Day At The Track

No sign of the juveniles in Canterbury

01:00 AM 10 Jan 2008 NZDT
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Lew Driver
Lew Driver
Photo by Race Images, Christchurch, New Zealand

Where have all the 2-Year-Old races gone? That is the burning question many Canterbury harness followers are asking after a dearth of juvenile events this season in the province that prides itself as an international stronghold of the industry.

Believe it or not, it is now January 10 and there hasn’t been a 2-Year-Old race for horses of either gait in Canterbury.

Some owners and trainers are spitting sparks, so to speak. They have become quite disillusioned by programmed juvenile races being deleted for lack of support.

Southland, that is traditionally and historically three months behind Canterbury because of climatic and other factors, has already run several races that have also been staged in the North Island.

Spare a thought for specialist 2-Year-Old nurturers like Lew Driver and Wayne Ross.

Year in and year out they get juveniles up early to the trials and racing stage by December but have been forced to travel away from their home province of Canterbury to get racing for them.

It is a cruel twist being dealt to them because owners still have to pay the bills and foot costs for no local chance of return.

Travel to Southland and Auckland with horses is a costly and time absorbing exercise.

National programming and handicapping co-ordinator Darrin Williams of Harness Racing New Zealand said the 2-Year-Olds were simply “not around in sufficient numbers’’, even at this relatively advanced stage of the season.

It is a problem that has been prevalent in recent seasons, he said. Little could be done to change trainers’ ways of thinking.

“It is demoralizing for some regular 2-Year-Old trainers like Lew Driver and Wayne Ross to have juveniles ready to race and no races for them when insufficient numbers mean programmed races cannot go ahead and are canned,’’ he said.

“There have only been a handful of 2-Year-Old horses at trials lately,’’ he added.

Leading trainers were concentrating on the rich Sires’ Stakes and Sales series in the latter part of the season, he said.

They knew they had to have them ready for the earlier heats if they were to qualify for the finals later in the season.

Some senior trainers have told the writer that the Jewels and Breeders’ Crown concepts in early June and mid August had “put the season back’’ and they were focusing on having “babies’’ at peak later than in earlier years.

Top horsemen said it was not easy to have young horses up and running in December and lasting until the Jewels and Breeders’ Crown.

An open 2-Year-Old race is programmed for Addington on January 25 and one for fillies on February 1.

The time-honoured NZ Sapling Stakes is scheduled for February 9 at Ashburton with the first heat of the Sires’ Sakes Series six days later at Addngton.

Another juvenile race is programmed at Addington on February 21 leading into the NZ Kindergarten Stakes at Wyndham on March 1.

Don Wright

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