Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories: Trotters 2004/2005 Season
When the Grand Circuit for trotters opened as part of the big Christchurch Carnival at Addington in November, two Australian owned and trained performers made the trip. These were Sumthingaboutmaori and Gold N Gold NZ.
The latter had started racing in the 1999/2000 season in New Zealand and was later sold to Sydney trainer Michael Marais, who had cut his teeth with horses in Zimbabwe. Interestingly, a half share in this now 9YO son of Evander’s Gold USA had been sold to Ian Dobson, the New Zealand owner of former top pacer and now successful young sire Christian Cullen NZ.
$NZ50,000 NEW ZEALAND TROTTING FREE FOR ALL
Age may have robbed Lyell Creek NZ of some of its one-time greatness, but the old trotter showed he was far from a spent force. Sumthingaboutmaori made up late ground for an encouraging second. The speedy and unpredictable Gold N Gold NZ broke badly in running and tailed the field in.
$NZ100,000 DOMINION HANDICAP
While Lyell Creek NZ again delighted his legion of followers, the sole Aussie representative Sumthingaboutmaori was most disappointing, beating home only four in a field of 15. The Grand Circuit was now ready to move on to Australia.
$50,000 BILL COLLINS MEMORIAL MILE
Now trained by Peter Manning at Great Western and driven by his daughter Kerryn, Sammy Do Good was a pacing bred son of Samadhi USA raced by G.J. Clark. It had shown rapid improvement in the months since joining the Manning stable, the same team who had a few years before made their first venture into square-gaiters with the hugely successful Knight Pistol.
Sumthingaboutmaori, perhaps better known over longer distances, was still struggling to achieve the high standards her supporters had expected, though she was far from disgraced in finishing fourth to Sammy Do Good. This would be the only time a two-minute rate would be bettered on this trotting Grand Circuit.
$100,000 AUSTRALIAN TROTTING GRAND PRIX
With Gold N Gold NZ on its best behaviour for trainer/driver Michael Marais, the former Kiwi trotter lived up to the expectations Marais always believed the horse had. It rounded up the early leaders and was never headed.
The race was well promoted by Harness Racing Victoria inviting the public to see Lyell Creek NZ in its farewell to racing in Australia. It was at Moonee Valley four and five years earlier that this son of Roydon Glen NZ-Kahlum (NZ) had enjoyed so much of its major successes before going on to race in Europe and then North America.
It was obvious the years and travelling had taken their toll on its once great ability, and that the 11YO was still capable of beating all but the winner home was yet another reminder of what a fine racehorse Lyell Creek NZ had been, and possibly was still in the twilight of a career unrivalled by any other Kiwi bred in the modern era.
$NZ50,000 NEW ZEALAND NATIONAL TROT
This was a feature race on the night of the Auckland Pacing Cup on the track that would host the Inter Dominion Championships less than three months later. No Australian trotter competed.
Australian breeding could take some small consolation in this result by way of the winner having been sired by the Victorian-based Safely Kept USA, also sire of La Coocaracha, Australia’s only trotting Grand Circuit champion.
$150,000 AUSTRALASIAN TROTTERS CHAMPIONSHIP
What was the richest trot of the season on Australian soil for this noble gait did not attract any of the big name players from across the Tasman, but there were numerous Kiwi-breds in the field. Sumthingaboutmaori was placed off the backmark of 30m, with Kimbo off 10m. Because of a disqualification incurred by Sydney horseman Michael Marais, the racing career of Gold N Gold NZ was temporarily on hold.
The winner was a most interesting trotter raced by a NSW syndicate who had purchased this now 7YO gelding several years earlier in New Zealand after it had raced just four times. Trained in NSW by Greg Bennett, the horse was sent to Melbourne and transferred to the Melton stable of Glen Tippet for this race. It may have been good odds on the night, but it was no fluke, as this son of Sundon USA the previous week at Moonee Valley had also saluted over the same trip.
When later sent across the Tasman for the Auckland Inter Dominion, the gelding would be placed in the stables of Jeff Whittaker, a trainer at Wigram, near Christchurch. Before the end of the Grand Circuit, Lost In The Park NZ would be exported to the USA.
$NZ$250,000 INTER DOMINION TROTTERS CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
The New Zealand public now had a new favourite to follow in the highly promising Delft (NZ) (Sundon USA-Miriam (NZ)). Trained by Michelle Wallis at Waiuku and driven by leading reinsman Tony Herlihy, Delft (NZ) was a huge 6YO gelding. Because of its size the gelding Delft (NZ) took time to mature and was lightly raced, being sent to the USA where it raced just nine times for a win and a placing before stepping into the 2004/2005 season ready to really do something.
Delft (NZ) would go into the Grand Final having won five of its previous six starts. That this trotter was out of the barrier draw and on numerous occasions gone for a gallop in its races demonstrated the ability it possessed. Being on the outside of the second row did not seem to deter his fans at all, and the horse was sent out the favourite over Lyell Creek NZ and Allegro Agitato NZ.
Also lining up was dual Grand Circuit champion Take A Moment NZ. It had not raced for two years when resuming in the heats of this Inter Dominion and in all three starts had failed to show any of the real ability it earlier had possessed. This Grand Final would not be a good one for most punters, with Delft (NZ) again putting a hole in its manners.
Gold N Gold NZ was back racing again, with well known Kiwi Ken Barron entrusted with the reins. The speedy but erratic trotter did not make it to the Grand Final.
Play on NZ, a noted slow beginner, drew the pole but was a 40/1 chance on the NZ tote. In a boil-over, this 7YO trained by Peter Lamb at Darfield, ran on well for driver Craig Thornley to enter the record books at its 58th race start. Its previous total stakes of just $40,176 was suddenly trebled by the first prize of $125,000 for its 10th race win. It was the Inter Dominion Champion for the Trotters Series.
Australian representatives finished 7th Sammy Do Good, 9th Sumthingaboutmaori and 11th Uncle Petrika NZ.
$NZ50,000 NEW ZEALAND TROTTING CHAMPIONSHIP
The winner was also trained by Williamson for him and his wife. It was yet another of the fine trotting progeny left by Sundon USA, the stallion bred by Sir Roy McKenzie in the USA. When later brought to New Zealand, unsoundness restricted what could have been an ever greater racing career for Roydon Lodge Stud near Christchurch. Lyell Creek NZ finished 8th.
$NZ100,000 ROWE CUP
Well known to Melbourne fans, Martina H NZ made up for a luckless run in the heats with a strong finishing burst to gain the upper hand over the favourite close to the line. It was the last racing appearance for the once mighty Lyell Creek NZ, which could finish only 8th. The old gelding had established an early break on all rivals for another Grand Circuit championship.
Seven of the 15 starters were the progeny of Sundon USA.
The top nine on points for the 2004/2005 Grand Circuit were: Lyell Creek NZ 13 from four starts; Allegro Agitato NZ 7 from five; Play On NZ 6 from four; Sammy Do Good 5 from 4; Gold N Gold NZ 5 from four; Paris Metro NZ 5 from two; Lost In The Park NZ 5 from three; Jasmyn’s Gift NZ 5 from two, Martina H NZ 5 from four and Sumthingaboutmaori 3 from five.
In hindsight, the circuit belonged to Lyell Creek NZ, retiring after having won a total of 15 races on Australasian Grand Circuits, while stablemate Take A Moment NZ had run out of time in its comeback. It was also a good one for the sire Sundon USA.
Australia had few positives to take from the series, with Sumthingaboutmaori (our best trotter) not having taken the next step up from that previous Inter Dominion, and actually performing so disappointedly when crossing the Tasman that it raises the question why it might not race well when far from home?