Captain Peacock has become the poster boy for the most sensible recent change to harness racing’s handicapping system.
The former New Zealand Derby winner made it back to back wins in the feature pace at Oamaru on Saturday, downing Blazing N Cullen in a punishing finish to the grass track marathon.
It was his second win in as many Saturdays and suggests there is still plenty of profitable racing left in the seven-year-old.
But that didn’t look the case just a few months ago.
A victim of his early success, when he won an admittedly weakish New Zealand Derby four years ago, Captain Peacock soon found himself on the cusp of open class, which basically made him a whipping boy for our best pacers.
“He was up there and going the odd good race but he wasn’t good enough to beat those horses,” admits trainer Dean Taylor.
Captain Peacock’s saviour has been the implementation of a drop back system in harness racing handicapping, which means if you struggle for too long in one grade, you drop back to another.
Or in the case of Captain Peacock, if you don’t win for a couple of years, you drop back a few grades and start over again in a grade you can be competitive in.
“It has given him a second life,” says Taylor.
“I think it has been a great move from Harness Racing New Zealand because otherwise this old fella would have been struggling around behind the likes of Adore Me at the Cup carnival.
“And what other option would we have had? Sell him for almost nothing?
“Now he is in a grade where he belongs and we couldn’t be happier. It is what he deserves.”
Aiding in the rejuvenation process has been Taylor decision to send Captain Peacock for regular beach sessions with Regan Todd, who drove him to win on Saturday.
“Regan runs the beach training side of Mark Jones’s operation and it has helped freshen this horse up mentally too.” The refreshed, re-graded Captain Peacock could now head to the West Coast circuit starting at Westport on Boxing Day, where he could tackle three races in four days almost identical to the ones he has won recently.
He could meet one of the other impressive winners from Saturday, Mossdale Conner, who could head to the Coast as part of a strong representation from the Greg and Nina Hope stable.
Another to catch the eye on Saturday was Robyn’s Raider, who bolted away to give trainer Robert Dunn a double for the day.
That followed on from his four winners at Alexandra Park on Friday night and saw Dunn finish Saturday a clear second on the national trainer’s premiership with 27 wins, 11 behind the Mark Purdon/Natalie Rasmussen team.
Robyn’s Raider was driven by Nathan Williamson as part of the meeting’s Brothers In Arms promotion, which saw pairs of brothers from around the country competing against each other on a points table.
It was a huge home town victory with Williamson and his brother Matthew making light work of the visiting teams, with the latter driving three winners on the day.
By Michael Guerin (Courtesy Harness Racing New Zealand)