The old guard to the fore at Alexandra Park

By Michael Guerin

It looked a lot like the old days at the finish of the Franklin Country Cup at Alexandra Park on Thursday night minus one key ingredient. Free beer.

The $25,000 standing start was taken out by the Maurice McKendry-trained and driven Miki Shan, beating his old mate and sparring partner Tony Herlihy on Dontstopmenow.

The McKendry-Herlihy quinella, often in the other order, would almost certainly be the most common in New Zealand racing history, considering they are our two most successful ever drivers or jockeys and they have spent much of the last 40 years going to the same race meetings.

They have even sat next to each other in the Alexandra Park driver’s room for as long as anybody can remember but of course neither, or anybody else for that matter, has any idea how many time the two legends have quinellaed a race like they did in Thursday night’s feature.

“I know we have done it a lot of times,” says McKendry.

“Back in the olds days we were both sponsored by DB (Dominion Breweries) and every time we drove the quinella they would give us a case or a slab of beer each.

“It got to the stage we had a lot of beer.”

The free beer days are gone but McKendry still loves being out there competing as a very young 68-year-old.

“I don’t chase the drives like I used to obviously but I still enjoy it and it is good to win nice races for a good owner like Gerald.”

Gerald as in Shand, who has raced horses with McKendry for a couple of decades.

“We have had a lot of success together and Gerald is still enjoying it.”

McKendry will find another Country Cup to qualify Miki Shan for the northern final and says his standing start manners and ability to stay make him a good candidate for the series even though he is still only three.

The night’s other Country Cup was taken out by the north’s most improved trotter when four-year-old mare American Muscle grabbed tearaway leader Jasinova on the line.

It was her seventh overall and third on end for trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett, all timed to perfection by driver Tony Cameron.

One of the favourites for next week’s NZ Trotting Derby in Lovemeto started a hot favourite but was unbalanced early and settled at the back of the bunch before storming home late but was never a winning chance with the tempo of the race and his lack of early speed.

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