Day At The Track

Pete shows a bit of dash

08:15 PM 09 Jun 2018 NZST
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Pete's Dash,Harness racing
Pete's Dash after winning at Ascot Park
Photo Bruce Stewart

Tapanui trainer Matt Saunders knows how to turn a horse's formline around and that was demonstrated today at Ascot Park when Pete's Dash beat Doubt Me Not by half a neck.

Saunders has had Pete's Dash for about four weeks before which he was raced out of Steve Clarke's barn. The gelding's last start at Forbury when he ran second for Saunders indicated his fortunes were changing.

Although he like most trainers likes to train up and coming horses, he also likes the challenge of spotting horses that he thinks he can improve. 

"I look for horses that have run between fourth and tenth at Addington, are running good times and are not too far behind the winners. There's a bit of a drop to a rating 40 in Southland. Horses like him are cheap and handy to finish the season down here and improve what has been a pretty average season for me up until now," he said.  

Prior to joining the Saunders team the Changeover four year old's best run was a fourth at Banks Peninsula in March. 

"I haven't changed anything really. Just a change of scenery. He's bloody fit and in great nick. This week he hadn't done much because it snowed. Maybe he was fresher because I couldn't work him."

Driver Mark Hurrell settled Pete's Dash off the pace early until the 1500 metres when he decided to move forward three wide. He was caught wide for the length of the home straight and Hurrell had to rein the gelding up and pull the air plugs with a lap to run. He sat parked for the last lap. And in a hard drive to the line Pete's Dash beat Doubt Me Not by half a neck with another half a head back to Dismara who'd tried to lead all the way. 

Pete's Dash (6) and Mark Hurrell getting up to win at Ascot Park - Photo Bruce Stewart.

"He's still got quite a bit to learn. Peter Hunter (fellow Southland trainer) said the Changeovers get better with age. They haven't got a lot of speed but they're pretty tough."

Today's meeting was the last of the season in Southland and now the focus turns to the Forbury Park Winter season. 

"I may take him up to Forbury for a run or two and get rid of him but I may bring him back. I'm not sure." 

It was Saunders' twenty fourth career win and his third for this season but he looking forward to the return of some of his better horses such as Betstars Blue Jean.

"She's a good horse. She's just taken me a long time to figure out and I did towards the end. Simply Dreaming who was the Southland Two Year Old Of The Year last season has had a long spell because he wasn't right over Christmas. Blarney Babe is a nice maiden."

Saunders moved to Tapanui at the start of last year to run the local Four Square store and mixes working in the shop with training horse at the Tapanui Racecourse. 

"It's good because it keeps me fresh. The sheep are about to go on the track for a month so it means I can have a holiday because I can't work horses. I'm really enjoying the mix actually."

The former Highlander and Southland Stag outside back says there are a few similarities between training for rugby and training race horses. 

"The breed has changed and you don't need to work them for so long. I do a bit more speed training and working my horses a bit more like a galloper - sprinting hard at the end of a jog. Its like the back end of footie training where you don't do too much leading into a game."

Pete's Dash was bred by Clive and Rona McKay and is out of the Holmes Hanover mare Sensitive Poplar. She has left good types in Nemesis (5 wins), Lauramegan (7 wins) and Clive (6 wins).

Pete's Dash is raced by The Sue Ping Syndicate, Bratk Syndicate and Saunder's wife Joleen. 


Bruce Stewart
Soutland Harness Racing

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