Harness Jewels 2019

Harness Jewels 2019

2019 IRT HARNESS JEWELS – 12 in the Top 12

As the 13th running of the prestigious Harness Jewels approaches, the anticipation intensifies. It is billed as “The New Zealand Championship of Harness Racing” and “New Zealand’s richest race day” with $1,275,000 in total stakes, so as usual the excitement is building as the big day approaches.

This year’s event is to be staged for the first time at Addington Raceway, on Saturday (1st June) and after racing on the 24th May concluded, the top qualifying horses in each category were finalised.

Along the way Harness Racing New Zealand has issued invitations to several Australian horses in various categories, with a record number (six) of these invitees accepting. This is seen as a way of increasing awareness, interest and betting on the day’s racing, especially with Australia’s main racing broadcaster, Sky Racing agreeing to screen most races from the Jewels live on Sky1 throughout Australia, a presence that will give great exposure to our industry.

The six invited Australians that are set to take part are Major Occasion in the 4YO Ruby, trained by Chris Frisby, Lulu Le Mans in the 2YO Pacing Fillies, trained by Mark Jones and Aaron Goadsby, All Cashed Up in the 3YO Trotting ranks, trained by Anton Golino, Falcon Stride in the 4YO Emerald, trained by Shane and Lauren Tritton, Majestic Player in the 4YO Ruby, also trained by Anton Golino and Petes Big Jim in the 3YO Emerald, also trained by Shane and Lauren Tritton.

Each of the races on the day is to be run over the new distance of 1980m, where historically they have been run over the metric mile distance of 1609m, as the venue has been alternated between Cambridge in the north and Ashburton in the south over the last 12 years.

There was much hope from all quarters as connections and punters alike awaited the all-important barrier draws, that were made last Friday (24th May).

Barrier draws were not considered so crucial on the big 1497m Ashburton track, as they have been on the 1000m Cambridge circuit in previous years, but the 1980m start-point at Addington will surely see those with a handy draw advantaged in their chances of Group 1 glory.

There are several defending champions that are set to attempt to go back-to-back and join an elite club of dual Jewels winners. These are Princess Tiffany (winner of the 2018 2YO Diamond), Enhance Your Calm (winner of the 2018 2YO Ruby) and Winterfell (winner of the 2018 3YO Ruby). Also, there is one runner who was a 2YO Champion who is set to attempt to become a dual Jewels winner too by contesting the 4YO division this year and that is the pacing gelding Ashley Locaz (winner of the 2017 2YO Emerald).

So, with the barrier draws now known, the final analysis can be made to formulate the chances of all runners. There were always going to be several runners that would be sent out as warm favourites for their division, regardless of where they drew and these included Sweet On Me in the 2YO Pacing Fillies ranks, Princess Tiffany in the 3YO Pacing Fillies, Elle Mac in the 4YO Pacing Mares, One Change in the 2YO Pacing Colts & Geldings, Jesse Duke in the 3YO Pacing Colts & Geldings and Turn It Up in the 4YO Pacing Geldings & Entires. In the trotting ranks these are Tailored Elegance and/or Ultimate Stride in the 2YO Trotting Ruby, Enhance Your Calm in the 3YO Trotting Ruby and Sundees Son in the 4YO Trotting Ruby.

It is amazing to note that every one of the likely favourites in the pacing ranks mentioned above and two of the four trotters, are trained by the formidable Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen partnership. Exceptionally they have 19 runners on the big day, with at least one runner in each division; a huge achievement.

The All Stars horses have been dominant at many editions of the Jewels in the past and from 19 starters last year they won a record six Jewels and an incredible 8th 2YO Emerald with Another Masterpiece (raced by the Breckon Racing Syndicate, together with Glenys & Phil Kennard, Jim & Ann Gibbs and Garry & Kerry Woodham). In 2015 they had five wins and set a stakes record of $583,225.

Group 1 races are the pinnacle in any of the racing codes and in what could be a first anywhere in the racing world, especially at this level, the all-conquering Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen training partnership could this year achieve the previously unheard of clean-sweep. They have the favourites to win eight of the nine Group 1 races on the programme and for good measure also have the second favourite in the other one remaining race. They also lay claim to the shortest-priced favourite on the day, in Turn It Up currently at $1.15 for the 4YO Emerald.

So, the day is eagerly awaited and if this achievement is indeed achieved, it will surely set the record bar, at a hitherto unobtainable level.

Another amazing achievement already in the record books, is that Mark Purdon leads the way with the greatest number of wins since the inception of the Jewels in 2007, as a trainer with 40 wins and as a driver with 24 wins. Remarkably Mark has trained the winners in all nine divisions of the Jewels.

Trainer Robert Dunn has the next highest number of starters in on the day this Saturday, with 12 runners and with many of these fortunate enough to have drawn handy, he is certain to be a force to be reckoned with in the eight races he has representatives in, including three in the 3YO Diamond and should be providing stern opposition in all those races he is set to contest.

Back-to-back winners of Jewels to date are Changeover (2007 & 2008), Springbank Richard (2007 & 2008), Tintin In America (2009 & 2010), Vulcan (2010 & 2011), Terror To Love (2012 & 2013*), Charlemagne (2012 & 2013*), Venus Serena (2013 & 2014), Adore Me (2013 & 2014), King Denny (2014 & 2015), Piccadilly Princess (2016 & 2017) and Heaven Rocks (2016 & 2017).

Dual Jewels winners have been Bettor Cover Lover (2010 & 2013*) and Monbet (2014 & 2016).

The only 3-time winner at the Jewels has been Sky Major (2013, 2014 & 2015).

Breckon Farms have an incredible 12 horses that were either bred by them, bred on the farm, raced by the Breckon Farms – The Perfect Ten Syndicate, raced by the Breckon Farms – The Savvy Six Syndicate, or raced by the Breckon Racing Syndicate, that are set to compete at the Jewels, having qualified in the top 12 of their respective divisions.

These, with their qualifying position in brackets, are:-

Group 1 $150,000 WOODLANDS 4YO DIAMOND
Elle Mac (1)

Group 1 $125,000 HANLEY FORMULA 2YO RUBY
Tailored Elegance (1)

One Change (1), Flying Even Bettor (4), Dina Bolt (9)

Tickle Me Pink (3)

Princess Tiffany (3), Dina Brown (9), Bubbled Up (11)

Group 1 $150,000 IRT 4YO EMERALD
Funatthebeach (3), Triple Eight (6)

Forget The Price Tag (4)

Of these runners, incredibly four hold current favouritism in their respective divisions, so Breckon Farms is looking forward to the big day.

So, while Jewels Day already marks a special day in New Zealand Harness Racing and being one of the richest days of the Australasian Harness Racing season, the record books could well be rewritten.

Each race will hold its own aspirations for trainers, drivers, breeders and owners, so we wish all participants the very best of luck in each of their respective races – it certainly looks like being a great day’s racing … as always.

Rob Carr

* One-off 5YO Jewels