Izzy Dagg and Sam Ottley were victorious in a maiden. Photo: Race Images
Mark Jones and Sam Ottley stole the show on the opening night of the harness racing season at Addington on Friday night.
But it was also fitting that with a Super Rugby Final next door 24 hours later that there was a distinct rugby flavour to some of their success.
Jones trained three winners on the programme, with Ottley chipping in with three driving wins during the night – the perfect way for our leading female driver to celebrate her birthday.
Ottley has a bit of a habit of celebrating the day with success - her first ever race day drive fell on her birthday and she was successful with Nigel Paul for her mother, Denise.
But while Jones and Ottley were the star winners, they each played a part in ensuring a few notable rugby figures, particularly Canterbury and Crusaders men, found their way into the winners’ enclosure as well.
The first winner drive of Ottley’s treble, First Class Lady – for Woodend Beach trainer, Regan Todd is a member of the Woodlands Partnership No.2 Syndicate and also co-owned by All Black captain Keiran Read and his former teammate, Andy Ellis.
First up for Todd after previously racing in the North Island with Barry Purdon, the daughter of Artsplace dashed up the lane to win nicely in her South Island debut.
Jones made sure he wasn’t left out of the rugby celebrations either when Izzy Dagg won later in the night, with Ottley sitting in the sulky.
The three-year-old pacer is part-owned by his namesake, All Black Israel Dagg and his wife Daisy, and showed he has a future with a long, sustained run from last in the field at the 800 metres to win impressively.
“That was a pretty good performance,” Jones said.
“To come that wide and sustain a run for that long, he showed a fair bit, I thought.
“He’s going to be a really nice horse in time. He’s still learning what it’s all about but has shown us enough to suggest he’s got a future.”
Purchased at the Yearling Sales, Izzy Dagg is by A Rocknroll Dance from Rodney Dickson’s mare, Cantina.
Jones also tasted success on Friday night with Maninthemirror, who won the amateur drivers race early in the programme with Neil Munro doing the driving.
Then relative newcomer His Royal Harness made it two wins from three starts from new quarters.
Sheree Tomlinson, who snared herself a double at the meeting, played the patient game with him and unleashed down the outside late to win rather impressively.
“We got a really fit horse when he arrived with us, and we’ve just put the polish on him and he’s done a good job.
“He’s got a bit of speed at the end of his races which will bode him well wherever he ends up in the future.”
Ottley’s third win for the night was a long-time coming, but she managed to do enough to get Majestic Moment over the line for punters in a wide-open trotting affair.
The Sam Smolenski-trained runner had been knocking on the door for months and things finally fell perfectly into place on Friday night for him to grab the victory.