Northcott wins the Monte
NZ HARNESS NEWS
It was only fitting that for something that blurred the lines between the two equine codes, Alexandra Park’s first Monte trot was won by the lady who best epitomizes versatility in the craft.
Michelle Northcott got the spoils with a well-timed win behind Grenado in front of a loud and captivated crowd in attendance.
Northcott is very much the ‘Jill of all trades’ in the racing game, being accomplished as both and amateur driver and rider.
It wasn’t even her first winner at Alexandra Park – three of her 16 driving wins had come at the Greenlane track, the most recent in May of 2014.
“I’ve done quite a lot of driving, actually; I even drove a winner in Italy once.”
Northcott had never ridden Grenado before and was only confirmed for the mount on Wednesday, but she’s very familiar with the Monte concept.
“I’ve ridden in the saddle trot at Pirongia’s picnic meeting quite a few times and it’s always a fun experience.”
She said she was starting to wonder if she was any hope when Grenado was clearly last of the six-horse bunch with 800 metres to run.
“We weren’t travelling at all so I pulled the plugs at the top of the back straight.
“Even then he didn’t really respond but he slowly started working in to it.
“I think the fact they went a bit hard early suited my horse down to the ground.”
Northcott, who works for her father-in-law Graeme Rogerson, had shown great commitment just to even be on course for the race.
“We worked the horses this morning, then I flew from Hamilton to Wellington and drove up to Otaki to meet our race team there.
“After the races I drove back to Wellington, flew to Auckland and drove straight here for the race.”
Northcott’s daughter, licensed galloping trainer Bailey Rogerson, also rode in the race and finished fifth after an early gallop.
They are just two of a galloping sect that are keen to make the regular crossover to the harness track.
Licensed jockey-cum-trainer Tayla Wenn rode in the race, finishing second on veteran Burt Munro and said she had a blast.
“It was really fun and I’ll definitely be riding in them in the future,” she said.
Leading jockey Sam Spratt is also keen to dip her toes in the Monte water and is understood to be completing her one mandatory trial ride before getting her race night ticket.
Lisa Olsson finished third on board Sol Invictus and helps partner Jay Abernethy train both him and the winner, Grenado.
Of Grenado, she said a lot of the credit for his win must go to former trainer Richard Brosnan.
“A lot of the credit has to go to Richard because if someone else had trained this horse early on it might be a different story.
“He’s so patient with them and you can tell with Grenado that it paid off because he’s so good to work with.
“He’s as ideal as they come to be a Monte horse.
“Whereas my horse, Sol Invictus, he’s not the easiest horse to ride, but is a bit more of a powerhouse.”
The turnover was good on the race, understood to be the second-best tote-wise on the night, and plans are in place to hold another race in a fortnights’ time, when Alexandra Park hosts back-to-back meetings to accommodate Christmas patron demand.
A spanner was thrown in to the mix early when race favourite Majestic Ali cast a hind shoe shortly after the start and broke, losing her chance, as did second favourite Show Of Faith.
Elsewhere on the night, Steve Telfer trained a treble with Parker, Tiger Swift and the progressive Triple Eight in the night’s feature pace.
And star trotter Lemond, with fill-in driver David Butcher in the cart, set a new New Zealand record by shaving 1.7 secs off the old 1700-metre mobile mark.
Coincidentally, the previous mark was held by Sovereignty, both trotters raced by veteran horseman Charlie Hunter.