Day At The Track

Gurney getting the best from 'Nova'

03:57 PM 02 Jul 2014 NZST
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Powerhouse: Avonnova is looking to continue his brilliant form in Saturday Night's Gr.2 Sunshine Sprint at Albion Park.

Queensland horseman Ian Gurney is finally living his dream.

The likeable harness racing fanatic is still pinching himself with the success of his own stable star Avonnova who lines up in Saturday night’s Gr.2 $60,000 Garrards Sunshine Sprint at Albion Park.

Claimed late last year for a mere $20,000 from Sydney, Gurney has transformed the talented free-legged pacer into a ruthless killer on the racetrack.

In 17 starts for Gurney, Avonnova has won 11 times while he has managed to win 8 of his last 9 starts with only Inter Dominion/Miracle Mile hero Beautide standing in between his winning sequence.

Avonnova ran a fighting second behind Beautide in the Gr.1 $100,000 Len Smith Mile at TABCORP Park, Menangle back in April.

Since returning from that Sydney trip, Avonnova has exploded to a higher level and rates as a legitimate threat against the likes of champion pacer Im Themightyquinn and the Shane Tritton speed freaks Mach Beauty and Suave Stuey Lombo.

And Gurney is shaking his head in disbelief.

“I can’t believe the run I’m having currently, I bought this horse with my good mate Paul (Montgomery) just to have some fun and never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Im Themightyquinn, Beautide and the like. It’s just amazing and it’s so exciting.” Gurney said.

Avonnova, who had stints with the likes of respected trainers Steve Turnbull and Kerryann Turner before being claimed has thrived on the warmer Queensland sunshine and the one on one attention afforded by Gurney which has paved the way for his rise to stardom.

The Art Major seven-year-old gelding has quickly established himself as the biggest/strongest and fastest open class horse in the state and will test his mettle against a strong interstate invasion during the month of July at Albion Park leaving Gurney excited by the challenge.

“I don’t do anything fancy with Nova but obviously he enjoys the warmer weather and the special attention he gets from my wife Ange and her daughters who really spoil him between races. There is no secret to my success; I think I just got lucky.

“He’s been great and he came at the right time for me, he’s the reason you get up early in the morning and do what we do with the horses. I’ve got a lot of people to thank for all the help and support I’ve received along the way.

“Win, lose or draw on Saturday night, it doesn’t really matter because I’m just thrilled to be in a great Queensland race. But I think he will run another great race, he flew last week and Bart (Cockburn – driver) didn’t even pull the earplugs and I’m sure we would’ve smashed the record if we let him go but we were mindful of this race this weekend.”

Gurney and his family have poured millions into the racing industries over a long period of time through ownership and sponsorship.

The Gurney Group of Companies operates their successful earthmoving business and enjoy relaxing by racing and punting on their racehorses.

In the past year, Gurney has convinced his brothers and uncles to invest more into harness racing as opposed to thoroughbred racing and the results have been astonishing through the deeds of exciting rookie pacers Smooth Showgirl and Birdy Mach.

“I got them all together and we bought quite a few yearlings from the sales last year and the early results are very pleasing; Smooth Showgirl is already a Group One winner while Birdy Mach is rated by Luke McCarthy as one of the most gifted horses he’s been involved in.

“Naturally we’re all very excited and very much looking forward to next month when they head to Victoria to contest the rich Australasian Breeders Crown series.

“I’m just hoping the party will start this month here with Nova and we can continue to party in Melbourne. Harness Racing is more than a passion of mine; I love the sport and enjoy the thrill of winning.”

With so much to look forward to this year, it’s great to see Gurney turning his dreams into reality.

By Chris Barsby (Harness Racing Australia)

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