Day At The Track

Northern Southland set to sizzle

07:23 AM 09 Mar 2018 NZDT
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Franco Santino,Harness racing
Franco Santino one of Southland's leading chances in the Super Nuggets Final
Photo Bruce Stewart

Many are saying Saturday's Northern Southland Trotting Club harness racing fields are the best seen in the south for a long time and they're not wrong.

The sight of a fresh crop of two year olds; split into fillies and colts and geldings races, is in itself great to see and that's just the start of the story here.

The inaugural Haras des Trotteurs Southland Trotting Oaks has carded a field full of depth and is proof of the emergence of Majestic Son as a sire of quality squaregaiters. Six of the eleven starters in Saturday's feature for trotting fillies are by Majestic Son. And there's no doubting that Wintonian Michelle Caig will be on-course just to see Renezmae, a horse she bred and raised. Renezmae, the likely favourite, won the Group One Breeders Crown for two year old fillies in Australia last season. After racing tough at Ashburton in the Hambletonian Classic last month she ran a brave fourth. The trip away and the race at Ascot Park will improve her chances for the New Zealand Trotting Oaks in a fortnight. But a win on Saturday won't surprise either.

There is no doubting that trotting is on the climb in this country and this inititive is one of the many good things to come out of the Southland region this season. The New Zealand Standardbred Breeders, led by John Mooney and Brad Reid, have been to the forefront in getting this $20,000 race off the ground and the Australian based Hara des Trotteurs have been quick to support the fillies feature.

Another inititive this season in the south has been the Nuggets Series. Starting in August, all heats have been worth $12,000 and all winners and second placegetters have become eligible to race in the $20,000 final at Ascot Park on Saturday.

All winners, with the exception of Ardtoo, have fronted up and it a race that looks like a preview for the Southern Supremacy Stakes Final on Diamonds Day at the end of next month.

The highest rated horse by a mile is the Mark Jones trained The Bus at R81. He's won six races this season with the next best rated horse being Zealand Star (R70) the winner of three. This for me is the race of the day with favourite horses like Franco Santino drawing wide and The Bus and the highly rated Lawrence having to content with second line draws. 

Then we get to the three; Group Three races, on a day where there seems to be no undercard.

The Yaldhurst Hotel Northern Southland Trotting Cup has had many great winners over the years including Mossdale Connor, Isaiah, Terror To Love (twice), Stunin Cullen and Bondy.

More The Better will probably be the favourite for Saturday distance feature. As a three year old, he really came on late in the season and put together a winning sequence of four while campaigning in Australia. His wins there included the Group Two Queensland Derby. He comes into this 2700 metre race fresh but having won two trials. He's won his only standing start in Australia last season. 

The Group Three Southern Lights, sponsored by Pryde's Easifeeds, is another mouth watering affair. The return of Dark Horse, who has been fitted for her return to racing at the Winton Workouts, will bring many to the track.  

Harriot Of Mot, who has a few ex- Southlanders as owners, looks to be her main rival. She won this race in 2016.

Smokey Mac, who currently leads the four year old ranking for the Harness Jewels also lines up in this feature. Trainer Brett Gray will get a good idea as to where he's at by racing against the better class trotters. 

The Caduceus Club of Southland, who sponsor The Super Nuggets Final, also sponsor the two year old fillies feature with Alabar Stud. It also carries Group Three status. This race has been around for sixteen years and some of the early winners were Western Dream and Beaudiene Bad Babe. More recently Joanne's A Delight, Delightful Memphis and Dizzy Miss Lizzy have won.

There are some other intriguing battles as well on the day with Hail Christian up against Swamp Major in the last race and quality up-and-coming trotters BD Love, Zoey's Gift and Jaw D Nancy squaring off.

The weather forecast looks good so all roads lead to Ascot Park on Saturday for what should be a bumper day of harness racing. See ya there. 


Bruce Stewart
Southland Harness racing
 

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