Max Phactor (centre) noses out Black Chevron (closest) and Razor Brogden (far side) in the Hawera Cup. Photo: Royden Williams.
A very quiet season for horse and trainer received a significant boost when Max Phactor took out the $14,000 Hawera Cup on Monday in the hands of Phil Butcher.
The Mike Berger-trained five-year-old backed up his day one victory with a photo finish win over Black Chevron and Razor Brogden in a thrilling finale to the two-day meeting.
It was almost 11 months since Max Phactor, twice placed fourth in Group 1 races, won the last of his previous seven wins.
Berger reckons his charge has been a glaring victim of the new handicapping system and he very nearly didn’t go to the meeting with his whole team when he was told the horse couldn’t race on day 1 with a junior driver concession.
“The race on the first day wasn’t going to get off the ground so I tried to put him in with a junior concession but the handicapper said no.
“Eventually after a discussion with (Club Secretary) Carey Hobbs he relented.
“Both him and Lusty Mac have been slaughtered from when they brought the system in; he had to go straight in to racing open class horses.
“They’ve been absolutely murdered and that’s part of the reason he hadn’t won a race for near on a year.”
Max Phactor is undoubtedly a class horse – you don’t earn of $130,000 by age five by fluke, but Berger is now wondering where to go with him beyond a race in June.
“He ran third in the Uncut Gems ($40,000) race at Addington after the Jewels last year and I think it’s at Auckland this season.
“So, we’ll give him a wee break and set him for that, but after that, I don’t know.
“I’m pondering what to do with him, really – we might have to sell him or send him to Aussie.
“There’s not much point running around getting beaten for another six months.”
Berger only had six wins in the bank for the season before his Hawera double and says it’s just a case of not having the firepower of recent years.
“I haven’t had the type of horse that you need for this system – older geldings that just keep going round.”
“There is a few young ones there but I have been pretty quiet.”
It’s been by design, though.
“I’ve always intended to wind down a little bit and will continue to do so over the next 12 months.
“I’m 65 at the end of the year and I don’t need to be working 11-hour days forever.”
IN spite of a disappointing performance and finishing down the track, Te Awamutu pacer Classie American won the North Island Country Cups Championship after a consistent showing throughout the grass track circuit.
He earned a $6,000 bonus and a dress rug for his connections, including trainer Ron Richardson, while Black Chevron ($2,500) and Marshal Star ($1,500) were also rewarded.
He actually held an insurmountable lead heading in to the last of the 11 qualifying races, which started with the Parawai Cup at Thames on January 13.
IN-FORM Auckland junior driver Tony Cameron continued on his winning ways with an emotional win in the first race of the day.
Cameron, sporting a black armband, flourished his whip as he crossed the line on Monarchy Invasion, acknowledging his brother, Ian, who passed away suddenly on Saturday night.
Ian, like Tony, was the son of former South Auckland trainer Dale Cameron.