Kristie Hill has always wanted to campaign a horse at Alexandra Park and now thanks to her father Brian and enigmatic trotter Sunchita, she fulfilling that dream.
Hill snr, who trains in Nelson, took Sunchita to Auckland and Kristie took over the reins a couple of days before the 6-year-old mare had her first race at Alexandra Park last Friday.
Sent out a $3.40 second favourite and under the guidance and driving exploits of Tony Herlihy, the daughter of Sundon never looked like losing.
Away well from her 10 metre handicap, Sunchita settled handy to the pace before Herlihy sent her forward to find the lead at the 500 metre mark from where she simply out-trotted her opponents – winning by 1 ½ lengths.
It was Sunchita’s third consecutive win, fifth this season, and seventh in a career spanning 51 starts.
She’s now banked $52,101.
“She had to earn her trip up north and prove to us she was worthy of going up there and she did that at Nelson.’’ Hill senior said.
“I have campaigned Single Lord and McShane up there before but this is the first time Kristie has been in Auckland with one of our team.
“She has lots of friends up there and she always believed Sunchita would go well that way around because that’s the only way we train her back home.’’
He said Sunchita would have two more starts at Alexandra Park over the next two Fridays before returning home.
The father and daughter combination both believe the often frustrating trotter has finally turned the corner and put it all together on the track.
“If she keeps improving the way she is, well who knows she could start in the Dominion Handicap in November, I don’t want to get ahead of myself but that is the goal.
“It’s every trainer’s dream to have a horse line up in either the Dominion or Rowe Cup.’’
Kristie is staying with Steve and Ann Phillips in Waiau Pa, while Sunchita is being stabled half an hour away at Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis’s Waiuku barn.
“She loves being beach trained and the wet track on Friday would have suited her, she has really turned the corner now,’’ Kristie said.
“We haven’t made too many changes to her gear.
“Once upon a time she either finished first or last because of her tendency to gallop.
“I think we can put her recent improvement down to maturity.’’
Hill, who is the former Education Manager for Harness Racing New Zealand, said the stakes at Alexandra Park also swayed their decision to bring Sunchita north.
“The money on offer was too good to resist and I always wanted to bring her up here because I felt she would go better this way around.
“It was a great performance first-up and a brilliant drive by a brilliant reinsman.’’
Hill is a graduation driver who has won 12 races since 1998.
She has also placed 38 times from 293 starts for $93,897 in stakes.
Two of those wins have come aboard Sunchita while Blair Orange and Jimmy Curtin have also won on her twice prior to Herlihy’s victory on Friday night.
Hill said she wasn’t tempted to jump in the sulky and have a drive around Alexandra Park on this trip and was happy to leave the driving duties to Herlihy.
“No I won’t be getting in the sulky when I’m up there, why would you put me in the sulky when one of the best drivers in the world can do the business?”
Brian and Kristie own Sunchita and also bred her.
She is the third of six foals (and most successful) out of Hills’ three-win Dancing Master mare, Carmenchita, who was also trained by Hill.
By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)