By Garrick Knight
Inters sustaining payments made
Club officials are optimistic that the Inter Dominion Pacing Championship will still be contested over rounds of three heats in Auckland next month.
After the $450 sustaining payment was due on Tuesday, 33 horses remain in the reckoning, including 11 from Australia.
Should the final number dip below 30, the Auckland Trotting Club would have to consider reverting to two heats of 12.
“Three heats of ten will be ok; but that’s about the minimum,” says Racing Manager, Regan Cotter.
“The fact they’ve all paid $450 means they’re all fairly serious about coming so I’d be surprised if many more drop out.
“We always knew this first round of payments was going to see quite a few withdrawals because it cost nothing to nominate.”
All major players remain nominated for the series, including eight from the dominant Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen stable.
Of the 21 withdrawn this week, the highest ranked were Australian pacers Wrappers Delight (14), Buster Brady (15) and Ignatius (18) while Gran Chico (25), sold last week to Perth interests, was the highest-ranked New Zealand defection.
The trotting series had its numbers virtually halved from 66 to 35 with a $300 payment due.
It did manage to hold on to its top eight ranked horses though lost arguably the biggest name with Oscar Bonavena’s withdrawal.
The retirements of Monbet and Kyvalley Blur hurt, as did the loss of five other Australians – Lily Stride, Save Our Pennys, Maori Law, Fratellino and Sassy Pants.
Of most interest was that Aussie star McLovin was paid up despite a belief his connections would not do so.
According to Cotter, trainer Andy Gath was unable to contact owner Norm Jenkin over the past week so made the last-minute call to play it safe and make the sustaining payment.
Two other Australian trotters, Big Jack Hammer and Tough Monarch, are still in contention, the latter already in New Zealand and on his way to Christchurch for Cup Week.
First training win for Sailesh Abernethy
South Auckland horseman Sailesh Abernethy is now officially a race-winning trainer.
He piloted his own horse, Benjamin Button, to win a maiden in Palmerston North on Tuesday just a couple of months after taking out a training license.
The five-year-old Art Official gelding has battled back from a tendon injury suffered as a three-year-old and, plainly, a general lack of ability.
“He’s never shown me too much,” Abernethy told HRNZ.
“Just enough to keep going with. He’s gone some handy races this time and I always thought he had a win in him.”
Abernethy wasn’t getting too carried away with the achievement.
Much like Marcoola with Clint and Ken Ford, he has always done most of the work with veteran trotter Majestic One, a 14-race winner despite it being in his brother, Jay’s name.
Both horses were trained Jay until Sailesh got his license at the start of this season.
Majestic One has been served by boom sire, Father Patrick.
“She’s not quite retired.
“I’m trying to get her in foal and then she’ll have a few more starts.
“I would like to get to 15 wins with her.”