Day At The Track

Ohoka Punter overcomes pre start drama

11:27 AM 24 Jan 2015 NZDT
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Ohoka Punter - On track for Auckland Cup run
Ohoka Punter - On track for Auckland Cup run
Ohoka Punter

A pre-start mess almost cost punters dearly before Ohoka Punter surged to his first Alexandra Park win in a year on Friday night.

The dual Derby winner led throughout to down trailer No Doctor Needed in a race where Sky Major and Gold Ace never got into winning positions because of a lack of mid-race challenges.

But while a 26.6 second last 400m made the win look easy, it could have been far different after Ohoka Punter galloped in the score up.

“He actually shied at some horse droppings (not the actual word he used) in the score up and galloped,” said trainer-driver Tony Herlihy.

“He got a real fright and almost fell over. He evened up but we had to chase the gate so it could have been a lot worse.” That was why Herlihy had to keep Ohoka Punter up to his work in the early stages of the race, with the incident denting his confidence and seeing him gawk about in the home straight the first time.

“But in the end he won really well and like many of those horses he will improve,” he said.

Herlihy now has to try and find suitable races for Ohoka Punter to try and get him fit enough to take on the really big guns in the Auckland Cup on March 6.

“There will be the free-for-all the week before hopefully but really I’d like to have another race between now and then,” he says.

“Taking on those horses won’t be easy so being really fit will be important.

“But the Auckland Cup is the logical aim.”

And while that means taking on Terror To Love, Christen Me and Adore Me, Ohoka Punter has of course beaten the latter over 2700m mobile at group one level at Alexandra Park, in that remarkable Northern Derby of two years ago.

Since then his career has been severely interrupted by tendon problems and Herlihy admits he doesn’t even bother getting Ohoka Punter’s leg scanned any more unless there is a sign of trouble, preferring to look after it as best as possible but treat him like any other good horse.

“He seems fine for now but every win is a bonus when you have had leg problems,” he offers.

“But I haven’t given up on him being a New Zealand Cup horse because we know the motor is there.”

Before then Ohoka Punter has the comparative luxury of dropping back to age group racing for the Taylor Mile and Messenger, although they are almost as strong as the strongest open class races these days.

One of his rivals in those could be Sky Major, who stormed home into fourth last Friday in his first start back for the season.

Trainer Barry Purdon had gone on record pre-race suggesting the dual Jewels winner may have to be driven with a sit from his wide draw, especially with so much gate speed inside him, and when the midfield horses failed to move down the back straight both he and Gold Ace couldn’t win.

But they made ground well, with Sky Major now maybe going to race once more at The Park before heading to Menangle for a February 21 lead-up to the Chariots of Fire on March 1.

With him, Ohoka Punter and Gold Ace set to be in Auckland over the next few weeks, it raises the possibility of another rematch to highlight the mid February racing.

Michael Guerin - Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand

 

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