Six hundred metres after the start of the $60,000 Taubmans Dominion Trotting Handicap the race was as good as over. It was at that point that Basil Dean took control and the point at which the remaining 11 drivers appeared to settle for fighting out the minor placings.
At the finish of the 3200 metres Basil Dean was two and three-quarter lengths clear. His time for the distance, 4:12.9, was the second fastest recorded in the race - only Alias Armbro's 4:12.3 being faster but that being set on a fine sunny day. Cal Brydon, after being very late clearing a pocket, charged home to snatch second from a gallant Jenner in the shadows of the post, with Tussle close up fourth.
Basil Dean is owned by trainer Bob Jamison of Ashburton and Tim Newton. He has now won 22 of 54 starts and over $154,000 in stakes. Basil Dean opened up a warm favourite, eventually returning $1.60 for a win and even money for a place. After taking control, Kerry O'Reilly took hold of Basil Dean and set only a steady pace for the remainder of the first mile. After that O'Reilly quickened the tempo, sprinting sharply from the 1000 metres and giving those at the back little chance to make headway. The Great Evander gelding turned for home with a handy lead and O'Reilly didn't even have to flick the whip at the eight-year-old as he coasted over his last 800 metres in 59.4 and final 400 in 30.
The race was certainly not an exciting spectacle. The only real race was that for the minor placings. Cal Brydon, back four places on the inside for much of the way, managed to clear a pocket inside the 200 metres and Peter Wolfenden sent him out after the leaders. He came quickly, taking second from Jenner, but had no chance of overhauling Basil Dean. Jenner's run was eye catching. Driver Jack Carmichael was left parked on the outside when Basil Bean assumed control. He eased Jenner back to sit on the outside of the third line for the first 2200 metres of the race. He gradually moved Jenner up going down the back for the last time and the horse fought on exceptionally well for third. "A good run," said Carmichael after. "He was doing his best without the whip. It was a good run after being left in the open."
Second favourite Sir Castleton was sixth. He bounded away from the start and added 30 metres to his ten metre handicap before Doody Townley could settle him into a trot. After catching the field with half the race completed, Townley got on to the back of Adiantum going down the back, but this proved more of a hinderence than a help. Brought wide turning for home, it was clear that he had no chance of returning a dividend, but the Game Pride eight-year-old finished on resolutely to deadheat with a tiring Game Command for sixth place.
The only real disappointment in the race was Noble Advice. A proven stayer, the gelding was backed into fifth favouritism but only battled into eigth place after enjoying a trouble free run.
Credit: Brian Carson writing in NZ Trotting Calendar
The $50,000 Dominion Handicap had more of the ingredients of a three act play than a race for trotters, and the drama unfolded to a deafening roar from the audience as the leading lady, Scotch Notch, stole the show.
Act one occupied the first 1600 metres of the 3200 metre event as Basil Dean grabbed centre stage and the lead. Veteran Stormy Morn, the 1981 Dominion winner, was cast in a supporting role in act two as he made the first move, allowing the leading man, Sir Castleton, to tack on his back, tracked all the way by the Australian star. Basil Dean was still playing a major part under the direction of Kerry O'Reilly as he gave rein in the back straight the last time, and he looked like upstaging the two stars. But the real drama was yet to come and, like the best plays, only unfolded in the dying seconds.
First Sir Castleton stode front and centre stage as he swept forward from the 400 metres to challenge Basil Dean and bit players Tussle and About Now. To the crowds acclamation, Sir Castleton strode to the lead, but it was a short lived triumph. The last and climatic scene belonged to Scotch Notch. She strode past Sir Castleton in the last 50 metres as though he were just a stage hand. In just a few strides, Scotch Notch took the final curtain all on her own.
Though supported by a cast of only eight, which was quickly reduced to seven when Para's Star broke, Scotch Notch was dominant, so much so that she made even the highly rated Sir Castleton look second rate.
Though she was only required to trot the 3200 metres in 4:17, Scotch Notch turned in a sensational last 800 metres, being clocked at 56.6 as she came from seven lengths off the pace. Her last 1600 metres took just 2:01. "The harder they went, the happier I was," was Graeme Lang's comment after the event. "No, no worries at any stage. She's done really well this week, thanks to Colin," Graeme said. Scotch Notch spent the week prior to the race quartered at Colin De Filippi's Ladbrooks stables, where she recovered from the leg problems and started to eat properly.
Pat O'Reilly junior, the driver of Sir Castleton, had no excuses. "She was just too good," Pat said. "He trotted a bit roughly on the home turn, but it didn't make any difference. She would have beaten him whatever happened. I thought maybe I had her in the straight, but he just fell in a heap the last bit."
Pat's brother Kerry gave himself some chance when he held a handy lead at the 400 metres, "but they were just too fast," he said. Basil Dean was nearly two lengths in arrears of Sir Castleton, and only a nose in front of the honest little mare About Now, who tried hard to foot it with her younger rivals, but could not muster the same sprint. Tussle enjoyed the run of the race but showed only brief fight on the home turn before wilting to fifth, while the others were comprensively beaten.
Credit: Tony Williams writing in NZ Trotting Calendar
The theory of wind resistance played an important part in Tussle's courageous Dominion Handicap win. Moments before "Shorty" moved away from the shelter of the birdcage and into the uncompromising 14 knot easterly on the track, her owner-trainer Dr Cliff Irvine untied the dust sheet on the sulky and tucked it under his arm.
Irvine successfully tried the tactic at Addington 25 years ago when Light Mood took third in the President's Hadicap at long odds. "It was blowing a gale that day, and Doug Watts said to me in the birdcage 'why don't you pull the mud sheet off?'," Irvine recalled.
the 65-year-old Lincoln College veterinary professor "hasn't had occasion" to use the ploy in the last quarter of a century, but after consulting Tussle's driver Peter Jones, and his old cobber Derek Jones, he had no hesitation. "Derek told me he had done it when Soangetaha won one of his Auckland Cups, and Peter said he didn't mind getting gravel in his face, so we took it off as quickly as we could in the birdcage. On a very windy day it acts like a sail and it would have a retarding effect - it is tough enough for her with Peter in the cart, being a little horse, let alone having a spinnaker out there."
And Irvine's snap decision was vindicated when Tussle, after her familiar beginning to land in fourth place, was left straining into the wind with still 1800 of the 3200m heartbreaker left. By then comeback hero and 1984 Dominion winner Basil Dean had his rivals struggling to stay in touch with his eager front-running, which reminded some of his awesome 2600m world record two years ago. "When he was attacked by Admiral Soanai down the back he got fired up and on the bit, so I thought it best to let him bowl along," driver Kerry O'Reilly said. "I could see Basil Dean was serious," Jones said, "and she's just as good parked as anywhere else in the field...but she was struggling to keep up with him."
Sally Marks, Tussle's faithful companion and strapper, watched dejectedly as the pack bounced down the stretch with a lap to travel. "She's hanging badly - I think she's had enough," Marks said, pulling in another lungful of Pall Mall and walking aimlessly towards the outside rail. Tussle did look beaten as the 800m peg came and went, her trotting action unusually scratchy and her head bobbing from side to side.
With a fierce tail wind down the back straight for the final time, Basil Dean punched three lengths clear and the murmurings of the crowd sensed an emotional upset. "But he wasn't quite up to it," O'Reilly said. "I knew half-way down the back he was struggling. He's still got the speed, and he's sound, but he didn't quite have the race fitness." Basil Dean's ground-devouring stride began to shorten on the last bend, and tiny Tussle quickly gathered him in and scooted two lengths ahead. And as first the sturdy warrior Jenner, who had followed Tussle throughout, and handsome favourite Melvander (who had tracked Jenner) balanced themselves before attacking, she lowered her head, flattened her ears and cut through the wind to the post. With 100m left, both Jenner and Melvander seemed poised to gun down 'Shorty', but with her new found strength this season she determinedly held the pair outto score by a long neck.
Veteran Christchurch horseman Jack Carmichael could not quite cap his successful Cup carnival, settling for second and $20,000 with Jenner. "I thought half-way down the straight he might get to her, but she was just too good," he said. Melvander finished a further long neck behind after almost exploding into a gallop 50m off the line. "I was smiling around the corner, but then he started to trot roughly and I had to take hold of him," driver Jack Smolenski said. South Auckland mare Landora's Pride rattled into fourth ahead of Simon Katz, while the others struggled home victims of a punishing last 2400m of around 3.04. "She simply outstayed them all," Jones said of Tussle later. "She can really fight them off now, and had them covered all the way down the straight."
When asked if he considered removing Tussle's dust sheet made the vital difference between winning and losing, he replied: "It was blowing quite hard and I suppose it's got to make a difference. She was battling into the wind from the 1800m, she had the worst run of all the horses that figured in the finish, but she kept going right to the line."
Irvine described Tussle's Dominion Handicap win as one of her two greatest performances, the other being her dazzling 2:31.9 national record for a flying 2000m which she set fresh-up in September. "She always surprises me how well she goes and how she keeps on improving, even this year as a ten-year-old," he said.
There are few mountains now left for the champion daughter of Tuft to climb. She has captured the two most prized trotting crowns in New Zealand: the Dominion Handicap and the Rowe Cup (1985). Her 3200m time, despite the ravaging gale, was 4:13.81, which lowered Indette's national record for a trotting mare. And the $65,000 winner's cheque bumped Tussle's earnings to $268,055 in New Zealand, making her the greatest stakewinning trotter in history.
Credit: Matt Conway writing in HR Weekly
1984 FIRESTONE EUROSTEEL TROTTING CHAMPIONSHIP
Last Sunset was devastating in winning the $50,000 Air New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All by a head from Waihemo Hanger in 3:14.4, nipping nearly a second off Basil Deans's 3:15.3 he ran in the NZ Trotting Championship at Addington in 1984, and from all accounts he is not quite trotting to the satisfaction of trainer Tony Herlihy.
In light of this information and considering the enormous effort of Waihemo Hanger, the others will need to be on full alert to head him off.
Tim Butt won't know for sure until Friday night if he has Take A Moment as fit and well as he would like. What he does know is that he will need to be 100% fit if he is to beat Last Sunset in the Clark Boyce Lawyers $100,000 Dominion Handicap at Addington. In neither of his Cup Carnival runs has Take A Moment been right on his game. It wasn't obvious on Cup Day when he won off a 20m handicap, but it was on Show Day as he laboured home in the free-for-all.
Is there a problem with Take A Moment? Yes, there is. Not major, nothing in fact that might not be repaired and warrant-of-fitnessed in good time for the race. Take A Moment had a corn removed from his near-side foot last Wednesday, the day after his win over Special Force and Major decision.
Credit: mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 21Nov01