Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories: Pacers 2005/2006 Season
Which is why we like Howard so much. He is like us.
Like most of us he is not a towering physical specimen (Christian Cullen) or the ultimate warrior (Lyell Creek).
Howard is a tradesman, a battler who battled the hardest and wouldn't take no for an answer. He, like so many winners, just outlasted his opponents.
He is not as good as Elsu or Just An Excuse, not as fast as Mainland Banner.
But he has better manners, great legs, and travels better than Winston Peters.
And this is turning into his season.
After a year of being harness racing's perennial trifecta anchor he is now in the big time, thanks to the fact that so many of the other best pacers don't come with his bomb-proof body and temperament.
His New Zealand Free-For-All win in November was his first step into the big-time winner's circle, and after the last two weeks he is starting to make it his home.
His Auckland Cup win was nothing short of enormous.
Trainer/driver Kirk Larsen drove him like he was the best horse in the race, and he was.
He worked twice, but still outstayed Alta Serena on her home track and left no real excuses for the rest.
Then at Cambridge last week he showed a new weapon in his arsenal, almost holding flyer Napoleon at the start in a 27 second opening 400m.
That gave him the trail, the passing lane, and the 1.55.1 win.
So now he heads to Australia, with over $2.5million worth of races beckoning and many of his key opponents already in the spelling paddock or the breeding barn.
So once again, when discussions turn to the best Kiwi chance in the Ballarat and Hunter Cups and then the Inter-Dominions, they will usually start with Howard. Followed by Alta Serena. And a gap to the rest.
And it is with those targets in mind that Larsen put the blinds on Howard Bromac last Friday to wake him up out of the gate. And had he been more urgent you get the feeling he may have even held the lead.
"I know that when we get to Aussie he will have to have gate speed to win one of those big mobile races," said Larsen.
"We have been there plenty of times in the past, but last season he wasn't mature enough to drive like that.
"This season he is stronger and I want to be able to use him at the start if the draws make that possible.
"On those small tracks that gives you the advantage, whereas if you don't have gate speed you become the one who is disadvantaged."
While Howard has emerged from being a minor support player to being the best male pacer in the country in Just An Excuse's absence, Larsen too has matured.
Two seasons travelling in Australia with his stable star has taught him lessons only learned on the road.
And there is nothing this Southland boy loves more than beating the big city folk on their home patch, especially in Auckland.
"That was special because it also proved to people that you can train a top horse in Southland." said Larsen.
"I have always wanted to train good horses, not just sell them when they get to a good mark. If that wasn't an option then I didn't want to be in harness racing.
"Sure, it might be a little harder at the start of the season to get them fit, but once they are up and racing it is no different from training them anywhere else.
"And the best horses spend so much time on the circuit these days ... Addington, Alexandra Park, Moonee Valley - that it doesn't matter where they are trained.
"They are always on the road."
And that is where Kirk and Howard will be for most of the next three months, in Victoria, Tasmania, sometimes in the winner's circle.
Good legs, a decent motor and a lot of heart will ensure they are there when the whips are cracking in the Hunter Cup and Inter-Dominion Final.
And if things go their way maybe Howard can pick up another big one, maybe even sneak into the millionaires' club.
But regardless of what else he achieves this season, Howard has already won two Group 1 races.And he has won our respect.