Top of the trots
** Who: trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett.
** Record: 38 wins for the season, with 37 being trotters, leading that premiership.
** Only Phil Williamson has trained more trotting winners during a season.
**Alexandra Park: Second on the overall premiership to Steve Telfer.
By Michael Guerin
Trotting’s top couple couldn’t have picked a better time to specalize.
And punters who have followed Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett durng their record-breaking season will be enormously on the right side of the ledger going into Alexandra Park’s second last meeting of the season tonight.
Wallis and Hackett have trained 38 winners for the season, a personal best but more remarkably 37 of them have been trotters.
Only Phil Williamson, with a NZ record of 58 trotting wins in a season, has trained more but 25 of the Wallis/Hackett team’s wins have lucratively come at Alexandra Park.
Their huge season comes at a time when Alexandra Park are programming more trotting races then ever and at stake levels unimaginable a few years ago.
With medium class trotting stakes set to hit $20,000 per race from next March, Wallis says Alexandra Park and a decision she and Hackett made has saved their stable.
“The stakes at Alexandra Park are great and getting better and than has been huge for us, and other trainers,” she told the Herald.
“And there are plenty of trotting races which is crucial for us because that is what we target.
“We decided to concentrate on them because not only do we have a lot of experience with them but we don’t get the money to go to the yearling sales and buy well-bred pacing yearlings.
“With the trotters we also don’t have to race the biggest, most powerful stables as often as we would with pacers.”
While both Wallis and Hackett have proud histories as trainers of trotters, both before they were a couple and since, they have also had top pacers like Sly Flyin, Waitfornoone and even in Hackett’s case even Gypsy Vance decades ago.
“But we would be happy to only train trotters these days, even though the only pacer we have at the moment, Like A Wildfire, is a really nice horse in the making.
“With 37 trotting wins and nearly $500,000 in stakes this season we feel like we have made the right decision.”
Part of their support base are South Island owners looking at the smaller fields and bigger stakes for trotters at Alexandra Park while other horses are sent to their beach training environment almost as a last resort.
“We do actually have a jog track but all the fast work is done on the beach and that suits a lot of horses.”
Tonight the stable take their only pacing winner for the season, Like A Wildfire, to race five (which he can win) but have more favoured chances in the three trotting races.
“I think Jansson is the best of our chances in race four beause he likes the 2200m,” she explains.
Madhubala will be among the favourites for race seven but Wallis is not excited by her 40m handicap over 2200m, even though the race lacks many rivals with bright futures.
The last race tonight see the highly-talented Mr Good And Evil up against exciting three-year-old Sundees Son and Wallis is in two minds.
“I think Mr Good And Evil is getting better all the time and he has real speed so I could see him ending up an open class horse.
“But the way Sundees Son went last Friday he is going to be really hard to beat, so it might come down to manners.”
As for the new season, Wallis says she and Hackett are looking to maintain around 20 horses but are also hoping Monte (saddle trots) get tote status in New Zealand, at least as a starting point.
“I think they can add something different to some meetings and we have found they help some horses re-focus and come back better for normal races after we have given then a Monte trial or non-tote.
“So I’d love to see them given a chance.”