South Island's rain unlikely to affect Jewels
By Michael Guerin
A cautious approach from visiting trainers means Sunday’s huge IRT Harness Jewels meeting is set to be largely unaffected by this week’s Canterbury flooding.
And with the one horse in the market who was under an injury cloud recovering well the all-group one card could go ahead without any market-changing scratchings.
Canterbury and Mid-Canterbury are two of the spiritual homes of harness racing not only in this country but in Australasia and after floods swept through Mid-Canterbury earlier this week it could have easily impacted the meeting.
But almost all South Island trainers coming to the meeting left last week or over the weekend, meaning the big wet didn’t affect their travel plans.
Bigger stables, like the Hayden Cullen and Robert Dunn barns, already had Jewels favourites Amazing Dream, True Fantasy and Need You Now stabled in the north and many others left earlier than usual to give their horses time to settle in, especially with so many of the young horses being on their first trips away.
Those who waited a little later, like Paul Nairn who has racing commitments at Addington on Friday and no extra staff to bring horses north, didn’t leave until the weekend and encountered weather issues of a different type.
“I brought three of mine up in my own truck and after we got to Wellington on the ferry I drove them to Pukekohe overnight,” explains Nairn.
“With it being so cold there was a bit of ice on the road which made for an interesting drive and the truck in front of me had a few moments but we got here in one piece.”
One of Nairn’s three, he has two at the Jewels and Full Of Hope racing at Alexandra Park on Friday night, is Outamyway who is one of the best upset chances on a programme with plenty of odds-on favourites.
A two-time winner of the Harness Millions Trot, Outamyway is an improving stayer who is back trotting squarely after looking annoyed by something until recently.
“He has actually got a small bone chip which he handles pretty well but occasionally it annoys him when he races but he seems very sound at the moment,” explains Nairn.
Outamyway has yet to show the high gate speed he may need to take advantage of barrier three in the Three-Year-Old Trot, which has a very fast front line for a race of its age group.
But Nairn says being at the busy Pukekohe training base this week should wake him up.
“I think it will do him good being around all these horses which he isn’t used to at home,” says Nairn.
“As long as the gate (mobile start) doesn’t go too slow I think he will be able to get out ok and stay handy enough.
“If he can do that then I wouldn’t swap him for anything else in the race. I am not saying he will just win but he has a good chance because he is getting better all the time.”
Outamyway has yet to suggest he is as good as favourite Five Wise Men but the latter has drawn very wide and while he handled Cambridge beautifully at the workouts last Saturday he faces a tough test on Sunday.
With all the South Islanders safely in the north and ready for the Jewels the major injury worry for the week came when Suntan lost some skin in a minor trackwork accident on Sunday but trainer Cullen reports she has jogged 100 per cent sound since and she will be at Cambridge on Sunday.
** One thoroughbred in each race at today’s Cambridge synthetic track meeting will wear the Harness Jewels yellow leader’s colours to show support for the Jewels as the other equine code in the racing stronghold town get behind Sunday’s mega meeting.