As expected, Cambridge put on a show for the 2018 edition of the Harness Jewels.
With all nine races being Group 1’s, it’s hard to know where to look on a day filled with highlights but here were the top five from a day jam-packed with storylines;
1 SHEZ A JET PLANE
Shez All Rock changed hands in more ways than one shortly after collecting the New South Wales Oaks. She was purchased from trainer Mark Pitt to US-based Kiwi Chris Ryder with plans for a stint with the All Stars stable in the south of New Zealand.
Shez All Rock remained with Pitt for the Victorian Oaks where she was a dominant winner before joining Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen in NZ.
The three-year-old filly blitzed them in the NZ Oaks and after drawing gate five, loomed as the tearaway favourite for the three-year-old Diamond.
Today, she assumed the lead from Dizzy Miss Lizzy was never seen again as Purdon simply held on and allowed the Rocknroll Heaven to rip through her sectionals, sprinting home in 27.3 seconds for a deadly mile of 1:51.8.
She left her rivals in her wake and is booked to return to Pitt for a tilt at the upcoming VicBred Super Sires Series and Breeders Crown where she should be an outstanding favourite for both.
Also, it was the first ever jewel for us Australians, even though there may well be a tiny query on whether she can still be considered an Aussie.
Trained in New Zealand, owned by an American but bred, raised and raced in Oz. You decide, but such has been the difficulty for Aussies at the jewels, you won’t find many who disagree that Shez All Rock is our first victor.
2 THE ALL STARS ARE UNSTOPPABLE
They do get beaten, but gee they’re a powerful force. Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasumussen joined forces a handful of years ago and the Harness Racing scene has never been the same.
Today, the All Stars stable took home half a dozen jewels with Purdon landing three, Rasmussen a duo and Tim Williams steering home Another Masterpiece in the two-year-old colts & geldings race.
They’ve owned the age-restricted feature pacing races for some time but it was a pair of young trotters that would’ve have given the All Stars extra reason to smile.
Enchance Your Calm was a comfortable winner and reamined unbeaten in the rookie race whilst the sophomore clash was easily taken out by Winterfell, who outclassed his opponents by a few lengths.
One All Stars charge who failed to fire was Partyon, in what is believed to be her career-ending run. Nevertheless, she’s been a magnificent filly/mare with more than $650,000 in the bank and a rich career ahead as a broodmare.
3 DEXTER SENDS HIMSELF OFF IN STYLE
Dexter Dunn’s reign as the premier driver in New Zealand is going to come to an end with Blair Orange outpointing Dunn for this season’s premiership.
Dunn has been a marvel for a decade but is taking a sustained break from NZ racing to enjoy a working holiday in the United States.
Dunn had one last piece of driving glory for fans though as he catapulted Pat’s Delight past Sheriff in the lane to claim the three-year-old Emerald.
Dexter allowed the Bettors Delight colt to take cover from NZ Derby winner Sheriff before exploding past him in the straight in a 27.4 final quarter.
It was very fitting that New Zealand’s most dominant driver secured the last jewel before he jet-sets for a prolonged absence from the local racing scene.
4 AUSSIES MUST KEEP COMING
We finally have our jewel thanks to Shez All Rock but the Aussies must keep fronting up to ensure we continue to collect more of New Zealand’s Harness racing riches.
Many Kiwis, none more so than the All Stars, come and pinch our very best races so it’s time we repay the favour.
Shez All Rock highlighted the Aussies performances but every other participant was excellent with Wobelee running an honest third after racing in the breeze, four-year-old mare Dance Craze was actually a slightly unlucky third whilst Shane Tritton’s pair of babies were both good. Platinum Revolution ran eighth but was not afforded many favours then little known commodity Pete’s Big Jim almost stole the baby boys race, just as his co-trainers said he could.
It’s always a tricky path to land at the Jewels for us Aussies but it’s not hard to see a Soho Nolita, Betternbetter or even a Colt Thirty One head for the Shaky Isles in twelve months time.
5 FAVOURITES ARE FAVOURITE FOR A REASON
Harness Racing often cops flak for having too many favourites winning.
It’s true, to an extent, but I like seeing exciting horses justify the hype and win dominantly.
We do see many a rough one get up (think Arden Rooney, Hunter Cup or My Hard Copy, Fremantle Cup) but today was a day for the big guns.
Princess Tiffany ($1.80) overcame a horrid draw to blow away a nice group of rookie females before stable mates Enhance Your Calm ($1.70) and Shez All Rocks ($1.30) ran away with glory.
Another All Star, Eamon Maguire ($2.40) cleaned them up in the four-year-old boys race after being relatively well supported late in markets.
Winterfell ($1.40) worried some as a young trotter listed at such short odds but he perhaps could’ve been shorter the way he dominated.
In the get out stakes, Pat’s Delight ($3.30) was battling it our for favouritism pre-post and duly saluted.
They’re run and won before you can blink here in Australia but another magnificent day of New Zealand Harness Racing is in the books with more than just five storylines, but those above were among some of the most enjoyable.
‘Til next time.