HRNZ Awards Recap

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk

Ultimate Sniper has been crowned as New Zealand Harness Racing’s Horse of the Year, but only just.

At the NZB Standardbred Harness Racing Awards in Christchurch last night Ultimate Sniper won the ultimate award by a whisker.  Votes for the awards were made by 22 members of the media, the final tally had Ultimate Sniper at 11, Amazing Dream 10 and Winterfell 1.

The All Stars-trained son of Bettor’s Delight was all- conquering at the Inter Dominions at Alexandra Park, taking out all three heats before winning the final as a $1.30 favourite.  All up for the season Ultimate Sniper won six races from 10 starts and $349,100.

In the Pacer of the Year category Ultimate Sniper sneaked past Amazing Dream 12 votes to 10.

Amazing Dream had earlier won the 3YO Pacing Filly of the Year during a season that netted eight wins from nine starts, including the 2020 Northern Derby, beating Copy That and One Change.  She was the first filly to win the Northern Derby since Ripper’s Delight in 1975.

Amazing Dream’s highly successful Australian owner Jean Feiss won Owner of the Year. A prolific and astute buyer, she also owns current New Zealand Cup favourite Self Assured and other  Group One winners including  Smooth Deal and a number of promising age-group performers. She did not make the awards night because of COVID-related travel restrictions.

While Krug was a shoo-in for the 2YO Pacing Colt or Gelding of the Year, the 3YO Pacing Colt or Gelding of the Year was a dead heat between One Change and Copy That, tied at 11 votes each.

Copy That won seven from 12 for the season and beat One Change in the Vero Flying Stakes at Addington, only for One Change (3 wins in 9 starts) to turn the tables in the Sires’ Stakes Final at Addington on New Zealand Cup Day.

Winterfell was another big winner for the All Stars (Mark Purdon – Natalie Rasmussen) team.  Like Ultimate Sniper, Winterfell beat Australasia’s best in the Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final.  His  five wins ($188,005 for the season) saw him voted 5YO Trotting Entire or Gelding of the year, heading off Dominion Handicap winner Habibi Inta. He was then crowned New Zealand Trotter of the year. Winterfell’s high profile breeder Trevor Casey was also voted Breeder of the Year.

Of the other trotting awards it was father versus son in the 3YO Trotting Colt or Gelding  category. And the voters couldn’t separate Ultimate Stride trained by Phil Williamson and Cracker Hill trained by his son Brad. They got 11 votes each.

Ultimate Stride won five from five for the season (three of them in Australia) while Cracker Hill won six from eight, including the Hambletonian Three-Year-Old classic at Ashburton.

Blair Orange, who won the New Zealand Cup with 5YO Pacing Colt or Gelding of the Year Cruz Bromac, won his third drivers’ premiership in a row. He had 219 wins for the season, despite the COVID-19 interruption.

With 35 wins John Morrison was the season’s leading Junior Driver though Zev Meredith got the Cruickshank award for the leading UDR junior driver. He had five wins from 30 drives with a UDR of .2667.

Trainer of the Year was Robert Dunn. It is his first premiership after a season that saw him train 95 wins, 14 ahead of Purdon and Rasmussen.

And then of course there’s the Ricky May story. His return to the racetrack was judged the People’s Choice Best Moment of the Season.

In January he collapsed to the track while driving A G’s White Socks in the Omakau Cup and had to be revived. He was at tonight’s ceremony and received his trophy to a generous round of applause.

Acknowledged for her contribution to “Life After Racing” was Melissa Whyte. Associated with a number of “Native” horses that have gone to the races, Melissa has also been heavily involved with horses after their careers have finished.

When it comes to breeding horses Grant Crabbe has produced a once-in-a-lifetime mare,  Shartin. By Tintin in America out of one-win mare Bagdarin,  Shartin was sold to Australia in 2016 before being on-sold to the USA where she became a phenomenon.

In 2018 she won a million dollars and was runner-up in the USA Horse of the Year awards, before winning the ultimate prize the next year, following a 2019 when she won 15 from 19. Among her highlights was her win at the Meadowlands in 1:46.4, the fastest ever mile by a mare in the sport’s history.

Shartin N, as she’s now known, was the first pacing mare to win the Dan Patch award for Horse of the Year, and also the first horse bred outside North America to do so.

Grant Crabbe was presented with an award celebrating  Shartin’s  Special Contribution to racing.

For a full list of winners can be viewed here

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