Spankem crowned NZ Harness Horse Of The Year

by Jonny Turner

Spankem’s return from obscurity to win the Miracle Mile saw him crowned Horse of the Year at the New Zealand Harness Racing Awards in Christchurch on Saturday night.

The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained pacer’s brilliant rise to the top of the grand circuit ranks, after suffering a season ending injury as a 3yr-old, was rewarded when he won pacer of the year and four year old male pacer of the year, before he took the awards evening’s top prize.

The current New Zealand Cup favourite put seven group race titles on his resume during his outstanding season.

Spankem notched four Group 1 wins in the Miracle Mile, Canadian Club Classic, Taylor Mile and New Zealand Messenger Championship.

The Bettor’s Delight gelding also bagged wins in two Group 3 Interdominion heats and the Group 2 Kaikoura Cup.

Spankem’s brilliant season and the incredible talent within last term’s 4yr-old male pacing ranks meant Auckland Cup, Easter Cup and Harness Jewels winner Turn It Up could not make Saturday night’s trophy list.

Despite that pacer missing out, Purdon and Rasmussen’s All Stars stable predictably took home a boot load of prizes from the awards evening.

Leading category contenders Tailored Elegance (2yr-old trotting filly), Sweet On Me (2yr-old pacing filly), One Change (2yr-old male pacer), Ultimate Sniper (3yr-old male pacer) and Elle Mac were all rewarded for their standout seasons.

New Zealand Cup winner, Thefixer, took the 5yr-old and older male pacer of the year and Dream About Me won the 5yr-old and older pacing mare of the year title.

Purdon and Rasmussen were crowned trainers of the year and stable client, Jean Fiess, took the owner of the year category.

Purdon’s brother, Barry, was the only pacing category winning trainer outside of the All Stars stable.

Belle Of Montana beat out her arch rival, Princess Tiffany, to win the 3yr-old filly of the year award.

Sundees Son’s rise from the middle grades to the top of the New Zealand trotting ranks saw him crowned trotter of the year on Saturday night.

The current Dominion favourite sealed his win with a break out autumn, in which he scored a hat-trick of Group 1 wins in the ANZAC Cup, Rowe Cup and Harness Jewels.

The Robert Dunn trained squaregaiter also won 4yr-old male trotter of the year.

The trotting awards categories featured some of the most hotly contested trophies at the awards.  

Bolt For Brilliance’s Group 1 Harness Jewels win saw him crowned 2yr-old male trotter of the year.

New Zealand Trotting Derby winner, Lotamuscle, edged out Great Northern Trotting Derby winner, Enhance Your Calm, to win the 3yr-old male trotting category.

Other trotting winners included Tickle Me Pink (3yr-old filly) and Kenny’s Dream (4yr-old mare).

Destiny Jones won 5yr-old and older trotting mare of the year and Speeding Spur took out the award for 5yr-old and older male trotters.

Canterbury couple Colin and Julie deFilippi’s forty year contribution to the industry was recognised when they won the Outstanding Contribution To Harness Racing Award.

Julie deFilippi was also recognised for her work with retired racehorses when she was presented the Outstanding Contribution To Life After Racing award.

One of the most popular moments of the awards evening came when Overzealous won the Best Moment Of The Season Award.

The trotter came back to win two races and run second in the New Zealand Trotting Oaks after being injured in a horrific road accident that left her trainers Margo Nyhan and Peter Davis with serious injuries.

The evening’s breeding awards went to Bettor’s Delight (pacing stallion), Majestic Son (trotting stallion), Della’s Speed (trotting broodmare), Reality Check (pacing mare).

Charles Roberts was crowned breeder of the year.  

Other award winners included Blair Orange (driver), John Morrison (junior driver), Ben Hope (UDR junior driver), Kaleb Bublitz (cadet) and Alana Cameron (cadet runner-up).

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