By Michael Guerin
Four years ago this week what was supposed to be the start of something huge for star pacer Vincent ended in disaster.
Tonight at Alexandra Park something just as big could start for the flashy pacer but this time as a stallion. Vincent will have his first New Zealand runner and a talented one at that when Seve starts favourite in race 7, the first juvenile race of the new season
To many casual followers and galloping punters it may seem strange the first two-year-old race of the season comes in late January, especially as the next night’s sees New Zealand’s richest juvenile thoroughbred race run just around the corner at Ellerslie.
That odd situation comes about because Harness Racing New Zealand has changed the official birthday of harness horses here to January 1, in line with Australia and North America.
That brought about the all but unheralded sight of yearlings trialling in December but of course they were only yearlings officially, in reality they were well past their second birthday.
The new season programming and logistics are still taking some getting used to but the first two-year-old race of the season is always exciting, especially when new stallions have their first representatives.
That is the case for Vincent, the former Auckland Cup winner whose career ended four years ago this weekend when he was supposed to be racing as a hot favourite in the Ballarat Cup.
He suffered an injury the week of the race, was scratched on the verge of a very important summer campaign aimed at the Miracle Mile and never raced again.
Vincent now stands at Alabar and his yearlings sold well, being athletic and upstanding much like those by Vincent’s own stallion Art Major.
But looks will only get you so far and the any early racetrack success will greatly aid the new crop of Vincent yearlings through the sales ring starting at Karaka on February 13.
Seve has been the most prominent of Vincent’s stock so far and trainer-driver Tony Herlihy expects a big performance from him tonight.
“He has done everything I have asked of him so far and while I only have two Vincents I like them both,” says Herlihy.
Seve was an impressive pre-Christmas yearling trialist but was beaten by the talented Merlin at the Pukekohe trials last weekend.
“The winner looks a smart horse but our fella was probably only 85 per cent fit for his first run back,” says Herlihy.
“They went the first really quick time of the season up here and that will bring him on.
“With the horse who beat him last week not there for Friday I think he will be very hard to beat and he is tough enough to do some work and still be there at the finish.”
Champion trainer Mark Purdon, who trained Vincent, has also purchased several of his stock at the sales and is adamant they will make the grade so it will be interesting to see not only the impact they make on the track but in the sales ring on both sides of the Tasman in coming months.