If prominent American owner/breeders Gordon Banks and Mark Hanover could win one aged Group One race in New Zealand it would be a Harness Jewels Final.
The Florida-based cousins are the only owners in the world to have won Breeders Crown finals in both North America and Australia, but have yet to win a Harness Jewels crown.
“That would be a dream come true,’’ Banks told HRNZ from his Miami base.
“The only reason we own horses is to win the big races.
“Sure the New Zealand Cup and an Inter Dominion Final would be nice but we don’t usually race aged pacers so a Jewels title would cap it off nicely.
Banks and Hanover could get their wish on May 31 when the Jewels leader they own - Joanne’s A Delight lines up in the $150,000 2YO Fillies Diamond Pace at Cambridge Raceway.
Both men stayed up until 3.30am last Friday to watch Joanne’s A Delight win their first New Zealand Group One race.
The Nigel McGrath trained daughter of Bettor’s Delight won the $150,000 Magness Benrow Sires Stakes Championship.
“I couldn’t get to sleep after watching the race, I must have watched the replay five times and she won every time.
“Then when I tried to get to sleep I kept seeing the race in my head.
“It was a great night despite the lack of sleep,” Banks said.
His cousin agreed saying it was one of the recent highlights in their ‘Down Under’ racing careers.
“We have won two New Zealand Messengers and Tupelo Rose won almost every aged Group race down there, but this was a real highlight,’’ Hanover said.
“Nigel has got her in fantastic condition for the big races this month.
“It was also a great drive from Anthony Butt, to win the Jewels Final would be a dream come true.’’
The cousins have won numerous Group One races in both hemispheres.
They won the North American and Australasian Breeders Crown Finals with Molly Can Do It (2002) and Passions Promise (2010).
Alert Fulla and Tupelo Rose also won the 1990 and 2001 New Zealand Messenger Championships at Alexandra Park.
“The year Molly Can Do It won the Breeders Crown, Tupelo Rose also ran third in the race.
“She is the best ‘Down Under’ horse we have owned,” Hanover said.
Banks and Hanover said there was a possibility that they could fly to Cambridge to watch their filly line up a favourite in the Yarndley sponsored Group One Final.
“It would be great to get down there again and see her race in the flesh, but it all depends on our commitments up here.
“I was in New Zealand and Australia for 10 weeks this year as a guest at the Inter Dominion final.
“I did some sight-seeing and also went to the Sales in both countries.
“If we can’t make it we will certainly be glued to the TV.
“She’s a real darling and I think we are going to have a lot of fun with her,” Banks said.
“I’d love to come as well but it depends on our commitments up here, It’s a long way to Tipperary,” Hanover added.
The cousins fell in love with harness racing in New Zealand three decades ago and then became even more hooked when they brought Presidential Ball.
They bought his first two foals – Lets Thank Heaven and Its Forever Now, which both went on to win Group One races.
“We fell in love with harness racing in New Zealand a long time ago and still love it. That’s why we keep attending your sales there and in Australia,’’ Banks said.
“To be frank racing in North America is boring.
“Mobile mile races day in and day out is all you get, It’s very monotonous and the only time you get a crowd up here is for the big races.
“The rest of the time the tracks are empty, you guys put on a great show down there and we are proud to be a part of it.
The pair have about half a dozen horses, all youngsters, with McGrath at Weedons.
They bought two Bettor’s Delights at this year’s yearling Sale and two last year.
Their stock includes 2yo fillies - Cyclone Charlie (Rock N Roll Hanover – Eyre To The Throne); Baileys Gold (Bettor’s Delight – Baileys Pearl); and 2yo colt Listentothemusic (Bettor’s Delight – Shoshana Hall).
By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)