Inter Dominion update
By Michael Guerin
The Inter Dominions may yet have three pacing heats when they kick off at Alexandra Park next Friday.
But a betting person would be safer punting on two heats per night for both the pacers and the trotters when the series returns to Auckland for the first time in eight years.
There was, somewhat surprisingly, more withdrawals from the trotting series than the pacers when second and effectively last payments were made at 11am Thursday, leaving 22 trotters and 26 pacers for the series.
That guarantees two heats of 11 trotters, as was originally programmed for the opening nights of the series on Friday, with heats the following Tuesday and Friday.
But the 26 pacing entries leaves officials with a decision to make: whether to hold three pacing heats as programmed, or reduce that to two?
Splitting the 26 pacing entries into two heats of nine and one heat of eight is still possible or there could be attrition over the weekend that would possibly reduce the series to two heats per night of 12 starters.
Officials from the Auckland Trotting Club and Harness Racing New Zealand will make their recommendations to the Inter Dominion Council who will ultimately make the final decision and that may not be until acceptance time Monday afternoon.
But the need for a decision could be negated if one or even two more pacers pulls out before Monday’s acceptances.
While a reduction to two heats would disappoint some who love the traditional Inter Dominion format of three rounds of three heats, in reality it could make for a great series.
In recent years dividing the talent into three heats has resulted in some very dominant favourites and often uncompetitive racing.
But if, and it is only an if at this stage, the pacing series reduces to two heats for this series they would likely have intruiging compositions.
Two heats, if they were split on stable reps, would see three Purdon-Rasmussen horses in each, one for Robert Dunn’s stable, at least one from Steve Telfer and perhaps most importantly possibly four Australians in each heat.
While Purdon-Rasmussen horses can sometimes be too daunting for New Zealand drivers to park out or attack, that is often not the case with the Australians while the Dunn-trained horses aren’t scared to hold their own, as Classie Brigade proved in the Kaikoura Cup and NZ Free-For-All.
One of those Australians in Bling It On has been the biggest market mover this week after the withdrawal of Spankem, moving into $4.80 second favouritism behind new favourite Cruz Bromac at $4.40.
But the market has a very open feel to it and the outright favourite for the $500,000 final on December 14 may not be clear until after the barrier draw around noon on December 8.
The trotting series has three Australian entries but Marcoola, after the news he will join the Barry Purdon stable on Monday, is now the $3.50 favourite ahead of Habibi Inta at $4 and Tough Monarch at $4.40.