Day At The Track

Four-year-olds shafted at NZ Harness Awards

02:39 PM 29 Jul 2013 NZST
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Christen Me Elusive Chick
Christen Me - was the big losser at the NZ Harness Awards
Elusive Chick - was another to miss out
Duane Ranger Photo

Terror To Love won the ultimate accolade at Saturday's Horse of the Year awards but the champion's owner, Terry McDonald, was critical that the voting system denied boom four-year-old Christen Me any recognition after a stellar season.

And in a gracious gesture seldom seen in the cut and thrust of racing, McDonald said he would happily give the four and five-year-old category prize to the connections of Christen Me.

McDonald, honoured by 400 guests at Christchurch's CBS Arena, said Harness Racing New Zealand had to go back to the old system of four-year-olds and five-year-olds having their own categories, just like it scrapped plans to amalgamate the two age groups in the Harness Jewels this year after an outcry.

"It's crazy not having a separate award for the four-year-olds - they shouldn't have to go up against me with a dual New Zealand Cup winner.

"For what Christen Me did for harness racing this year it's bloody madness not to give him any recognition. He did everything and gets nothing. It's just not fair and I feel bad about it."

McDonald said he did not tackle races like the Noel Taylor Mile and Messenger because of his stance that five-year-olds shouldn't encroach on traditional four-year-old features when they had a smorgasbord of other races to contest.

McDonald said while Terror To Love beat Christen Me the only time they clashed, in the Summer Cup at Addington in February, the only time the younger horse had not won in nine starts since, was when he had to be pulled out of a race in March, when his wheel came off the rim of his sulky.

The votes were clearcut in the combined four and five-year-old pacers' section, Terror To Love taking 17 to Christen Me's five, and Auckland Cup winner Themightyquinn's one.

Terror To Love also saw off superstar three-year-old Adore Me for the Pacer of the Year title, with 17 votes to the filly's 11 and Christen Me's four.

The voting was almost identical in the Harness Horse of the Year category, Terror To Love scoring 16 votes to Adore Me's 12 and Christen Me's four.

by Barry Lichter (Sunday Star Times)

*Elusive Chick's co-owner Grey Ayers was also unhappy about the change in the system. "Any other year we would have been given Four-Year-Old Mare of the Year but because of the changes we had to compete against Bettor Cover Lover.

"Why fix something that's not broken? An award like that would have been great to go to the breeding paddock with.

Now they will probably resort back to the old system, meaning we are the only ones who have missed out. But, the question is who made the ridiculous changes in the first place?


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