By Michael Guerin
Harness fans are in for an early present this Christmas Eve.
Because that is when Cambridge could be the surprise venue for the first clash of our two most exciting trotters.
Trainer Tony Herlihy has confirmed that will be the next start for his excitement machine Bolt For Brilliance, who is back in work after a two week break.
The four-year-old was sensational downing southern stars Cracker Hill and Ultimate Stride in the delayed Sales Series and Sires’ Stakes at Alexandra Park in October, breaking 55 seconds for his last 800m in the second of those two victories with a flat tyre.
That had plenty suggesting he might be the best trotter in the country but then came the Dominion at Addington on Show Day and we all realised the title belongs to another horse until Bolt For Brilliance can beat him.
Sundees Son was freakish bordering on arrogant in the Dominion, sitting parked to win in national record time, and now the two big names of New Zealand trotting are set to go head to head not once but twice.
Cambridge will be the first venue, with Bolt For Brilliance to likely head their fresh for the Flying Mile on December 24 while Sundees Son will contest the $47,500 Lyell Creek at Alexandra Park on December 11.
After Cambridge the two superstars will then clash again, all going well, a week later in the group one National Trot.
Herlihy says the break Bolt For Brilliance had after his last-start stunner did him some good.
“My fella had two weeks out and put on some weight,” said Herlihy.
“He actually didn’t seem that tired even after those three big performances back to back, which is a good sign
“But he enjoyed his break and is coming to hand nicely.
“I’ll probably trial him a week before the Cambridge race, race there and then head to the National.”
The Flying Mile will be Bolt For Brilliance’s first start at Cambridge since his debut when he finished second to Cheeky Babe when driven by Herlihy’s good mate Phil Williamson.
He then raced three more times left-handed for two defeats before his sole left-handed win in the two-year-old Jewels at Addington.
“He used to be not quite as good left-handed as he is at Alexandra Park but he is getting better and he does plenty of work at home left-handed,” says Herlihy.
As tempting as the major races in Australia may be, Bolt For Brilliance will almost certainly stay in New Zealand this season.
“With the travel restrictions I’d be very unlikely to head there and he has plenty of races back here, with races down south, the Rowe Cup carnival and even the Jewels.”
Driver John Dunn says he is looking forward to taking on the younger contender to the trotting crown with Sundees Son.
“I just hope we can keep him at his best up there,” Dunn says matter-of-factly.
Sundees Son will headline a far smaller Dunn team for the north than punters may expect, with the stable’s open class pacers staying home.
“Classie Brigade and Henry Hubert aren’t going up there for the Auckland Cup,” explains Dunn.
“They have races here like the Green Mile, a free-for-all at Addington and the Central Otago Cup.
“We have Need You Now up there already and she has the Queen of Hearts on Dec 11 and Sundees Son going up but a lot of our other better horses will stay home.”