The undoubted highlight at the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club's meeting held at Addington Raceway today (Tuesday) belonged to harness racing horseman Steve Clarke. The Rolleston trainer/driver pulled off the salute of the season at the finish of race five after driving Melodie to victory.
It was a beautiful drive by Clarke who humped top reinsman Dexter Dunn out three wide at the 950m to put his horse one out in the running line. At the top of the straight Clarke angled Melodie into the clear and the daughter ofcame with a barnstorming finish to grab the leaders short of the line. It was Melodie's first win in 35 attempts.
The following celebration was in commentator Mark McNamara's words, "the best I've seen this year. Im surprised he didn't dislocated his shoulder," chuckled McNamara.
It's been a fair old while between drinks for Steve Clarke as a reinsman, in fact you have to go right back to the 1993/94 season, that and the presence of family and friends gave Clarke cause for extra exuberance at the finish. "I haven't driven a winner for a fair while," said Clarke who works as an Animal Control Officer with the Selwyn District Council.
"My youngest daughter Hayley does all the work with Melodie, the only time I get in the cart is on race-day. She's taken a real keen interest in the horses and is in her first year with the cadet scheme." The whole family was there today, I heard them all yelling and cheering close to the line so I thought I'd give it plenty," Clarke said.
And give it plenty he did, unleashing a windmill style salute that even the best in the business would be proud to offer up at the end of a group one victory. Steve Clarke has a solid support crew with wife Trina, 20 year old daughter Courtney (the secretary) and 17 year old Hayley. The latter is clearly keen to follow in her dad's footsteps, the Lincoln High School student gets up to work the horses at 5.45am each morning.
Although a far cry from group one glory, the win emphasised everything that's good about the sport. The door is always open for those who choose to become involved at any level, and an opportunity then exists to enjoy the thrill that Steve Clarke received and in turn gave to his many fans today. In plain fact, if you didn't enjoy watching that today, then you couldn't possibly consider yourself a harness racing fan.
Top Sire:2 wins.
Top Trainer: 8 trainers from 8 races.
Top Driver: 8 drivers from 8 races.
Top Junior Driver: None.
Results from the New ZealandTrotting Club's meeting held today (Tuesday) were:
Race 1: The Ken Ford trained ARABESS () Clint Ford.
Race 2: The Mark Jones trained and driven WESTERN FLARE ().
Race 3: The Mark Purdon and Grant Payne trained O BABY () Mark Purdon.
Race 4: The Dave and Cath Butt trained UPPY SON () Dave Butt.
Race 5: The Steve Clarke trained and driven MELODIE ().
Race 6: The Nigel Perkins trained KAMWOOD BLUECHIP () Ricky May.
Race 7: The Rex Keats trained and driven STORMY LOCH (Black Loch).
Race 8: The Tim Butt trained TOUCH OF ROSE () Anthony Butt.