Franco Santino is now the fastest male pacer ever in Southland. Photo: Wild Range Photography.
Franco Santino provided the highlight of Wairio Mile day when he went within a tenth of a second of setting a new Southland record.
He kept the magic of the day alive, but not all the stats were positive.
Only 92 runners fronted for the day, 24 trotters and 68 pacers, down from 103 the year before.
A week earlier, Wyndham provided a programme of just two mobile miles, one 3200 metre race and the rest at 2400 and attracted 153 starters, up from 135 the year before.
Turnover figures show Wyndham coming out on top by more than $300,000.
Another factor indicating a lack of support for Mile Day was the number of horses from the Southern Harness catchment that headed north, 41 to Forbury Park two days earlier and 39 to the dual-code grass track meeting at Wingatui two days later. Just 10 of the 92 at Mile Day travelled from outside the region.
But on the track there were plenty of positives with 53 of the pacers and six of the trotters going 1:58 or better. Another 11 pacers and five trotters broke two minutes.
A year ago, classy three-year-old filly Delightful Memphis went 1:51.9 to set a Mile Day record and it was her time Franco Santino went so close to.
But his time is the fastest recorded by a male pacer, easily bettering Fly Like An Eagle's 1:53.9.
Trainer Nathan Williamson says he will run his Christian Cullen colt next week at Winton with the Southern Supremacy Stakes to follow a fortnight later.
“He's not a robust horse so it’s a case on managing him through his racing,” Williamson said of Franco Santino.
And the horseman is a supporter of Mile Day.
“Some trainers knock it but I quite like it,” he said.
“It’s good for the older horses to have something different. You need good-gaited and fit racehorses, draws come into it a bit, but that's the same regardless of the distance.”
Closing in on 200 training wins, Williamson has Scarlett Lane in at Forbury Park tonight and six on Saturday but is reluctant to pick which one will deliver.
“They're all nice chances, especially the two in the big trot (Splash Cola and Grey Power).”
Best of the maideners on Mile Day was the Kirk Larsen trained and driven Thatswhatisaid, who won by four-and-three-quarter lengths in 1:54.9.
“I probably didn't expect that - it didn't feel like we were going that quick - but the track was in great order,” he said.
And Larsen hopes the concept of the day continues.
“It's not everyone's cup of tea but it doesn't hurt to mix programmes up,” he said.
“And racing over a mile tends to sharpen them up, plus they bounce back quicker from a fast mile than a hard 2400.
“It’s a good chance for the fillies to get a good mile time, too.”
Thatswhatisaid races at Invercargill on Saturday ahead of next week's Nugget final.