It was Show Day for the mares at Addington. Blossom Lady, Pay Me Back led the charge, and Staka Pride set a record, taking 0.3 seconds off Glenfield Girl's mobile 2600m for a trotting mare in winning the Air New Zealand National Trotting Free-For-All in 3:18.7.
Staka Pride had finished third after a promotion on Cup Day, getting through quickly from the second line to trail. She didn't finish with any punch but held her ground. This time as usual, she flew out of the gate, led, and saved herself in the trail when passed by Hickory Stick near the 1800 metres. This time, she had a real kick at the finish when the gap came along the rail, forging through, racing ahead, and winning by a length.
The improvement was pretty much expected by driver Leo O'Reilly, whose previous biggest win was the 4-year-old championships at Forbury Park with Regal Maina, and her Waimate trainer Keith Coutts. "She goes much better with her races close together," said Leo, the regular driver this past year, taking over from Allister Scott, now in Australia. "We wanted to pick on a young driver and one we could help," said Keith, who races the hardy Stakhanovite mare with his wife Lorraine. "What we liked about Leo is that he is very patient, and you can come away still with a horse for another day," he said.
Leo, aged 30, has won three behind her. He has a team of 12 in work at Rakaia, headed by the capable Innovate. Others he expects to make the grade a Payson's Brother 3-year-old filly, a Noodlum half-sister to c1 pacer Stater, and a Fitch II half-sister to Innovate.
Coutts has four in work, including Staka Pride's 5-year-old brother, Reddington. Staka Pride was bred by National Bloodstock, and Coutts, who stood Stakhanovite at the stud, raced her on lease until he exercised his right of purchase after her 2:04 mile win at Ashburton as a 3-year-old. Staka Pride had been winning at an average of $1000 per start but her $21,875 prize has now put her past the $100,000 mark from 83 starts.
For Staka Pride to have a chance of winning Saturday night's Dominion Handicap, her connections know she won't be able to rough it the way William Dee and Ceddie can. "As long as she doesn't have to do any work, she will be all right," said Keith.
Hickory Stick was a sound second, ahead of Rosie O'Grady, which raced on the outside line near the pace and stuck to it well. Ceddie was again the rugged customer, finishing fourth after sitting out wide in the open for the last lap. The favourite William Dee galloped at the start, but trotted to the satisfaction of trainer John Langdon once he settled, and Game Paul ran 13th, putting in his best work when it was as good as over.
Credit: Mikr Grainger writing in HRWeekly 18Nov92