Maurice McKendry and Frank Cooney are all smiles after Lets Elope’s Kerry Hoggard Memorial Holmes DG Handicap win. Photo: Trish Dunell
Maurice McKendry stole the show on Holmes DG night at Alexandra Park, driving six winners including the night’s feature.
The Pukekohe horseman, second on the all time New Zealand driver’s table with 3,236 wins, wound the clock back with a masterful display of driving all night long.
He executed a brilliant front-running drive on veteran pacer Lets Elope to win the $20,000 Kerry Hoggard Memorial Holmes DG Handicap and also took out the night’s feature trot with Lemond and won with Ash, Red Reactor and Chevron Supreme.
“I better not drive six, that would be greedy,” quipped McKendry before his drive on As Free As Air in the last, which also won.
“They won’t talk to me if I win another one.”
McKendry was confident he had driven six winners on two occasions prior in his 42-year career.
“I’ve driven six here once before, and I reckon I did it Hawera once, too. Moons ago.”
Besides the obvious, the story of the night was Lets Elope, who McKendry says had been racing well without any luck since returning from Australia as a spritely 10-year-old in August.
“He’s gone bloody good every start he’s had since coming back.
“He felt great again tonight and was always travelling well.”
Co-trainer Frank Cooney, who bred Lets Elope and raced him with great success here until late 2014, says he felt immense satisfaction from the win.
“I’m really happy for the horse, more than anything.
“He wants to be there, and he’s still competitive and he enjoys what he’s doing.
“He’s been a great old horse and he doesn’t know he’s 10.”
Lets Elope was sent home to retire but stopped in at Cooney and Tate Hopkins’ Taupaki stable to see if he still wanted to be a race horse.
He was nominated for the New Zealand Cup but connections opted not to pay up on Wednesday.
“There is enough racing for him around here and the owners were so happy to win tonight.
“He didn’t come home to be hawked around the country and I left the decision up to them.
“They are just as happy racing him at home here until he retire him.”
Cooney, who stopped driving in 2012 after a serious race accident, paid tribute to McKendry for what he called “a perfect drive”.
“I was in the stands driving it myself and he did everything I thought he should do.”
Cambridge trainer Ross Paynter was happy with the efforts of his stable star, Lemond, who overcame a 40-metre handicap to win over the shorter 2200-metre trip in the hands of McKendry.
“I’m pretty happy with that.
“He’d been working good during the week and is improving with every run this time in.”
He’ll resist the temptation to go south now, preferring to stay home for another start.
“There’s a 2700 here in two weeks and then after we’ll probably go Cup Trials, Trotting Free For All (on New Zealand Cup Day) and Dominion (on Show Day).”
McKendry also noted how impressed he was with three-year-old filly Chevron Supreme, who made it two from two with another good performance.
She was narrowly headed by Benson Boys halfway down the straight, but fought back to win well.
“That was a big effort from her tonight, because it was a big rise in grade.
“But she went really good; the other horse got up to her and when I pulled the hood she was off again.”