Day At The Track

A statement that made all snap to attention!

07:07 PM 21 May 2011 NZST
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It was a statement that made everyone snap to attention. Here was top harness racing driver Ricky May, the pilot of champions like Christian Cullen, and New Zealand Cup heroes Monkey King, Mainland Banner, Iraklis and Inky Lord, labelling Carabella as potentially the best horse he has driven.

May first made the big call to rival driver Dexter Dunn immediately on pulling up after last Friday's Nevele R Stud New Zealand Oaks, gobsmacked by the ease of Carabella's two-and-a-half length win over Donegal Delight at Addington.

And he repeated it moments later when interviewed about harness racing's new pin-up girl, winner of 12 of her 13 starts, and again yesterday when able to reflect more clinically on possibly the filly's career best performance.

"It's too early to say but she could be the best I've driven," May said, stressing the word could. She went 3:11 [3:11.7] and just played with her opposition.

"When other horses are working hard she just finds another gear and seems to float. I was three wide and doing handstands turning for home despite having a bloody good horse [Tatijana Bromac] inside me. It's like she puts no effort into it. And her recovery after the race was fantastic."

May said when Carabella was able to go within 0.8sec of De Lovely's national record for the mobile 2600 metres, without exerting herself, it augured well for a huge future.

"I know what I said is a big statement but she'll be a hell of a horse in a couple of years."

May accepted Carabella would probably have to win a New Zealand Cup before she could be rated better than his previous headliners.

"Mainland Banner was no slug - she didn't do much wrong as a three-year-old and she won the cup the year after - but this one's better on what she's done already.

"Carabella wouldn't run in the cup next year but the year after she'll be a great replacement for Monkey King [winner of the last two cups]."

May said there was no doubt the Bettor's Delight filly had improved since Christmas when while still winning, she hadn't felt as sharp as now.

Trainer Brendon "Benny" Hill said Carabella seemed to be over the niggly growing pains which forced him to be so careful with her late last year.

He likened the soreness which hampered her to shin soreness in gallopers - growth plates above her knees being active.

"But that's all settled down and now she's showing what a champion filly she is.

"When I saw her three wide to the death, then forced to pop so soon, I said to Robert [owner Robert Famularo] that I thought we were in a bit of trouble, but she destroyed them."

Carabella will continue her march to stardom at Ashburton on June 4, when she will be an unbackable favourite for the Harness Jewels Three-Year-Old Diamond.

Hill and Famularo then have a decision to make on whether to pull stumps or continue her campaign in Australia.

"We've had a great season, we don't want to go silly about it, but we have two options pencilled in."

Hill's first thought was to send Carabella to Brisbane for the $A30,000 Gold Coast Oaks, on June 24, and the $A75,000 Queensland Oaks, on July 2.

But he now believes a shorter campaign to Melbourne instead might be easier on the filly, a hit-and-run tilt at the $A75,000 Nevele R Stud Australian Oaks, on July 15, also in the frame.

"A bit of travelling education wouldn't go astray before we chuck her out. It makes them into better horses."

Carabella Nevele R NZ Oaks win

Dancingonmoonlight Farm, which has enjoyed a spectacular last two weeks with five premier wins and two seconds from seven starters, is also looking at sending Friday's brilliant comeback winner Timeless Perfection, and the progressive Ultimate Player, to Australia.

Hill believes both horses would do a great job at Menangle in Sydney and he just has to solve the logistical puzzle of how to orchestrate the trip.

"Timeless Perfection has a motor just as big as Carabella, but her brain isn't as laidback."

The Christian Cullen mare was having her first start for 18 months when she embarrassed her rivals last Friday, taking her record to four wins from five starts.

When Timeless Perfection bowed a tendon in 2009, Hill and Famularo were virtually resigned to her future being in the broodmares' paddock, where she sat for 12 months recovering.

But scans showed the injury had healed well and everything held together well during last Friday's demolition, where May said she had a lot up her sleeve.

Timeless Perfection win

But of all Hill's successes last Friday, Ultimate Player earned top billing.

"He's starting to show what I always knew he was capable of. To jump up in class, sit parked, and go down only a nose was a great effort."

Courtesy of Barry Lichter and the Sunday Star Times


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