Blair Orange, after being presented with a bottle of wine by HRNZ board rep Allan Brown and Manawatu HRC President, Dan Lynch. Photo: Royden Williams.
Christchurch reinsman Blair Orange has become just the second driver in New Zealand harness racing history to drive 200 winners in a season.
Orange brought up the milestone behind Mogul in the last race at Manawatu Raceway on Tuesday night.
It was his fifth win of the afternoon and his 44th at the Palmerston North track this season, almost all of them in the colours of trainer Michael House.
Orange follows good friend Dexter Dunn in to the ‘200 club’, Dunn having achieved the feat six times, firstly in 2009 and most recently last year.
Dunn’s final tally of 229 wins last season – a New Zealand record - is now firmly in Orange’s sights as he storms to a maiden drivers’ premiership.
Orange has 31 meetings, excluding Auckland and Cambridge, to drive at for the rest of the season, so a brand-new mark seems a formality.
Dunn, who has won the past 10 drivers’ premierships, has made a good fist of defending his crown, but is languishing on 172, some 28 behind Orange.
Indeed, Orange’s decision to accept House’s invite to be his stable driver at Manawatu this season has been the difference in the engrossing, nationwide battle.
House, who also trained five winners on the programme, was unable to attend the meeting, instead keeping track of the meeting from Christchurch Hospital, where his partner was in the process of giving birth.
Orange was not immediately available for comment.