Day At The Track

Pace building for classic final

01:04 PM 21 Dec 2017 NZDT
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This year's Maitland Inter City Pace.jpg
This year's Maitland Inter City Pace has attracted a quality field of contenders vying to etch their name on the coveted trophy.

The Maitland Inter City Pace is the harness racing jewel in the crown of the local trotting calendar, linking the community across generations.

The final this year will be held on Saturday, December 30 at Maitland Showground, with heats for  the decider to be run tomorrow night at the same venue. 

Boasting $30,000 in prizemoney, the Group 3 event will be contested for the 55th year in near succession – interrupted only in 2006 (scheduling complications) and 2008 (horse flu).

It has been the launching pad  for many horses including Bay Foyle (1970), Penny Jack (1978), Royal Courtier (1993), Franco Lotsmore (1997), Staminator (2009) and Scandalman (2013) who have all gone on to compete in open company.

History and prestige explain the drawing power of the event each year, according to Maitland Harness Racing Club  secretary Wayne Smith said.

“Say ‘Maitland trots’ and you immediately think Maitland Inter City Pace,” Mr Smith said. “The region is steeped in it.

“It’s got that longevity and respect – and is somewhat of a reunion each year.

“Wander through the crowd and you’ll see people you haven’t seen for 12 months since the last final.

“Everyone has an Inter City Pace story, and this time of year those stories all get trotted out – no pun intended.

“It reflects  how much the event has etched a place in the hearts and minds of the community over the last 55 years.”

A quality field of Hunter horses and Sydney and regional NSW raiders will contest  tomorrow night’s three heats.

The first three horses in each heat and the fastest fourth-placed horse will earn spots in the final  on Saturday, December 30.

“The fields are that strong, I can’t write one horse out of qualifying for the final – it’s going to be on tomorrow night,” Mr Smith said.

In heat one, Captain Rockey (No.11) is looking to qualify for his second final after featuring in the 54th edition. Sydney-based runner  Mark of Integrity (No.9) has form on the track, having won it’s last two starts at Maitland, while other raiders Delightful Memphis (No.7), Wrangler Duke (No.6) and Royal Story (No.3) stand out as possible final contenders.

In heat two, Triple Play (No.8)  won last start at Menangle, saluting in very quick time. No.10 Mista Taptoe Lombo is trained on the track and may relish the distance. No.5 Derringer has been racing in very good form, and No.3 Tact Ollie is having its first Australian start after arriving from New Zealand and is a bit of a smokey. 

In heat three, No.9 Jimmy The Editor leads the local brigade  with Franco Storm (No.7), which will have to overcome an inside second-row draw, and Mondooley Heaven (No.3), who’s recent good form has the potential to get previous Inner City Pace winning trainer Michael Formosa to another final. 

“Expect strong opposition from travelling horses I Am Serengeti [No.2] and Cerrena [No.6],” Mr Smith said. 

“Their form’s good and they have quality trainers so you’d expect them to be in the mix.”  

Typifying the “family affair” nature of the event:  Bill Reynolds won the final as a trainer-driver in 1972. 

In heat three tomorrow night, Bill’s daughter Robyn Thompson owns Franco Storm, her husband Neil is the trainer   and it will be driven by their grandson, Jackson Donald.

Formosa has two runners in the heats – Mondooley Heaven and four-year-old mare Rocknroll Emma  in heat two.

Sydney trainer Jim Bates, who is the only other Inter City Pace winning trainer with a horse in the heats, has  four-year-old entire Megs Monaro running from barrier four in race two.

Heading the Maitland charge are Mitch Chapple (Derringer, No.5 heat two), Geoffrey Dorn (Mista Taptoe Lombo, No.10 heat two), Paul Morgan (Oh Really, No.2 heat one) David Grand (Captain Rocky No.11 heat one).

Cessnock district trainers Formosa, Cameron Davies, Bevan Pringle and Clayton Harmey have two runners each. 

Shane Harmey, Roy Roots jnr, Dennis Lindsay and Stacey Elliott have a horse each.

Other Hunter Valley trainers are Neil Thompson and Neville Greenwood.

Gates open at the Maitland Showground on Saturday at 5pm and racing is scheduled to start at 6.22pm. 

Reprinted with permission of The Maitland Mercury

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