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REVIEW OF 2017 PERTH INTERDOMINIONS

Maintaining the traditional Interdominion Championships format, Gloucester Park Harness Racing Club (Perth) recently held the third of its three years as host club (24 November – 8 December 2017. Home to the inaugural Interdominion (id) Championship in 1936, Gloucester Park (GP) was holding its sixteenth Interdominion  event, the most times of any Australasian venue.

Long term sponsor TABtouch provided the necessary financial support with a traditional ID format of three heats leading into the Grand Final. As we have done for the past fifteen ID’s (2004 – 2017, twice in 2015), my wife and I attended these latest Perth ID’s with Michael Gallenti’s Melbourne based harness racing travel specialists “Harness Racing Travelworld” (HRT). This year two tour durations (10 or 3 days) were offered, each tour given a topical horse name – the quinella from the 2016 Perth ID’s in Smolda (10 days) and Hectorjayjay (3 days). New Zealand owned, trained and driven horses were represented at the carnival this year with Mark Purdon’s pair of pre post favourite Lazarus and stablemate Have Faith In Me. In addition, a further 14 of the other 26 ID contenders were Kiwi bred horses, so overall the “NZ” presence again accounted for approximately three fifths of the final entries the Grand Final having 6 Kiwi breds out of 10 the contenders).

 

The nine qualifying heats run were over three nights between 24 November and 1 December (second night at Bunbury) with the Grand Final on Friday evening 8 December 2017. Prize money offered during the ID carnival again exceeded A$2.5m, the Grand Final representing A$1.1m alone (9 heats at A$75,000 and consolation at A$35,000). Other major races featured during the carnival were Group 1’s for four year olds in Golden Nugget (A$200,000) and Yes Loans Classic ($A125,000); Mares Classic (A$125,000); Trotters Cup for A$50,000; Group 2’s in 4yo Championship (A$50,000), Norms Daughter Classic (A$50,000), San Simeon and Binshaw heats and final (A$15,000/A$50,000) and Group Three Parliamentarians Cup for mares ($50,000).

 

Opening night winners of the 2130m heats as expected were the three favourites courtesy of their barrier draws. All three led over the entire journey with the first of these being Soho Tribeca (barrier 2) in a 1:54.2MR with an 11.2m margin to opening Interdominion favourite for 2017 in Kiwi pacer Lazarus (barrier 9); 2015 Interdominion champion Lennytheshark (3) took out the second heat over a courageous Tiger Tara in a 1:54.1MR with local WA glamour pacer Chicago Bull an easy winner of the third heat in a 1:55.6MR. The Norms Daughter Mares Classic (Gp2) was won by Victorian favourite Amaretto and the Group One Yes Loans 4yo Classic (Gp1) was taken out by NZ pacer and favourite Ultimate Machete, to complete a clean sweep of the major races by the most favoured horses on opening night.

Tiger Tara Bunbury

 

The second nights heats over 2100m were held at Bunbury with wins to Tiger Tara in a new track record (1:52.3) leading all the way from barrier one defeating Lazarus three wide from barrier six by 1.70m; WA local Galactic Star (1:54.9) caused a boil over when narrowly beating Yayas Hot Spot and Lennytheshark by head and head margins following a blistering late sprint finish while Soho Tribeca (1:55.2) completed his second heat win after leading all the way winning by 2.5m from Devendra and a fast finishing Chicago Bull who wasn’t clear until late in the piece.

Galactic Star Bunbury

 

Being part of a tour group means that harness racing is not the only activity engaged in but other events are organised to maintain the interest of participants. A brief outline of our 10 day tour follows having commenced on Thursday 30 November with a welcome cocktail function at the Esplande Hotel, Fremantle our base for the next few days. The next two days we were free to explore Fremantle (markets, local sights, Fishing Boat Harbour, Maritime Museum etc) interspersed with the third night of ID heats at Gloucester Park on Friday 1 December (Italian night celebration).

 

Comfortably situated in our reserved seating in the Beau Rivage Restaurant, these heats determined the ID Grand Finalists. Winners over 2536m were Lazarus (1:54.5)  lowering Im Themightyquinn’s Gloucester Park track record for the distance after settling back in the field before taking off three wide to lead from 1400m. Stablemate Have Faith In Me paced his best race getting to within 1.75m of Lazarus who simply cruised to the line under a tight hold. Chicago Bull (1:56.0) was an all the way winner from the inside barrier draw leaving Tiger Tara to face the breeze to finish 4m in arrears. Soho Tribeca’s colours were lowered for the first time in the heats by Victorian San Carlo (1:56.3) after he led throughout although over racing for young reinswoman Rebecca Bartley who notched her biggest career success to date.

Chicago Bull third night

 

A Piccadilly Princess turned the tables on Ideal Alice in this year’s Group Three Parliamentarians Cup for mares (2016 winner was Ideal Alice) while Rock Diamonds bred in NZ by the Whitelocks (parents of several All Blacks) was victorious in the Group Two Westral 4yo Championship. This nights racing featured Italian night at the Raceway with Gloucester Park’s usual brilliant fireworks display after the conclusion of the evenings racing.

 

 

A further innovation this year was the scheduling of an International Invitation Drivers series (sponsored by SKY Racing, long-time Gloucester Park Harness Racing (GPHR) supporter Slater Gartrell Sports and Harness Racing Australia) spread over the third and fourth nights at Gloucester Park. It featured North American drivers James MacDonald of Canada, recently crowned 2017 World Drivers champion and third place getter Marcus Miller of the United States taking on Australasia’s leading drivers Mark Purdon (NZ), Victorians Chris Alford, Kerryn Manning and Greg Sugars, Todd McCarthy (NSW) and local West Australians Chris Lewis, Gary Hall junior, Ryan Warwick, Kim Prentice and Shannon Suvaljko.

 

The results from this series of four races saw victories to Greg Sugars, Chris Lewis (1 December) and James MacDonald (first Canadian to drive a winner at Gloucester Park), Ryan Warwick (8 December) with the overall winner being Gary Hall Jnr with 36 points followed by Ryan Warwick and Chris Lewis with 32 points (James MacDonald fifth 27 points, Marcus Miller tenth 19 points).

 

Sunday 3 December dawned with Father Brian Glasheen (“the Pacing Priest”) conducting an Inter denominational harness racing mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth, blessing the Grand Finalists colours; travelling up from Fremantle at midday attending the Barrier Draw luncheon in the Golden Nugget Room at Gloucester Park. World Drivers champion James MacDonald together with Marcus Miller and his father USA Hall of Famer Erv Miller were interviewed by Gareth Hall and Adam Hamilton. After the barrier draw a calcutta took place where five of the tour group drew horses including Lazarus. As has been the norm with a number of Perth ID tours, a pleasant Monday afternoon’s country harness racing was enjoyed at Pinjarra.

 

Departing Fremantle on Tuesday morning and travelling south towards our two night stay in Margaret River, we stopped for a stroll around and lunch in Bunbury’s city centre. On arrival in Margaret River, free time was available to explore the craft shops and galleries located throughout the village. Wednesday could best be described as winery day – stops at Voyager Estate for a tour of the winery and beautiful garden’s; lunch and/or cellar door tastings at either Xanadu or Watershed Wineries plus a drive through Boronup Forest (Jarrah, Marri and Karri hardwood trees) and a visit to Boronup Gallery’s collection of hardwood furniture. The following day we travelled north to Bussleton, famous for its 1.8km, world’s longest wooden jetty where we hopped aboard the “jetty train” before exploring the Underwater Observatory at the end of the jetty. Followed by lunch on the foreshore and a brief “ice cream” stop in the coastal centre of Mandurrah, arriving into Perth late afternoon Thursday 7 December.

 

Friday 8 December dawned very warm with a full day’s activities in store beginning with the regular HRT Interdominion Calcutta at lunchtime at the Novotel Langley. With regular MC John Dunne, featuring expert panelists Jason Lincoln from Perth’s Sky Channel, Gloucester Park CEO Mick Radley and HRT tour guide Mark Lowe, a great afternoon was had by all. Friday evening and all was in readiness for the 2017 TABtouch Perth Interdominion Grand Final. This evening we were situated in the Golden Nugget Restaurant with reserved seating in the Sir Frank Ledger grandstand for the concluding stages of yet another successful ID championship.

 

Much has been written and said about the win of Lazarus in the ID’s Grand Final. Despite being beaten into second in two of the heats, the current NZ Harness Horse of the Year was the dominant horse of the championships. Setting one track record, racing parking in another track record and facing the breeze over the last two laps of the 2936m final and still able to win by four metres untouched and without being expended in a time (1:57.6) a little lower than last year’s victory by Smolda (1:55.8). Lazarus is now the third ID Pacing winner driven by Mark Purdon (also three ID Trot Grand Final winning drives) and his second Pacing final training success (also five ID Trot Grand Final training successes).

 

As expected Tiger Tara attempted to lead all the way from his inside barrier position, obtaining the lead easily without real pressure. Lazarus settled in sixth place before moving forward three wide to be parked outside Tiger Tara with two laps to run. With 400m left Lazarus took the lead easily holding off Chicago Bull who had a charmed run three back on the markers and had plenty of time to issue his challenge. With a last half in 54.6/27.27.2, no one made up any ground on Lazarus.

Lazarus GF, Chicago Bull (outside), Tiger Tara (inside)

 

Two time NZ Cup winner and still only a five year old, the Bettors Delight stallion won by four point one metres from Chicago Bull with Tiger Tara a further 1.6m back in third place. Bettors Delight provided the trifecta for the ID Pacing Grand Final with the three NZ breds completing this unique occurrence. The 2936m journey was covered in a time of 3:34.5, a 1:57.6 mile rate (54.6/27.2).

 

Lazarus is owned by Glenys and Philip Kennard (part owners of last year’s winner Smolda), Trevor Casey and Kevin Riseley. His dam Bethany was NZ’s Pacing Broodmare of the Year last season, this being the family of Mona R (U307). With his earnings now exceeding $3m, he is the richest son of Bettors Delight with a personal best mile of 1:49.0 set at Menangle earlier this year (third fastest Bettors Delight in Australasia behind Mark Purdon/Natalie Rasmussen trained stablemates Have Faith In Me and Adore Me, both out of broodmare gem Scuse Me). Perth harness racing fans will have the opportunity to see Lazarus tackle the Fremantle and WA Pacing Cups next month before he heads east for the Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile.

 

Other major winners on Grand Final night : Ultimate Machete winning the Group One Retravision 4yo Golden Nugget; The Bucket List, one of two winners for Michael Grantham (dr) and Michael Brennan (tr) on the night took out the Group Two TABTouch Pacers Consolation; Ideal Alice won her first Group One in the Westral Mares Classic; Ganymede mare Itsgettingcalder added the Group One Trotters Cup to her resume for driver Chris Voak who also won the final event  with former Kiwi Costa Del Magnifico while Group Two Binshaw Classic and San Simeon Finals were won by Aussie Delight and Mista Shark respectively. Bettors Delight was the only multiple winning stallion on the night with Lazarus, Ultimate Machete and Aussie Delight. NZ bred horses won eight of the eleven race programme.

 

Overall, the carnival produced competitive racing with many quick times, the quality of Interdominion contenders was the highest of the three consecutive years in Perth thanks to the likes of Lazarus, Lennytheshark, Soho Tribeca, Chicago Bull, Tiger Tara, all being in attendance plus major supporting acts in Ultimate Machete and the international drivers.

 

Gloucester Park can be well pleased with the third and final running of their three year agreement to host the Interdominions. In reverting back to the traditional Interdominion format of three nights of heats and a Grand Final they certainly satisfied the requirements of true harness racing fans over the three years of their tenure as ID hosts.

 

A short, exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable few days of high class harness racing. A great spectacle and carnival presented by the good people at Gloucester Park, as well as an excellent day out at Pinjarra. It is already countdown time for next year’s 2018 Interdominion Grand Final to be hosted at Melton where Australasia’s most prestigious harness racing event, the Interdominions returns again to Victoria after a ten year absence (pacing only as trotting ID’s ceased with 2012 trotters ID’s at Melton). It can’t come quick enough to be involved in the next instalment of the Interdominion Championships which are likely to feature heats held at country Victorian tracks.

 

Next year’s championships are the commencement of a nine year, 3-rotation plan proposed by co-hosts Harness Racing Victoria (HRV), Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ), Club Menangle (NSWHRC) and Harness Racing NSW (HRNSW) and endorsed by the Interdominion Council (IDEC). Following Victoria’s hosting of the Grand Final on 15 December 2018, New Zealand, expected to be Auckland will host their grand final on 13 December 2019 and then New South Wales on 4 December 2020. Two repeats of the rotation, with hopefully Christchurch (2022) replacing Auckland as the New Zealand venue in the second rotation will follow.

 

 

 

Peter Craig

 

15 December 2017

 

 

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