Harness - News

Kiwis chase North American drivers

  • Sun, 13 Aug 2017
  • NZ Harness News - Jeff Scott

Defending World Drivers champion Dexter Dunn settled off the pace in seventh after the first round of the 2017 series in Canada on Sunday.

The New Zealand star finished a bold second in the opening heat at Century Downs Racetrack, Calgary, but couldn't advance among the place-getters in the other four first-round heats.

He did win the final event on the card, but it wasn't a world championship race.

Fellow New Zealand representative Mark Purdon had a luckless first day. He is 10th position among the 11 drivers.

United States driver Marcus Miller, who tasted success in two of the first-round heats, leads with 57 points from Canada's James MacDonald, who also won two WDC races. 

MacDonald was victorious in the second and fifth races, first clearing to command from post eight after the first quarter and holding off the competition for the victory in 2:03.1 aboard Lucky Lucka ($19.70) and then sending Barossa Blue Genes ($6.70) three-wide off cover approaching the third quarter mark and drawing clear in the stretch to win by two and a half lengths in 2:03.3.

''It's a whole different ball game and I've never been involved in anything like this," said MacDonald of the international tournament. ''I'm really excited to be doing it and thankfully having a little bit of success.''

The drivers will head to MacDonald's home track at Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville, Ontario, for the second WDC leg on Tuesday (NZ time).

First-round points: Marcus Miller (USA) 57, James MacDonald (Canada) 50, Shane Graham (Aust) 48, Bjorn Goop (Sweden) 43, Gehard Mayr (Austria) 38, Mika Forss (Finland) 34, Dexter Dunn (NZ) 29, Rik Depuydt (Belgium) 25, Noel Baldacchino (Malta) 24, Mark Purdon (NZ) 21, Erik Hoitamt (Norway) 16.

EX-ALL STARS WIN BREEDERS CROWN HEATS

Stars Align and Motu Meteor, former NZ stablemates in the All Stars stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen stable, were successful in Australasian Breeders Crown Heats at Bendigo, Victoria, on Friday night.

The former, who remains in the ownership of New Zealanders Glenys and Phil Kennard, Phil and Margaret Creighton and Gavin Douglas, along with Australian Kevin Riseley, was transferred to the Victorian stable of Dean Braun after running fifth to Jack's Legend in the Harness Jewels 3YO Emerald at Ashburton on June 3.

He has been beaten into second only once since arriving in Melbourne, winning five of six starts in Australia.

Stars Align, from a second-row barrier, moved up parked on the final lap on Friday in the hands of expatriate Kiwi driver Anthony Butt and won as a $1.70 favourite in a 1:55.7 mile rate for the 2150m.

A race later Motu Meteor, raced by Melbourne owners Merv and Meg Butterworth, led throughout his Australasian Breeders Crown Heat for Victorian trainer-driver Kerryn Manning, winning easily as a $1.60 favourite in a 1:55.4 mile rate.

Motu Meteor joined the Manning stable after running seventh to Raukapuka Ruler in the Northern Derby at Auckland on March 10. In five starts since transferring to Manning, he's won three and also recorded a second and a fourth.

BILL DARRAH DIES

Thames harness racing trainer Bill Darrah passed away on Thursday, surrounded by his family.

His wife of 76 years, Eva, died 16 hours earlier, also surrounded by family.

Darrah trained horses until aged 94 and his last runner to the races was Awa Cathrine in February 2015. Awa Cathrine subsequently won a race at Manawatu last year for another Thames trainer, Dale Moore.

Interestingly, he didn't enter the racing industry until he was 70, when he purchased the Count Bay mare Elizabeth Bay from Charlie Hunter in 1990.

She won eight races and got through to open company for him, before leaving five winners at stud.

The best of them was 10-race winner Iwi Alex ($107,511), who Darrah trained to place twice at Group Two level, including the $40,000 City Of Sails Free For All at Alexandra Park in 2006.