By Garrick Knight
Winterfell earned himself favouritism for next Saturday’s $150,000 Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final with a dominant New Zealand record win on the third and final night of heats at Alexandra Park.
In the hands of co-trainer Mark Purdon, the rangy square-gaiter had too much power for a key rivals Majestic Man and Massive Metro after leading over the 2700-metre journey.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround in fortunes from the horse that had earned the distrust of punters through the spring.
“He’s picked it all up now and we’re starting to work together, which is a big help,” said Purdon post-race.
“I said to Nat (Rasmussen) during the week that he’s almost turned the corner.
“He enjoyed bowling around in front and felt good.
“He likes this way around and has settled down a lot. He seems a really happy horse at the moment.”
His Canterbury breeder and owner, Trevor Casey, was on course to celebrate and was at pains to say how it was just a matter of patience.
“It’s always a pleasure to win a race, but to win an Inter Dominion heat – two of them – incredible.
“He’s only had 23 starts and only really stepped up to open company this year.
“They can win at age group level, but they still need the ringcraft to hit the top grade.”
That’s something Winterfell clearly didn’t have.
“He did get really keen and he used to hit the cart as well.
“We’ve got to have a really long cart on him because he’s got such a long stride.
“But Mark said Tuesday night was the best he’s ever settled.”
Winterfell continues a brilliant production run for his dam, Una Bromac.
“It gives me so much satisfaction because is out of a pacing bred mare that trotted called Una Bromac.
“She used to whack a knee and nobody wanted her so I bred from her.
“The first one she bred, Harley, was 18 hands, but she’s left four open class trotters after that, including Escapee and Needle.”
Casey has sold Una Bromac now “because I had that many trotters, was about to breed from Escapee and it was time to move on an older mare.”
Massive Metro, who trailed, fought on well enough for second but never looked like threatening the winner down the straight, while Majestic Man ran third after sitting parked.
In the night’s earlier heat, Temporale went back-to-back with another front-running win for Tony Herlihy and trainers, Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis.
It was arguably the stronger of the two heats, but went over three seconds slower than the other one thanks to no mid-race pressure on Temporale.
Paramount King finished on nicely for second in a sprint home, narrowly ahead of the Australian, Tough Monarch, and Marcoola, who rushed home out wide after going rough when wide on the final bend.
Inter Dominion Final field: Winterfell ($3), Majestic Man ($3.40), Marcoola ($4.80), Temporale ($7), Massive Metro ($8.50), Paramount King ($11), Habibi Inta ($18), Tough Monarch ($26), Big Jack Hammer ($41), Destiny Jones ($81), Bonnie Highlander ($101), Valloria ($101). The emergency is Monty Python ($151).