2003 Trotters Series
Addington, Christchurch, NZ

2003 Inter Dominion Trotting Championship Series  $NZ500,000
Heats:  21, 28 March, 4 April 2003
Final:    11 April 2003


The best trotters available contested three heats each to determine the field for the Grand Final, with one remaining unbeaten. The series opened with a standing start over 2600m with Anthony Butt driving both winners -- Take A Moment NZ and Frugal Echo NZ. The distance for the next round was 1950m from a mobile start. Take A Moment NZ won the first and Castleton’s Mission (NZ) the second heat, both breaking two minutes. The third and final rounds were from a mobile start over 2600m with Major Decision (NZ) and Take A Moment NZ successful. Australia would not be represented in the Grand Final, having to settle for capturing the Consolation with the Kiwi-bred Gold N Gold NZ (M. Marais). Since the unfortunate breakdown of the outstanding trotting mare La Coocaracha, Australia has struggled to find a worthy successor at this level.

When Take A Moment NZ drew the awkward position of inside the second line, its driver Anthony Butt was initially disappointed, fearing with so much at stake, his trotter could become caught up in a traffic jam at a crucial time in the race. The New Zealand TAB had no such fears. After the barrier draw it put up Take A Moment NZ a raging $1.45 favourite. No doubt when framing this market it was noted Anthony Butt would be following out Frugal Echo NZ, a usually good beginning trotter.

Trainer Tim Butt appeared less concerned with the draw than his brother, as two days before the race he said: “The draw should work out all right. There will be early speed from a few off the front line, and I would say that Major Decision (NZ) will probably be taking off about the 1600m mark, so it should be a truly-run race.”

Derek Balle, co-trainer of Martina H NZ had no complaints with his mare’s wide draw. “She is probably better out there than where Take A Moment NZ is drawn,” he said. He added how the draw was more important for the stablemate Sunease (NZ). “He cannot do as much as Martina H NZ in a race” The scratching of Superstaragogo (NZ) because of a leg injury, brought the emergency Jay Bee Ar (NZ) into the field.


Take A Moment NZ - 2003 Inter Dominion Trotting Champion

The NZ TAB fixed odds market two days before the race was: $1.45 Take A Moment NZ, $6 Castleton’s Mission (NZ), $14 Ado’s Invasion (NZ), $16 Frugal Echo NZ and Martina H NZ, $22 Major Decision (NZ) and Sunease (NZ), $25 Play On (NZ), $33 Special Force NZ and Sundowner Bay NZ, $40 Jay Bee Ar (NZ).

Trainer-driver Michael House requested stewards declare his trotter, Castleton’s Mission (NZ), unruly (out of the draw). These thoughts followed the final heat the previous Friday night. “I had him a length behind the gate in an attempt to get him behind, but the run the week before had really fired him up. “We went our first 800 metres in 57.5, and the first 1000 in 1:11.” Castleton’s Mission (NZ) had also been hampered by a punctured sulky tyre after some interference mid-race when Sundowner Bay NZ had left the trail. It was not surprising that House’s five-year-old had tired in the run home. “I think there will be a war up front and they might go hard, and I will be better off staying right out of it,” he told the media.

Take A Moment NZ had two years before won the Inter Dominion Grand Final when the series was held in Brisbane. The horse was now a far better all round performer. The eight-man syndicate that races Take A Moment NZ like to sit together on the first floor of the main stand. This is past the winning post, perhaps not the best position to watch a close finish. They had found this out in November when Martina H NZ had dead-heated with Take A Moment NZ in the Dominion Handicap. Along with the Rowe Cup, the Dominion Handicap is the biggest annual trotting event in New Zealand. Waiting for the Grand Final to begin, these owners had little idea that history was almost to be repeated.

Regardless of where anyone perched that Friday night to watch the Grand Final, no one would be sitting back in their seats for long. What was soon to take place out on the track would have some right on the edge of their seats, and others jumping to their feet to gain a better view. In hindsight, this 2003 Inter Dominion Grand Final would have everything.

In the early moments of the race it was not surprising those off the front line would be keen to slot into good positions. There was a breaker or two, and the order did not change much in the first mile after the field settled down, with Anthony Butt seemingly happy to sit back second last, with one of his main dangers breathing right down Butt’s neck. A line of three horses moved up, but having got somewhere, their drivers then were content to go ‘nowhere.’ This would have unsettled some who had taken the short odds backing the favourite. Approaching a point some 700m from home, the field bunched up into lines of three. Take A Moment NZ and Castleton’s Mission (NZ) both had a lot of work to do.

When the pair did make their move, it was the short-priced favourite that got past rivals to grab the lead, inside of Castleton’s Mission (NZ). Both horses gave their all in the closing stages. On reaching the winning post, Michael House raised his whip hand in a salute of victory. But this celebration of victory would be proven a little premature. Only the photo finish camera could establish the winner, so what hope did the syndicate who owned Take A Moment NZ have of knowing which horse had got there first when watching it all unfold from their vantage point a little past the winning post?

The close finish which had seen House claim victory from his seat right amongst the action was decided in favour of the Butt stable, with Sundowner Bay NZ finishing third. The winnings of Take A Moment NZ would now go up to $837,896. Only his former stablemate Lyell Creek NZ remained ahead of him as the all-time richest trotter produced Down Under.  Just for the record, Lyell Creek NZ had won 33 of its 36 starts in New Zealand and Australia before heading off overseas for further fame and fortune. Take A Moment NZ had now won 30 of its 51 starts. However, the latter was making great improvement, as Take A Moment NZ had not been beaten in any of its past 14 starts.

Take A Moment NZ had also joined Melbourne’s Scotch Notch and Pride Of Petite USA as the only trotters to have won dual Inter Dominions. The chance of this horse being given an opportunity to bring up a history-making third win in this annual series that night seemed unlikely. The Butt brothers both expressed an opinion their horse while possessing more speed than Lyell Creek NZ, was not as tough as Lyell Creek NZ. Trainer Tim Butt added that he was not keen on having it race off difficult handicaps in the future. While an overseas trip did seem on the cards, the Butts said they were in no hurry to send their seven-year-old trotter off to follow the footsteps of Lyell Creek NZ. A more likely option they suggested would be to give the horse another season in Australasia, concentrating more on mobile free-for-alls. 

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