Not even the bravest win of his career in the Hunter Cup has been enough to save Christen Me’s Inter Dominion campaign.
The New Zealand pacing sensation will be officially withdrawn today from Inter Dominion series which culminates in a A$750,000 final in Sydney on March 2.
That was even after he sat parked and fought off many of Australasia’s best pacers in the A$400,000 Hunter Cup at Melton on Saturday night.
The Canterbury five-year-old was magnificent holding out Caribbean Blaster to break an eight-race drought and silence doubts about his will to win a decent group one scrap.
But the victory took its toll.
“He was a very tired horse today,” said trainer Cran Dalgety last night.
“He has had a long, hard summer and to be honest he is about 25kgs below what I would like him to be because it is hard to put on weight while you are in full training.
“So we are pulling the pin on the Interdoms, even though some people might find that strange because it is for such big money.
“He will come home and go straight for an eight-week spell and then be set for the Grand Circuit again next season, when I am sure he will be bigger and stronger.”
Dalgety said while it appeared Christen Me was sore soon after he crossed the line, he was sound yesterday and that in no way contributed to his connection’s decision.
“He simply gave 101 per cent and you can only ask them to do that so many times.
“And you have horses like Beautide, who was awesome at Menangle on Saturday night, Smolda and For A Reason who are going to be a lot fresher and harder to beat.
“So our decision is made and is final.”
Dalgety, who missed Saturday’s race because of a leg injury suffered on a jet ski, said Christen Me’s constant companion Murray Howard deserved much of the praise for Saturday’s group one victory. “Murray deserves so much of the credit,” says Dalgety.
“I have been back and forth to Aussie and Auckland with this horse but Murray is the hands-on man.
“And he is the perfect man for the job, he has a great attention to detail and loves this horse.”
Those sentiments were echoed by driver Dexter Dunn, whose own attention to detail probably won the Hunter for Christen Me.
He let him settle early before pressing on to sit parked, as he has in most big races this season, but instead of going for home once he had the leader beaten, Dunn sat up until the 180m mark.
That kept key rival Restrepo pocketed but also meant he didn’t need to use the whip much on Christen Me, a key factor has he seems to resent more than most horses.
“I was just a little patient and it was a fine line but it is still a big win, sitting parked to win a Hunter Cup.”
Caribbean Blaster was a brave second on Saturday but had his chance while Auckland-owned The Gold Ace was similar in third, both being realistic Interdom contenders.
First-time open class contending Kiwi four-year-old Franco Nelson was an eyecatching fourth and will contest at Inter Dom heat in two weeks before his connections decide on that series or the Chariots of Fire the same day.
Fellow New Zealand-trained pacers Pembrook Benny, Mah Sish and Easy On The Eye finished well back the former not helped by an early break.
But his trainer Barry Purdon tasted success earlier in night when Our Maxim won his heat of the Victoria Derby after a beautiful Zac Butcher drive.
Butcher will partner him in this Saturday’s Derby, in which Purdon will also have Our Sky Major, who was a brave third in his heat behind a supersonic Bling It On.
By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)