Season in review, part 4 - November

For everyone in harness racing, November is like grand final time in racing, with features such as the NZ Cup, Dominion Handicap and Sires Stakes final that all play out. We would be there for all of November's big days, but for Robert, it is 4 November that he will long remember, the day that courtesy of Heisenberg, he trained his 1500th New Zealand winner.

The month started on a positive note for long-time stable clients Nigel Armstrong and Westview Racing, with Madam Sass delivering her maiden win on the first day at Kaikoura. Day Two would prove a day that Robert and all of the stable will never forget.

Starting the day on 1498 New Zealand wins, it was Classie Brigade that turned on one of his best performances, leading throughout to win the Group Two by a length over Cruz Bromac in a superb front-running performance. The win was a major confidence booster to his chances in the following week's two mile feature.

Classie Brigade wins the Group Two Kaikoura Cup

Just one race later was the Listed PGG WRIGHTSON NZ YSS AGED CLASSIC. Represented by three strong chances - Heisenberg, Stars Tonight and Franco Niven, it was the dream result that unfolded with a stable trifecta in that order. Appropriately it was John that reined home Heisenberg, adding a special touch to the occasion. Robert was now part of a small and exclusive club of trainers that had trained 1500 winners. The day was capped off with a third winner for the day - Jay Tee Tyron - and all thoughts now turned to Cup Day in a week's time.

Cup Day 2019 saw a big representation as always from the stable. Three year old Sugar Loaf was good in winning early on in her first race start, while trotting mare Bonnie Highlander was back in winning form after having her share of issues in previous months. Things boded well for a big day. However, as the day's features kicked into gear - the Trotting FFA and the Sires Stakes, our high hopes took a dive with back luck and below par performances marring the runs of stable runners. While Classie Brigade appeared back in form with a great win the week before, there was a big question mark over Henry Hubert which was going in fresh after having overcome a virus that troubled his cup preparation.

While all the plaudits belonged to cup winner Cruz Bromac and driver Blair Orange, both of our runners did us proud. With little luck for either, they both got home powerfully from well back in the running to finish 3rd (Classie Brigade) and 6th (Henry Hubert) respectively. 

Classie Brigade storms into third behind Cruz Bromac

The Group One racing quickly moved onto the Friday, with the Free-For-All and the Dominion Handicap the big goes. It was the Dominion Handicap first up and what a run by Valloria. After missing away along with stablemate Woodstone early, Valloria staged a huge recovery to run fifth, later to be disqualified after the early break, this run signalling that he was ready to match it with the better ones in the open class trotting ranks.

John and Classie Brigade had the draw in the pacers Free-For-All and use it they did. After holding up the early lead, albeit slightly fortuitously after Cruz Bromac went off stride, John was able to control the race from the front. Coming off the back the last time John had a handful of horse and only Chase Auckland (trail) looked a threat. While he fought like a tiger, it was Chase Auckland courtesy of a soft run that would prove too good. Again however, Classie Brigade had done us proud. The two day New Zealand Cup carnival finished for us on a good note, with I'm Tough taking out the last race of the carnival.

Classie Brigade as brave as ever running second in the Free-For-All

With the cup carnival now over, many of the combatants now headed north to chase the big spoils attached to Auckland's Inter-Dominion carnival.

Dexter had continued to excel in the states winning a host of further features. His seven winners at Dover Downs on 22 November equalled his personal best in a day and took to $11 million his stakes won for the year. Kapai was an Alexandra Park winner that evening also. A day later Franco Niven was winning for us in junior drivers' company with Ben Hope at the helm.

The first night of the Inter-Dominions completed proceedings for the month on 29 November at Alexandra Park. Valloria placed 4th in his heat, behind Paramount King, while Bonnie Highlander was the best of our two in the second of the trotters heats running 6th. In terms of the pacers, the draws proved a killer with Henry Hubert (last) and Classie Brigade (8th) both looking for a lot better luck with the draws if they were to feature on night two. 

Posted: Wed 01 Apr 2020