Habibi Inta (NZ) Photo by Harness Racing New Zealand
When reflecting about New Zealand Cup week of 2019, it is best summed in two simple words – Blair Orange.
Fresh from his success on Tuesday when he landed his maiden New Zealand Cup success aboard the All Stars prepared Cruz Bromac, the country’s leading reinsman has now collected his maiden Dominion trophy after guiding Habibi Inta to a runaway victory in the 3200m stand start feature.
Habibi Inta scored decisively when defeating Australian Tough Monarch and Monty Python while the heavily fancied Oscar Bonavena and defending champion Marcoola were unplaced.
Orange becomes the first driver since Anthony Butt to complete the Cup/Dominion double in the same week after Butt triumphed with Flashing Red and Mountbatten back in 2007.
Partnering with masterful trainer Paul Nairn, a dual winner of the great race and a trainer who is not frightened to adopt unorthodox training techniques to gain the best from his team of trotters, the duo landed the Gr.1 $300,000 Airpark Canterbury Dominion at Addington today (Friday).
After securing the Gr.3 South Bay Trotters Cup at Kaikoura at his most recent start, connections deliberately bypassed Tuesday’s Gr.1 $100,000 Free-For-All in preference for today’s feature and the decision was rewarded in spades.
Habibi Inta stepped slowly but safely and landed a handy position with Destiny Jones finding the marker pegs first before handing over to Australian trotter McLovin who in turn released Marcoola to the lead.
Ultimately, Habibi Inta landed the one out/one back trail when finding the back of Didjabringthebeers.
Oscar Bonavena made a crucial break soon after the start and was never a winning factor thereafter.
The lead time was covered in 2:01.5.
The pressure was intense with Marcoola rolling strongly in front; he trotted the first half of the final mile in splits of 30.3 and 29.9 seconds.
Heading down the back straight for the final time, Marcoola continued at a solid speed while McLovin sat in the trail with Habibi Inta behind him after Didjabringthebeers dropped off.
Passing the 400m marker, the third split was covered in 29.6 seconds.
Entering the home straight, Marcoola tried to kick away while both Habibi Inta and Tough Monarch both came with their runs.
Habibi Inta quickly surged past Marcoola and opened up a margin on Tough Monarch while veteran performer Monty Python made late ground to grab third placing, both Marcoola and McLovin weakened over the latter stages.
At the line, Habibi Inta scored by a widening 7.5 lengths over Tough Monarch while Monty Python was a further 4.5 lengths away in third.
The winning time was 4:02.1 – a mile rate of 2:01.7 with a final split of 30.3 seconds.
For Orange, it simply caps a dream week.
“I honestly can’t believe it, I thought Tuesday was unbelievable but this is a very special feeling and for some great people too. I’ve probably never felt more confident so far from home than today, he was trotting great.” Orange said.
Habibi Inta takes his record to 11 wins from 36 starts while his earnings sit below $400,000.
The victory provides Nairn with his third winner of the Dominion after previous victories with Call Me Now (1995) and Stig (2008).
Habibi Inta is raced by Julie Maghzal who bred the horse in partnership with Gaby; the six-year-old is a son of Love You and from the grand producing Sundon mare Ten To One.
The next leg of the 2019/20 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters is the $150,000 Inter Dominion in Auckland at Alexandra Park on December 14.