On a night that was designated to showcase the talent of tomorrow, it was fitting that one of the "good old guys" of the game in Ian Dobson, who celebrated his 80th birthday during the week, was back in the birdcage on two occasions. Ian has been a long-time stable client and his connection with Robert was highlighted with the victory of Mainland Banner in the 2005 New Zealand Cup. He continues to be a great supporter of the stable and of harness racing in general.
The first winner for Ian was his 3yr old colt Return To Sender, by Mach Three out of Mainland Banner. While this colt had raced against the best at two, he was still an 11 start maiden going into tonight's race having recorded two 2nds and four 3rds in his first campaign, including 2 placings at Group Three level. His resuming run last week was a solid run and clearly readied him well for tonight's contest. Drawn out a nine, Dexter threw caution to the wind early on crossing easily to lead after 200m.
Having assumed the pacemaking duties, Dexter rated the colt to perfection. Running home his last 800m in 58.3 and 400 in 27.6, he recorded an overall time of 3.15.9, winning comfortably by 3 lengths from his very unlucky stablemate Nikola who was late getting clear for John. This was a very encouraging performance and may be enough to convince connections to have a crack at next Friday's Sires Stakes heat.
A few races later and the familiar lime green colours were again seen to the fore. Blazin N Cullen showed how far he has come this season as a racehorse with a narrow, but emphatic nose victory over the 1950m. A horse that needed to be driven a little "pretty" last season, he has shown that he can now tough it out as good as any.
After beginning well from a nice draw, John was obliged to sit in the breeze from the 1400m as the favourite Pass Them By took the lead and dictated. From the 800m it was race on and the "Blaze" continued to serve it up to the favourite. A mighty duel ensued well into the home straight, before Comply Or Die joined in at the 100m with the cold shot at them. Not to be denied though, John got the best out of his guy, in a driving nose, nose finish. The closing sectionals of 800m 56.0 and 400m in 26.0, add further weight to the quality of the performance. The overall time of 2.21.8 was very good on a blustery night. This was Blazin N Cullen's 8th win from 31 starts, for stake-earnings just under $70,000. He looks set for a very competitive campaign over cup week.
Lauramegan to the fore again
It was the "Gunman", Jason Thomas, who was again in the birdcage after a cool drive on stable runner Lauramegan in the boys' race. A convincing winner fresh up last week over the mile, Lauramegan had drawn awkwardly out wide this week. After being allowed to slide forward early, Jason allowed the 4yr old Tinted Cloud mare time to find her feet, content to sit outside the pacemaking Crackapaca. Things got a bit more serious from the 800m as the mare was allowed to slide forward and apply some pressure. She had mastered the pacemaker on the turn and weary of the early work she had done, Jason really let her down. While the margin was fast being eroded over the last 200m, she stuck to the task gamely winning by 3/4 length over Dream Gal.
This was the mare's 5th win from just 14 starts for owners Clive and Rona McKay. She looks a lot stronger mare this campaign and looks sure to quickly add to this tally. For Jason this was his 4th winner for the season from just 17 drives. He sits 3rd in the Junior Drivers' premiership with an impressive UDR of 0.3137.
By Mike Drury (Courtesy of ROBERT DUNN RACING)