Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories:  Trotters 2001/2002 Season
Leg 1 Air New Zealand Trotting Free For All 2001/2002Results   Points
              16/11/2001  Addington, Christchurch, NZ  2600m  Mobile Start  $NZ50,000
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As with the leading Kiwi pacers come NZ Cup time, the best open-class trotters are also well primed to contest the opening of the Grand Circuit at Addington. This is held three days after Cup Day on this famous track at Christchurch.

New Zealand’s most successful stable of the past decade in terms of winning major races has been that of Barry Purdon near Auckland. He usually has a handy trotter or two in the stable.

Carrying the flag in the past three years has been Mountain Gold NZ. Early in this latest season the trainer told the media he expected Mountain Gold NZ to have his best season. As part of its preparation for the opening of the Grand Circuit, Mountain Gold NZ was taken to Ashburton (a 45-minute drive south of Christchurch) where the chestnut trotted the second fastest mile ever in Australasia, winning the Flying Mile in 1:56.5. And it was done the hard way!

Starting from barrier seven, it worked hard to grab the lead and then it outstayed Last Sunset NZ and Take A Moment NZ.

Sired by Chiola Hanover USA, Mountain Gold NZ was now an eight-year-old, and Purdon was quick to state how the horse had indeed come up very well this time in.

“He never beat Lyell Creek NZ, but he did chase that horse home a lot of times last season. Without Lyell Creek NZ to worry about now, I do expect Mountain Gold NZ to have a good season.

” The trotter was part-owned by New Zealand’s most famous breeder of thoroughbreds, Sir Patrick Hogan.

With Lyell Creek NZ overseas appearing on the world stage, firstly in Europe and now in North America, it was generally agreed trainer Tim Butt had a worthwhile replacement in Take A Moment NZ. Butt had taken this son of Armbro Invasion USA to Brisbane some months earlier where it had captured the Inter Dominion for the stable.


Last Sunset NZ

The trainer, and his reinsman brother Anthony, are regular visitors to Melbourne. Anthony had won two Hunter Cups at Moonee Valley with Blossom Lady NZ, and later drove Lyell Creek NZ in its numerous wins in Melbourne. He was in high spirits on Cup Day when he spoke with visiting Australian journalists. “Tell the boys in Melbourne we’re coming back,” he said. “Take A Moment NZ is getting back to his best form, and on his day, he is the best trotter in New Zealand. You can’t turn your back on those rich Melbourne trots at Moonee Valley in December, and we will be there.”

Take A Moment NZ had indeed appeared well forward in condition in its lead-up race on New Zealand Cup Day, coming off 20 metres to beat Special Force NZ and Major Decision NZ.  However, Anthony told his brother he was not completely happy about the trotter’s action. The following day the horse was sore in a near-side foot.  A close examination found a deep-seated corn, which was promptly removed. The foot remained tender, restricting the work that could go into the preparation of the reigning Inter Dominion champion for Friday’s big Free-For-All.

The race attracted the best trotters in the country, with Mountain Gold NZ and Last Sunset NZ expected to keep the favourite busy. Last Sunset NZ raced in Melbourne when a highly rated juvenile. It had been trained by part-owner John Dickie. On its next visit to Melbourne it had shown what a headache it could be with unreliable manners. Tony Herlihy, the leading catch-driver in New Zealand, had not long taken out his trainer’s licence, with Last Sunset NZ one of the first trotters to enter his stables.

In the opening to the season’s Grand Circuit for trotters, Last Sunset NZ was on its best behaviour for Herlihy. From barrier eight, the horse trotted away well to take up the lead, while Take A Moment NZ, a little out of character, seemed to be trotting like a car with its choke stuck. Butt dropped the horse onto the pegs three back, with Herlihy allowing Mountain Gold NZ to then take over the front. 

With Mountain Gold NZ leading the field into the home-turn the final time, Last Sunset NZ was pulled out from its good trail behind, and forged to the front, holding off Waihemo Hanger NZ and Mountain Gold NZ. Take A Moment NZ only plugged away to finish a disappointing sixth. It was obvious to the stable that all was not well with the reigning Inter Dominion Champion.

It was a smart win. It was also a very smart time in giving Herlihy his first win in a Grand Circuit as a trainer. The son of Sundon USA had nipped almost a second off Basil Dean’s record for Addington set back in 1983. Herlihy’s brother-in-law, Mark Purdon, had driven the late maturing Waihemo Hanger NZ into second place, with Mountain Gold NZ hanging on for third.

Waihemo Hanger NZ was an interesting and an emerging talent. It was part-owned in Melbourne by Dan Mielicki and Terry Henderson. Mielicki is the regular racecaller at Moonee Valley meetings, and Henderson the businessman who had years earlier organised the purchase of the outstanding pacer Chokin NZ. He had also arranged the purchase of the thoroughbred Doremius for Australia, which had gone on to win the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups. Henderson has long been a close friend of Barry Purdon. Following Purdon’s brother Mark move down south to Christchurch, Waihemo Hanger NZ was obtained by Henderson and given to the younger Purdon to train.


NZ TROTTING FREE-FOR-ALL 2600m Last Sunset NZ (Tony Herlihy), 1; Waihemo Hanger NZ (Mark Purdon), 2; Mountain Gold NZ (Maurice McKendry) 3. Others: Special Force NZ, Shaq Attaq NZ, Take A Moment NZ, Major Decision (NZ), Jay Bee Ar (NZ), Eastnor Lad (NZ), Valley Of The Moon (NZ), In Shot (NZ). Mile rate: 2:00.3.

Australian Trotters Grand Circuit commenced 1999/2000 season.

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