9.
The mare was patiently handled by junior driver Max Hill and those tactics let her slingshot her opposition late.
“She showed a good amount of lick there – really happy with that,” Hill said.
“We just drive her for one last run, that last two or three hundred metres, so she can show her best.”
Yesterday’s feature trot was taken out by the progressive Waikouaiti trotter Mad Jack.
The chestnut made it career win number four when clearing out from his rivals to score by three lengths for trainer Amber Hoffman and driver Brent Barclay.
Barclay isn’t known as someone who overstate a horse’s ability, so his opinion of Mad Jack is telling.
“He was just awesome today.”
“He just has to learn to race in the field and sprint a bit.”
“But when he makes a beginning like he did today you have got to take advantage of it.”
“He sort of just lacks the ringcraft, but the motor is definitely there.”
Hoffman said she plans to continue to race Mad Jack in the south rather than target racing in Canterbury.