YEAR: 1991

Christopher Vance parades after the win

Christopher Vance and Chokin gave Tony Herlihy further armchair drives as they followed up their NZ Cup and Sires' Stakes Final victories of three days earlier by accounting for the Air New Zealand Free-For-All and Coupland Bakeries Three-Year-Old Stakes with similar consummate ease.

Christopher Vance trailed The Bru Czar in the Free-For-All, Herlihy taking a calculated risk that the good Kumeu pacer would move out in the straight as he had noticed him doing in his races. It paid off. When The Bru Czar veered away from the hub rail in answering the game of the parked-out Surmo Way, Christopher Vance was quickly through on the inner and on to victory by a length in 2:26.8 for the mobile 2000m.

A 1:58.2 rate, this was nevertheless well outside Armalight's race and New Zealand mark of 2:23.5, established a decade ago. But, as with Chokin, Chrisopher Vance won with much in hand. It took his record to 41 starts, 20 wins, 10 seconds and 4 thirds for $843,720.

The Bru Czar held second by a nose from Surmo Way, with Clancy a strong finisher from the rear into fourth, a length and a quarter back.

Credit: Ron Bisman writing in HR Weekly


YEAR: 1991

Katrina Purdon, Chrisopher Vance & Tony Herlihy

Christopher Vance won the 1991 DB Draught NZ Cup with a surprisingly good race that simply reflected the big-race temperament and experience of Tony Herlihy.

While Starship made a flyer from wide out, and Master Musician didn't waste any time, Herlihy had some lucky breaks getting Christopher Vance through from the second line and was soon seventh and improving. There were some who made a mess of the start, notably Defoe which was no surprise on his recent behaviour and Blossom Lady, who went away safely but then lost stride.

By the time they caught up, which wasn't long because the pace was so tediously slow, Herlihy had worked Christopher Vance into the trailing spot behind outsider Surmo Way. Robert Dunn had Master Musician buried on the rails behind Clancy and in front of Lord Magic, while Mark Purdon had no complaints with the lie of the land as he tracked up Christopher Vance. The Bru Czar was back on the outer, and with him were Two Under, Stratum and Insctcha.

Once the lines were set, there was no change. The Bru Czar or Two Under may have been expected to make a move on the first lap, even at the mile, but they stayed where they were. It was obvious with a lap to run, with a sprint home certain to develop, that the front bunch had it made. Any hope of a spectacle was right out the window.

Gary Hillier stepped on the gas with The Bru Czar passing the 800 metres, and Mark Hanover came out to force him three wide only to gallop and lose all chance at the 600 metres. In the meantime, Dunn had Master Musician moving sweetly inside The Bru Czar and right behind Christopher Vance, who was now three wide at the 400 metres and closing hard. What apparently happened then, according to stewards, was interference caused by The Bru Czar which forced Master Musician onto Clancy's wheel and into a break.

This had gone on behind Surmo Way, who has bravely passed Starhip and taken, briefly, a narrow lead. But the favourite quickly had his say, and ran ahead to beat Clancy, The Bru Czar (later relegated to 13th), the game Surmo Way and the stablemates Insutcha and Mark Hanover.

The race was a pressing bore.

Many who thought it was a tame affair when Neroship won the Cup in 1990 now consider that event quite exciting. Said one regular enthusiast:"At least in that there were five lead changes. In this one the horse that led out, led into the straight, and they all sat back on a 2:05 first mile.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HR Weekly


YEAR: 1992

Derek Jones, the Polly Synd & Blossom Lady

Cheered to the echo by loyal Canterbury fans, Blossom Lady made it a case of "third time lucky" as she stormed to victory over Southland's Giavanetto and the hapless Auckland favourite Christopher Vance in Tuesday's $300,000 DB Draught New Zealand Cup.

Trained by popular Templeton horseman Derek Jones, who in 1980 produced winner Hands Down (driven by son Peter) and driven a treat by Jones' grandson Anthony Butt, Blossom Lady, though owned in the Central Districts, has long been the darling of the Addington fans.

"I am shaking so much. I feel as if I'm going to faint." It was one of those days, temperatures into the 20's, thousands of people in their best costumes, and husband out on the track in those famous maroon and grey stripes. But it was just seconds after the Cup, and Karen Butt had more reason than anyone to feel it was much more than another Cup Day. As members of the Polly Syndicate brushed aside tears of joy waiting for Blossom Lady to return to a huge home crowd reception, Karen said: "I was wondering if it was going to be one of those races for Anthony. I know he is only young, but he has had six or seven goes in it...and she just deserved one of these big ones."

Anthony handled the race and the questions with the professional approach one has come to expect from him. Even his wife had to wait for her celebratory kiss until he had satisfied the media with his commentary on the event. For the first time in the past three years, Anthony did not have the pressure he had been under in previous years when Blossom Lady was one of the favourites. He noticed the change, he said. Two years ago, he has sat back on an easy pace and rattled home late for fifth, and last year when third favourite, she broke at the start and beat only one.

This time, Blossom Lady had been campaigned with what seemed a slightly unorthodox campaign by Templeton trainer Derek Jones, who raced her in Auckland in late winter and then gave her three starts in Queensland. She picked up a virus and returned home. In her four starts since resuming, Blossom Lady has raced well without winning, though Anthony was never despondent. "She has certainly lost some of her quick speed, but I felt she has been getting better and better. I gave her an outside chance beforehand," he said.

Although Anthony termed it a "funny sort of race," it unfolded into his lap. He settled the stable favourite into the midfield on the inner, and angled her off the fence when Its Motor Power herbed to the front passing the 1900m. He was left in clear air briefly until Master Musician gave him cover, and started to fancy his chances when he got cover again, near the 1200m.

"Everything went to plan. I was lucky when Master Musician came round to give me cover, and she came away in the end. It feels terrific...nothing better...a lifetime dream. She is a big favourite with the crowd." And she is a big favourite with Anthony. Before the Cup, Premiership and Blossom Lady had both won him 14 races. 'The Bloss' chose her moment well to edge ahead.

Christopher Vance cantered off from the 15m back mark, and, to the dismay of the multitude who had installed him a $2.50 shot, galloped and added at least another 30m to his handicap. Victorian visitor It's Motor Power was another off stride in the early rush, and he wound up out the back, just ahead of Christopher Vance - but not for very long.

Giovanetto made the early play for Jack Smolenski, who was happy to take a trail when Jim O'Sullivan swept up and around and into the lead with It's Motor Power 1800m from home. Immediately, Barry Purdon sooled Sogo from just off the pace into the lead. Anthony Butt moved Blossom Lady, who had been handy on the inner, out and around, and after being briefly parked she got a perfect 1-1 sit as Master Musician improved to sit parked on Sogo's wheel. Smolenski had now angled Giovanetto out to track Blossom Lady. It's Motor Power held the trail, followed on the rail by Millie's Brother and The Bru Czar, with the last four two Under, Insutcha, Lawn Boy and Christopher Vance.

The first mile had required 2:04.6, and as the speed went on down the back, positions stayed virtually the same. Smolenski was first to make his move - something he said afterward he perhaps should not have done. Blossom Lady went with Giovanetto and the pair sorted themselves out, with the 8-year-old mare, showing the experience of many tough battles, edging ahead of her 4-year-old challenger and beat him to the wire by a length and a quarter.

Christopher Vance, reserved by Tony Herlihy for one run at them from 500m out, powering down the outer for third, a length away. The Bru Czar headed the others, battling on after clearing traffic, followed in by Insutcha, Two Under, Millie's Brother, Master Musician, Lawn Boy, Sogo and It's Motor Power.

With Blossom Lady clocking 4:05 and the leaders covering their final 800m in 58.4, Christopher Vance was timed his last mile in 1:58, 800m in 56.7 and 400 in 27.1.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 12Nov92


YEAR: 1993

Chokin is too strong for Blossom Lady

A good crowd, an exciting race, a finish which had everyone on their feet and a performance to marvel at. Those were the ingredients that made the 1993 DB Draught Easter Cup one of the more memorable races seen at Addington in recent years. From the time the 'guns' - Blossom Lady, Christopher Vance and Chokin - came into the race with sweeping runs in the middle stages, it was obvious something special was about to happen.

Anthony Butt took Blossom Lady into the lead with 1500m to run, forcing Christopher Vance to sit parked, while Chokin was fortunate to drop into the one-one after tracking then around when Mac Magpie was unable to match the torrid tempo. The pace had been merry from the outset but Blossom Lady wound things up another notch. Obviously at the top of her game at present, Blossom Lady attempted to grind her rivals into submission and had Christopher Vance struggling a long way out.

But the big threat was always going to be Chokin, who despite an early mistake which added to his 15m handicap, received a relatively economical passage over the last mile. 'The Bloss' skipped clear on the corner and for a moment it appeared she might have enough of a break to win the Cup for the second time. But Chokin, a star half her age and also at the top of his form, was not to be denied and got up in the dying stages to win going away by a length.

It was an enormous performance by the Vance Hanover gelding, and there was just as much merit in the run of Blossom Lady. The heat was really only on up front from the mile, but Chokin was timed over his last 2400m in 2:57, 2000m in 2:24.3, 1600m in 1:56 and 800 in 56.6, completing the 3200m journey in 4:03.

Only Insutcha, last year's winner of the event in 4:02.4, has paced a faster two mile trip at night and on this occasion a chilly wind made conditions less than conducive to fast times. "I didn't want to have to chase him up with the whip unless I had too, and I didn't," said driver Tony Herlihy.

The 10m runners, Sogo, Two Under and Butler's First, were next in a gap of three and a half lengths, really only in a race for the third cheque, while Christopher Vance faded to ninth and disappointed trainer-driver Barry Purdon. While the 6-year-old winner of over $1.5m is obviously badly disadvantaged by handicap racing, he is still not the force he was at four and five in open class racing. "He had a tough run but a horse of his class should have finished closer than that. We will have to get the vet to have a look at him," said Purdon.

Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 7Apr93

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