YEAR: 2007


Nick Off Holme (outer) beating Days Of Courage
Not much has gone right for Nick Off Holme this season. Unable to pay a dividend in three starts when racing luck had been against her, her connections were left 'quite gutted' when she failed to gain a NZ Cup start.

Just to rub salt into the wounds, Nick Off Holme was saddled with the outside of the second line for the $50,000 Firestone Free-For-All over a 1950 sprint journey on Cup Day, which was probably going to be short of her best should the race develop into not much more than the usual sprint for home. The situation did not seem to have changed much either as late in the piece as the field streaming past the 600m, where Nick Off Holme and regular pilot Stephen McNally had only Woodlea Life behind them and a seemigly impossible task before them. But racing is a funny game and this event had actually panned out just perfectly for such a dour stayer as Nick Off Holme, the 6-year-old Holmes Hanover mare.

The pace up front had been frenetic, and anyone who had engaged in it was starting to feel the pinch as they raced inside the furlong. Game 4-year-old Days Of Courage was proving the gamest of them all, but Nick Off Holme descended on him from the clouds and delivered the knockout blow right on the post. In scoring by a nose with a challenge that had been timed down to perfection by a thousandth, Nick Off Holmes posted an all-comers' national 1950m record of 2:19.8, a mile rate of 1:55.3 which will be of immense long-term value to her breeding career.

Changeover's 2:20.3 (MR 1:55.7) from last year's Sires' Stakes will remain as the 3-year-old record, and Rameses and Winforu can still lay claim to being the equal fastest older male pacers in 2:30.s, but Nick Off Holme is now the fastest of them all and obliterated the mares' record of 2:21.3 held by Flying Sands, set in a lower-class race on Show Day five years ago. "I thought they'd got away a wee bit on me, but I knew they'd gone hard and she would run home strongly," said McNally. "But I didn't think she could make up that much ground," he added. McNally also drove Rameses in his record on Show Day two years ago, but outside of Ella Powell's NZ Trotting Oaks last year, this was the biggest win of McNally's eight-year driving career.

Trainer Paul Kerr agreed that Nick Off Holme's Group 3 success was of some consolation and of benefit to her broodmare value, but still would have liked to have seen her in the Cup for principal Christchurch owner Rusty Smith, who races her with Oamaru's David Owens and Dunedin's Bob Shaw after securing her at the 2003 Australasian Classic Sale for $17,000. "Owners dont get too many chances to start in the Cup, and it would have been nice for Rusty to have been there," said Kerr. "And I think on what she has done in the past, she probably deserved to be there too. The races this season before today had just been going against her - she was having to do the work to make them," he added. Given that Nick Off Holme had won more races and stakes (10 wins and $125,317) than Cup starter Keeprightondreaming and could claim two fourths in her three preceding races compared with his one fourth, admittedly in the Kaikoura Cup, a pretty good case could have been made.

Nick Off Holme is now the winner of 11 races and $152,632, which also includes miles at Ashburton in 1:56 and 1:56.7 and a Cup Week double at Addington two seasons ago, and all things being equal she will get her Cup start next year before she begins her broodmare career. There had been no consideration given to the latter this year. "The plan this season was always to have a go at everything, particularly the big mares' races again. She will now be set for the Queen Of The Pacific in Auckland and then come back here in the New Year."

Nick Off Holme has been third in the last two NZ Standardbred Breeders' Stakes to It's Ella and Mainland Banner after being fourth and fifth in the Premier Mares' Championship the week before, while at last year's Cup Meeting she was second to Mainland Banner and pushed her to go a mares' record of 3:09.7 for the 2600m mobile. "She's been a bit unlucky to be born the same year as Mainland Banner and Foreal, but perhaps this will be her season.

Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HR Weekly 15Nov07

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