New Zealand's elite group of seven race winners

by Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk

Victorian horseman Jack Laugher's been getting plenty of attention for his heroics at Mildura on Friday night.

Driving seven winners at one meeting after all is no mean feat and ranks as the second best haul at an Australian harness racing meeting behind Mark Pitt's record of nine at Launceston in Tasmania earlier this year. Remarkably all nine of those winners were trained by the same trainer, Emma Stewart.

According to Harness Racing Australia records they are the only two drivers to have had more than six winning drives at the one meeting.

On this side of the Tasman, three drivers have equalled Laugher, but no-one has done nine. The New Zealand record is seven.

Doug Watts, arguably New Zealand's first true professional freelance driver, won seven consecutive races at Reefton on February 8, 1954.

Watts, who won two New Zealand Cups with Integrity in 1946 and Our Roger in 1955, could have taken out the whole eight race programme but finished fifth in the final race. Frank Watson trained six of the seven winners.

It wasn't until 47 years later that the seven-win feat would be equalled.

It was done by none other than New Zealand's most "winningest" driver Tony Herlihy at Alexandra Park in 2001, a day after his 43rd birthday.

On an 11-race programme he won with Lord Vicolo, Last Sunset, Murray Bruce, Cautious Spirit, Falcon's Blue Jean, Soky Stallone and also dead-heated with Swift Mirage (along with Ice The Cake).

Man of the moment Dexter Dunn is the last of the elite group. Over the weekend the now American-based Dunn, a ten-time New Zealand driving champion, steered Bulldog Hanover to his world record 1:45.8 at the Meadowlands. It was a performance that has the harness racing world buzzing.

At Forbury Park in May 2015 his seven winners were Ultimate Desire, Ask Me Art, Regal Ideal, Aveross Rustler, Bono Hest, Ask Me Mach and Mach Time.

Michael House emulated the feat by training seven winners at Manawatu in 2019 (equalling the New Zealand record), with Blair Orange driving six of them.

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