At Addington Raceway we have seen another necessary steward's briefing and then some spectacular driving by the Kiwi's most affable godfather of amateur racing.
Steve Phillips, sent off at 10 and 24 to one in the first two heats at the big track, saw him cut the mile in the first heat, while a posse was sent out looking for him early in the second heat, Phillips showed up mysteriously at the winner's circle both times, bearing the slightest of humble grins reflecting a deep pride he is bringing to his country, not to mention his biggest supporter, his wife Anne.
He may just become the second winner of the World Cup of amateur racing following Gavin Cook who won the gold in the US in 2008. The punters who are loyalists were rewarded handsomely for their support of a man becoming more and more respected as a driver here and who may tip over to the professional line in the future. A line of many great and competent drivers who in that highly competitive professional arena have won multiple World Championships.
With that said there are three more races on the grass to go at Motu Karara and the matador, Damia Oliver Oliver is trailing Phillips and his 68 points by only 7 points. The Netherlands Japa Terstal sits third with 59 points by virtue of a second place finish and Germany's Marian Tux by virtue of the only win not taken by Phillips, sits fourth at 56 points. The Czech, 49 points sits in front of our man Kelly Walker who has 40 tied with three others at that spot. Kelly hasn't drawn well and at Addington piloted a mare who not only was a sprinter in a race of 2800 meters but was in foal. Kelly's commented after the race that he had horse up to a point and "then I thought someone put a different horse in front of me when she saw daylight". In the Down Under country mares in foal are often raced up until their third month. It is said that they race better during those three months but that is a difficult buy. It does however jog one's memory back to Roosevelt Raceway where after her win and before she left the paddock, a mare dropped a foal appropriately named "Roosevelt Baby."
Getting back to our man however, all was not dark and dreary. Kelly grabbed the lead as the longest thing on the board at 84-1 only to give it up nearing the wire to finish a more than credible third. It has often been said that it is what between the shafts, not what is behind it that matters most. In this case, however, credit the driver a great deal for the drive and ignoring the trainer's advice to keep the diminutive McCardle three wide the whole way.
Today the group has a tour down the river, some free time and a tasting and dinner at a winery this evening. Racing here is finding more competition from alternative forms of gaming and discussions had with track management about some cooperative exchanges between our countries reveals all the problems concerning such endeavors. The difference in the data provided to punters in the US and here would only mean that the beneficiary economically would be the US if and when the down under fans get a taste of the US style racing and all the info we provide in our form of program. The answer seems to be a program that compromise utilizing the kind of important data the US provides acceptable to other world markets or some other means of converting our form into what is customary here.
Also quite interesting to see are the interviewers chasing drivers around the walking ring and asking them the occasional question about the horses their driving, followed by post-race interviews of the winning pilot. On top of that there are talking heads on the TV and radio all day and night long. You can't avoid it as racing is marketed and promoted by the TAB (betting corp) and the Sky TV Network as part of the Down Under daily diet. It like part of breakfast, lunch and dinner here you are inundated with the product. A different world down here, that's for sure.