New Zealand Derby racing results
After a big night of racing at Addington last night, Press Racing writer MATT MARKHAM works his way through the night's racing with a blow-by-blow account of the night's happenings.
RACE ONE: Winner - Irish Whisper
The freakish training talent of Phil Williamson was well to the fore in the opening race of the night. First up for four months Irish Whisper jogged his way through his resumption in an effortless fashion in the hands of Williamson's son Matty.
"He has a fair amount of talent,'' Phil Williamson said after the race.
"Our main aim for the season is the Harness Jewels and seeing him show a lot of gate speed tonight was a good sign for us as we look toward that.''
The consistent Fire In The Night flashed home late for second with Speedy Gonzalez in third for Dexter Dunn.
RACE TWO: Winner - Bettor's Fire
There's a big difference between winning at Westport and Reefton compared to Premier night at Addington but Bettor's Fire handled things just fine.
The royally bred gelding out of former top filly Spark's A Flyin has been a real big money turner for his owners Jim and Dr Susan Wakefield winning seven of his nine starts for stakes of more than $37,000.
"He actually keeps getting better and better,'' trainer Cran Dalgety said.
"Early on I was a little worried he might not be much, but he keeps surprising us.''
Harrison Maguire shut out a Dalgety quinella nudging Bettor's Creek out of second.
RACE THREE: Winner - Easy On The Eye
Steven Reid still thinks the best of Easy On The Eye is a year away.
The classy four-year-old was too good in front rating a one minute 55.1 mile rate over the 1950 metres in the hands of Tony Herlihy.
After finishing fourth behind stable mate Gold Ace in last week's Superstars the son of Christian Cullen relished a notable drop in class.
"He's an under-rated wee horse,'' Reid said.
"I think the best is still to come with him though, he should just keep getting better.''
Chaff Muncha was solid fresh up when running second after enjoying a good trip and Southwind Arden stuck on well after doing plenty of work to finish third.
RACE FOUR: Winner - Escapee
There's a new star in the New Zealand trotting ranks.
Not only did Escapee demolish her opponents. She destroyed them.
It's been a long time since a three-year-old trotting filly has shown so much dominance that it bodes well for the daughter of Sundon's future in the open class ranks.
The real story of the race though was the deserving success of owner Trevor Casey.
The owner of the Riccarton Lonestar Restaurant, Casey has piled the money into harness racing and is finally starting to get a little of it back.
No Boundaries showed he's a horse for the future with a grand second and Clifden Clowers was just as good in third.
RACE FIVE: Winner - Still Laughin
After four races which were dominated by short price victors a rough winner was imminent.
But a quick chat with Ken Barron will tell you Still Laughin wasn't deserving of a $22-to-one tote price.
"She's a good horse I've got no doubt about it,'' Barron said after the race.
"My stable has had a pretty bad bug going through it and that's what caused her to be so bad at Motukarara.
"She can head to the paddock now and I will look at bringing her back for Cup Week.
"She's such a nice filly I am really keen on breeding from her.''
Nicky Wright was solid as per usual in second with Living The Dream looking a little unlucky with a fast finishing third.
RACE SIX: Winner - Carter's Rocket
Matty Williamson is quite happy if Dexter Dunn's keen to give him the drive on Carter's Rocket permanently.
From three drives on the Cran Dalgety trained pacer, Williamson has picked up two wins.
"I think Dex can let me have this one from now on,'' Williamson said tongue in cheek.
"He's improved a lot and is pacing a lot better, there is a bit of a motor there.''
One of the toughest critics was even impressed with the Williamson drive - eight-year-old Carter Dalgety.
"Beautiful drive,'' was all he had to say.
Franco Envoy showed he's not far away from picked up a victory with a strong second and On Target backed up a good second last week with a solid third.
RACE SEVEN: Winner - Fly Like An Eagle
Mark Purdon has now trained or co-trained the winner of eight New Zealand Derbies.
And just to boot he's driven eight as well.
His success makes him one of the most successful horsemen in New Zealand Derby history.
Purdon has won the Derby as a trainer with Jack Cade, Young Rufus, The Court Owl, Bogan Fella and Likemesiah. In his partnership with Grant Payne he was picked up the Group One feature with Fly Like An Eagle, Sleepy Tripp and Auckland Reactor.
Unlucky in last night's Derby was Chancellor Cullen who looked much more like his old self with a fast finishing fourth placing.
RACE EIGHT: Winner - Clover Don
With some pretty big trotting features just around the corner, Clover Don is hitting his straps at the right time. An enigma for punters, the Murray Alfeld trotter was on his best behaviour last night and dominated his opposition with bold front running display.
Racing keenly and on the bit Clover Don was too good for Burano who had the drop on him throughout winning comfortably in the hands of Colin De Filippi.
"When he is in the right mood he's a very good horse,'' De Filippi said.
"He raced a bit keen tonight but he was fresh so I think he will improve with the run.''
Clover Don will clash with trotting superstars I Can Doosit and Stig in next week's New Zealand Trotting Championship.
RACE NINE: Winner - Franco Nelson
At a quick glance you could be forgiven for thinking Franco Nelson was actually Christian Cullen.
An imposing colt with almost the exact same markings as his champion father Franco Nelson is the real deal.
After destroying them on debut two weeks ago, he faced a big step up but handled it with aplomb, sprinting when required and showing a fight which is only reserved for horses of a high quality.
"Everything about him impresses me,'' Steven McRae said after the race.
"Right from early on he has shown us plenty of ability and has handled it all really well.''
Although the winner and runner-up Ohoka Punter were both impressive Border Control is a horse worth keeping an eye on.
After drawing the second line his run was full or merit and it won't surprise to see him winning a big race in the near future.
RACE TEN: Winner - Hands Christian.
Purdon and Payne are at it again.
Hands Christian leads, trails and then leads again and is too good for his opposition.
There is something about the victory that resembles a very similar Easter Cup preparation to Sleepy Tripp who won the Group One in 2010.
And it wouldn't at all surprise if a similar result is found again this year.
With no moves in the race, Franco Emirate and Sir Lincoln were always on a hiding to nothing although the former did make good ground up to finish second from Ma Sish who was as consistent as always.
RACE ELEVEN: Winner - Pemberton Shard
There was no more deserving winner last night than Pemberton Shard.
A model of consistency in recent weeks the Brad Mowbray trained three-year-old would have enjoyed not having to chase home Twist And Twirl this week and after a great trip throughout was always going to be hard to beat.
Add to the fact that there aren't many Premier nights at Addington where Ricky May doesn't gain a success and the writing was really on the wall.
Donegal's Guest was an eye-catching late finisher along the markers and should be one to keep an eye on after a strong second placing while Chianti will be an improved horse when he returns to the races after running third.
RACE TWELVE: Winner - Springsteen
Blair Orange signed off on single life in the perfect fashion.
The popular and successful horseman marries partner Lisa Godsall this afternoon and made sure he celebrated in style with a win on Springsteen who was one of the bets of the night.
It's another winner for the Purdon and Payne barn making it four for the night and yet again another successful Premier meeting at Addington.
After winning last week in an impressive fashion Springsteen looked the best of good things last night and after working to the lead early in the race the three-year-old was always going to be hard to beat.
Punters who backed him into short odds would have had their hearts in their mouths 100 off the post when he appeared to stumble but Orange kept his cool and Springsteen rebalanced and held onto win.
Fellow three-year-old Devil May Care was very good in running second after running out on the home bend and Franco Jackson who enjoyed a good trail whacked away well for third.