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New Zealand Drama - Like a Reality TV Show With Horses

We have syndicates, fights, personnel changes, knife throwing, Benny Hill, Monkey's and suspensions. It is not an episode of your favourite reality show, it is harness racing in New Zealand.

Last week in a FFA race in NZ, champion pacer Auckland Reactor was sent to the lead, driven by Mark Purdon. He was "attacked" by a longshot, Awesome Armbro driven by Phil Butcher, and pushed through stout fractions. Off third over cover came "the Monkey" - Monkey King - and he sailed to victory. Most times that would be the end of it, but not this time. Here is the race video (note: anytime I hear "Here is the Monkey" in a race call, I think it is a damn cool race call):

After the race, it was reported that an Auckland Reactor owner had a dust up with Phil Butcher, driver of the presser. No word if it was just yelling, or if fisticuffs ensued. It also appears the stewards are looking into the drive saying he did "not give his horse the best chance to win." Watching the video I do not think you have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure that out.

Then it was announced that there would be a driver change for the Reactor's next race. Mark Purdon would be replaced with Tony Herlihy for the $500k Miracle Mile this Sunday in Australia. Syndicate spokesman: "He's the best in the world, and it takes a bit of pressure off Mark," he said. "We spoke to Tony a few days ago, it was Mark's idea to put Tony on."

That's not all. Of course not.

It was then reported that during the race itself, someone threw a "bread and butter knife" at the runners when they were 100 metres from home. This might have been done as a protest to one of the controversial trainers in the race. "I've spoken to the person who reported the incident and he is in no doubt it was a knife. He said a security guard retrieved it from the track." said a steward.

The Miracle Mile goes this weekend, featuring the rematch, and we will have the video up here on the blog when we get it. Let's hope for no knife throwing - bread and butter or not.


Don Wilson said…
Sure would be nice to see more races like this. Someone push the frontrunner to the point of exhaustion. No more single file races. Maybe, just maybe, some fans would return.
Pacingguy said…
It turns out the knife was a pen.

I discussed this elsewhere, but from what I have gathered, someone should be serving some serious off time. This is what can happen with an uncoupled entry. Someone who bet on Awesome Armbro never had a chance as the plan was to use him to take down the big dog and try to help his uncoupled stablemate.

Sad thing is if this was occuring in North America, we wouldn't get this much press.
Scott Ferguson said…
I don't agree with the tactic (and the trainer & driver should have got weeks for this incident) but why does the $1.40 shot who crossed from gate 5 think it's his right to get a free ride in front? If he wanted to ease up and let the other horse cross he could have. There's a sprint lane (a concept I despise) to let him get out. If the horse is one-dimensional and can only lead, then he's a false champ. The Miracle Mile this Sunday at Menangle in NSW will showcase the best Australia & NZ have to offer, he won't get it easy there.

As Don said, single-file racing kills interest in harness racing faster than an outbreak of foot & mouth.
Anonymous said…
Tont Herlihy is "The best in the world"????????????????
My how people love to exaggerate in horse racing, like when every year their horse is "the best they have ever owned"...or "driven"...conveniently forgetting the best horse they had ever had the previous year and the year before that and.....
What a joke.
Pacingguy said…
I am hoping Auckland Reactor is the real deal and not another San Simeon. San Simeon was so highly heralded, that the Meadowlands had their own 'World Cup' with some of the best, including Genghis Kahn. San Simeon was revealed to be a paper tiger in the states and never won again.
eric poteck said…
Interesting dilemma; driving a horse in a manner that gives it a chance to win, verse, using a ‘ganging’ tactic. In North American we seem to accept that fact that ‘ganging’ is acceptable. The use of ‘rabbits’ in thoroughbreds is not uncommon. It appears that other jurisdictions do not consider it acceptable.
I believe the time has come to frown upon such tactics. If horseracing in North America is to survive and thrive again, we must overtly protect the wagering public. If a horse is driven in a manner that gives it no chance to win, the Driver should face a significant fine!
Walleye Hunter said…
Nice topic.Can wait to see that over rated mule Auckland Reactor get his clock cleaned again.Would any of you fine folk from Australia have a live link to watch this race for us in North America ?

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