Day At The Track

Waikiki Beach back in the game

10:34 PM 23 Jun 2016 NZST
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Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach
Ashlea Brennan Photo

A bizarre judder bar may not halt Waikiki Beach’s path to the rarest number in New Zealand Harness Racing.

Because the three-year-old pacing star could still hunt down Courage Under Fire’s record of 24 consecutive wins by season’s end.

Waikiki Beach, who races with the Our prefix in Australia, missed last Saturday’s Breeders Challenge semi final in Sydney after his connections didn’t nominate him until too late because of a miscommunication.

He would have been red hot to win both his semi and probably this Sunday’s A$150,000 Breeders Challenge Final, which could have taken him to 21 straight victories to start his career.

He was then scheduled to embark on the defence of his Australasian Breeders Crown title, which will comprise three more races, so a clean sweep could have drawn him level with Courage Under Fire with the most consecutive victories by any New Zealand-trained horse to start his career.

The connections of Waikiki Beach met last week and toyed with the idea of a Queensland Derby campaign or even bringing him home to New Zealand to prepare for the Breeders Crown.

But he will now stay in Sydney instead and that puts the record back on the table for the superstar, who is unbeaten in 19 starts.

Waikiki Beach will trial next week and possibly race in a minor race the following week before his Breeders Crown heat at Menangle on July 12.

“That is the plan at this stage so he is definitely staying here,” says top Sydney horseman Luke McCarthy, with whom Waikiki Beach is stabled in Australia.

That means he could have two seemingly effortless races to take him to 21 wins but with five weeks until the Breeders Crown semis in Victoria and three-year-olds so well treated in the Australian handicapping system, he could easily have another tune-up race in early August.

That brings the 24-win record back into play, although the Breeders Crown is looking the toughest test of Waikiki Beach’s career.

While leading Victoria rival Shadow Sax has been sidelined, Waikiki Beach’s stablemate and Jewels winner Heaven Rocks is being set for the series, as is the exciting Franco Christiano.

“He is a hell of a horse and what happened last week was unfortunate but he is well and has plenty of opportunities to get ready over here,” says McCarthy.

The Waikiki Beach stuff up leaves his stablemate My MacKenzie, who was surprisingly beaten in her Breeders Challenge semi last weekend, as the only New Zealand-trained starter at Sunday’s huge Menangle meeting.

Lennytheshark warmed up Sunday’s A$100,000 Len Smith Mile with a sparkling 1:51.5 trial win at Menangle on Monday and sometime Auckland pacer Ohoka Punter looks his biggest danger after he bolted in at Menangle last Saturday.

But Lennytheshark is red hot after drawing barrier two in the group one, with Ohoka Punter at barrier five.

Meanwhile, Alexandra Park fans are in for rare mid-winter dash of pacing class tomorrow night with a stronger than expected line-up for the $20,000 Smith And Partners Lawyers Winter Cup.

Not only do Derby and Jewels placegetters Shandale and Motown (respectively) return for the standing start 2700m but they are joined by Messenger placegetter Hug The Wind, Bettor Spirits, Spring Cup and Holmes D G winner Beyond The

Silence and a newcomer to the northern scene in New Years Jay.

The former Otago mare fashioned a huge reputation with her killer sprints in the south and has now joined the Barry Purdon stable.

The Winter Cup is the highlight of a 12-race programme, featuring 120 horses, which shows the benefits of Alexandra Park, or Cambridge, racing as the sole northern club at the end of the week, especially in winter.

Tomorrow’s big programme also comes during harness racing’s golden month for turnovers, with pools always larger on the Friday nights before the All Black’s June tests because there is no live rugby to draw punters away from Trackside.

Michael Guerin

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