Day At The Track

A harness racing heavyweight contender

02:00 PM 11 Oct 2019 NZDT
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Oscar Bonvena,Harness racing
Oscar Bonvena
HRNZ photo

Oscar Bonavena. A harness racing heavyweight contender.

Oscar Bonavena was one hell of a boxer. In a professional career spanning 12 years the rugged Argentine journeyman fought the likes of Floyd Patterson,Ron Lyle and the hard hitting Joe Frazier (who he knocked down twice in one round only to lose by decision). He was only stopped once by a certain Muhammed Ali in a bout that was, in itself, controversial for the manner in which Ali hit Bonvena from close range immediately after Oscar had lifted himself from the canvas. He died aged 33 when shot outside of a brothel in Reno, Nevada and was mourned a national hero in his country of birth.

It's hard to see Oscar Bonavena (the horse) being shot outside of a brothel anytime soon. A little more plausible is the notion that this equine pugilist can contend with the heavyweights of the trotting game and give them all something to think about come the championship rounds.

The 4yr old horse (by Majestic Son out of great producing mare Now's The Moment) was acquired by Roy Purdon MBE and Chris Ryder soon after coming a close second to now stablemate Enhance Your Calm in the 2yr old trotting championship in May of 2018. He was transferred to the All Stars barn of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen and hasn't looked back since - although plainly a large motor was present prior to the change of stable when in the care of Phil Williamson.

The only slight on his record since coming in the form of a 6th placing in the 2yr old Ruby at Cambridge in the Jewels. All other race day appearances have brought top three finishes with his last five races all ending in emphatic victories.

The style of his wins has pundits scrambling for superlatives and bookies scrambling to lower his price in futures markets...

Producing last 800m sectionals of 55-56 seconds is rare in the trotting game in this country but it's something that he's been able to do on the back of soft speeds and leads in his first two races back this campaign.

His Oamaru win on the 20th of September when beating out a game Winterfell had a touch of class about it and seemed to be effortless in its delivery.

In contrast his last win in the Canterbury Trotting Cup called on him to show a versatility when recovering from an early gallop. He did so impressively beating out current Dominion Handicap champion Marcoola which he sat outside over the last 800m.

The open class trotting ranks offer compelling story-lines and narratives at the moment and Oscar Bonavena deserves to be one of them.

There are others of note.

Marcoola, Sundees Son and Majestic Man are all classy animals with enviably records. Habibi Inta seems,finally, to be maturing into his splendid looking frame. Woodstone, Monty Python, Enghien, Destiny Jones, Great Things Happen and Bordeaux have all enjoyed great success over various racing conditions in seasons gone and could do so again.

Then there's Monbet, the brilliant Monbet, who could rise phoenix-like from injury to beat them all...and wouldn't that be something.

Depth is something that is wonderfully present in the open class trotting ranks at the moment.

It's a little unfair for a horse like Oscar Bonavena, having just arrived in the open class scene, to be touted as the next big thing in New Zealand trotting but he's a young, hugely talented horse from a stable that turns out young, hugely talented horses. For that reason alone it would be foolish to think he couldn't be something quite special and it's sure to be exciting seeing him, and the other talented square-gaiters, on the track racing in the feature races to come over the next few months.

The opening bell has just sounded, the boxers are making their way to centre-ring.


By Ben Mcmillan

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