Love N The Port upsets Muscle Mountain in Rowe Cup
By Michael Guerin
Ignorance proved to be bliss as it gave young driver Matty Williamson the biggest win of his career behind Love N The Port in the Reharvest Rowe Cup at Alexandra Park on Friday night.
Williamson wrote the latest chapter of his famous family’s story in our greatest trotting races, with his father Phil and brother Nathan and Brad having already driven trotting winners at the highest level.
“But I’m the first one to drive a Rowe Cup winner,” quipped Matty, fuelling the fires of the faux family rivalry.
The win came via a seemingly perfect drive as Williamson stepped Love N The Port to the lead and then took the trail behind hot favourite Muscle Mountain when he came asking at the 1100m mark.
But Williamson admitted after the race he didn’t know what every punter watching the race did, that Muscle Mountain had galloped at the start and lost at least 80m, so taking a trail on him was far riskier than the 32-year-old reinsman could have known.
“I didn’t know he (Muscle Mountain) had galloped let alone lost that much,” smiled Williamson.
“But when he came looking for the lead he came fast so I wouldn’t have tried to stay in front anyway so it worked out well.”
Once he caught the field, Muscle Mountain had to be launched by driver Ben Hope and while Williamson didn’t know he was conceding the lead to a horse who would later peak, the brave favourite got to the top of the straight before he exhaled and Love N The Port used the Alexandra Park passing lane to claim the $180,000 great race.
Oscar Bonavena was a strong second, Eurokash a luckless third and Muscle Mountain’s fourth will go down as one of NZ harness racing’s greatest modern day defeats, not that punters enjoyed it much.
Love N The Port wasn’t just a triumph for Williamson but the patience of his father Phil, one of the most accomplished trainers of trotters in New Zealand history.
“When he was three we thought this horse could win a Derby but his gait started to let him down, he actually rolled into a pace in the NZ Derby,” explains Matty.
“But Dad was patient and put him aside and the owners were great about letting him do that so they all deserve this,” said Matty.
Earlier in the night Lovemeto completed one of the most unusual Derby doubles ever seen by a Kiwi trainer by winning the Northern Trotting Derby.
The three-year-old is trained by Dylan Ferguson and senior partner Graeme Rogerson, who in March trained Sharp N Smart to win the NZ Derby for thoroughbreds.
You could spend a long time scouring the record books in every racing jurisdiction in the world to find anything remotely resembling that Derby double in the same season.
Much of the harness work for team Rogerson/Ferguson is done by the latter, who is coming of age as a horseman and now has in Lovemeto a horse to showcase his talents.
Lovemeto won the Harness Million Trot last month and is now the early favourite for three-year-old trotter of the year.