FEATURE RACE COMMENT
Smooth Performer's front running win in the $45,000 Nevele R Stud New Zealand Oaks was good news for the Southland syndicate who bought her sire Top Performer for $32,000 at auction in March.
Top Performer (1:55.6US) is to stand at Henderson and Shelly Hunter's stud farm at Edendale next season. Top Performer stood in Canterbury last season after earlier being at the Kenwood Stud in Cambridge. Smooth Performer is from the first crop of the son of Niatross. She is owned by Harness Racing Conference executive member Ollie Haines and his wife Irene who bred her from Annie Smooth (3 wins)who had her race career cut short by injury.
In an action replay of the Great Northern Oaks finish, only with the placings reversed, Smooth Performer hung on to win by half a head from Smooth Gretna, who had trailed three back on the fence for Glen Wolfenden. The previous week she had got up to score by a short neck but David Butcher's strong drive on Smooth Performer got her home. He was able to dictate the pace with few
serious challengers and sprinted home in 57.8 with the overall time being 3:17.5, 1.6s outside Happy Hazel's national record.
The hot favourite, Seaswift Franco, was trapped three and four wide over the first lap and then sat parked, leaving Jack Smolenski cursing the outside barrier draw and the bad luck which has dogged him since Time's Up won 10 years ago. Her effort deserved a better fate and the rich DB Fillies Final might provide her connections with some compensation. The racing luck was with Smooth Performer in the Oaks, leaving her connections over the moon. Trainer John Butcher described her a natural from day one while Haines, the vice-president of the Cambridge Club, said it was easily his biggest thrill in racing. It was Smooth Performer's seventh win in 13 starts and took her earnings over $96,000.
The first three home were clear of their rivals although c2 horses Camara Vance, who trailed, and Silky Midas, running on well after being second last most of the journey, did well to run fourth and fifth ahead of Alamidas who battled in the run home after improving wide the last lap.
Credit: Gary Birkett writing in HR Weekly