What next from the yo-yo gang? That could be the question harness racing fans are quite fairly asking about our open class trotters heading into the second night of the Inter Dominion at Alexandra Park tomorrow.
While the pacing series produced the largest tote upset of the opening night when A G’s White Socks’s $29.60 dividend just pipped Paramount King’s $28 return, the trotting series was more dramatic for those who didn’t finish in the money.
The two horses who won the Group 1s during New Zealand Cup week just a fortnight earlier finished seventh (Tough Monarch) and sixth (Habibi Inta), leaving themselves in danger of missing the final on Saturday week.
Both raced enormously below their Group 1 form at their previous start but their respective trainers Rickie Alchin and Paul Nairn were happy with how they pulled up and are taking a turn-the-page attitude to tomorrow night. In reality, with only four days between heats, they have little other choice.
Their performances sums up the wildest start to a trotting season in memory where horses like Marcoola have gone from 12.5-length winners one start to finishing unplaced at their next.
He gets the ace draw again tomorrow night and didn’t lose too many fans on night one, but hardly gained any new ones, so his $1.50 quote tomorrow night is more on record than current form.
“I was happy enough with him after the big change of moving stables and think he will get better throughout the series as he settles in here,” said new trainer Barry Purdon.
Just as dramatic were the form upswings of Paramount King and Winterfell in winning on night one.
Paramount King was beaten 14 lengths in the NZ Trotting Free-For-All the start before when found to have a chest infection after but bounced back to set a new national record on Friday.
Winterfell was so bad in the same free-for-all he was pulled out of the Dominion a few days later but was super impressive winning the second heat on night one with a sustained display of speed trotting, reminding us of the horse he was at three.
Back then he looked a potential superstar in the making, winning the Sires’ Stakes, Northern Derby and Jewels, dominating a late-season crop that contained Sundees Son, Paramount King and Majestic Mac.
But he has been the ultimate yo-yo since, his 15 starts since his Jewels wins bringing five wins but also six unplaced runs.
He goes into tomorrow night with the momentum so crucial during the Inter Dominion series and with his head back in the game might deserve favouritism for the final if he stays on song.
The likes of Temporale, Massive Metro and Majestic Man are at least racing relatively consistently but for all their brave and sometimes brilliant placings they collectively have just one win in their last 22 starts.
While the upsets of night one’s trotting heats remarkably left McLovin still in contention for the final even after missing the first round with illness, sadly this morning Andy Gath's talented trotter was withdrawn from the series after reportedly contracting a virus.