The Interdominion harness racing series approaches -
but what does it all mean, and how does it work? Racing writer
Matt Smith has this helpful guide.
Terror To Love is one of the New Zealand horses to watch in
the Interdominions. Photo by Matt Smith.
What is it?
The Interdominion Pacing Championships first came into being
in 1936, after delegates from around Australia and New
Zealand had met the previous year and agreed on a
championship for Australasia's best harness horses. In the
following 76 years, the series has traditionally been a
format of several rounds of heats, with points accumulated
throughout the heats deciding which horses make the final. In
recent years, the number of rounds of heats was reduced from
three to two.
How about the trotters?
Australasia's best trotters joined the pacers in 1948 for
their own separate series, although the trotting series was
sporadic in the first 25 years and, in later years, the two
series were not always held in the same state, or at the same
time, due to states such as Tasmania not having trotters as
part of their racing schedule. The final Interdominion
trotting championship was held at Melton, near Melbourne, in
2012 and was won by I Can Doosit, who had the honour of
claiming the last series in New Zealand the previous season.
The Interdominion Council decided to revamp the series, and
offered the running of the series from 2013 to 2015 out to
tender. Harness Racing New South Wales won the rights to
stage the championship for the next three years, and set
about changing the format. Qualifying heats will be held in
Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Auckland on Saturday night. Due
to the varying numbers in heats, each heat will qualify a
different number of horses into the final, to be held in
Sydney on March 3.
Favourites this year
The speedy Terror To Love will be well suited to this new
format, with the heat and the final two weeks apart. His two
New Zealand Cup wins over the 3200m distance indicates he has
the ability to last to the end in the 3000m final.
Im Themightyquinn is a two-time winner of the Interdominion
series - he won the 2011 series thanks to Smoken Up's
disqualification, and he was too good at his home track of
Gloucester Park in Perth in 2012. But the 800m, tight-turning
track at Gloucester Park is a far cry from the expansive
1400m track at Menangle, and he hasn't performed terribly
well in Australia's eastern states.
Love him or hate him, Lance Justice will be back at the
Interdoms with Smoken Up. The disqualification in 2011 after
an anti-inflammatory cream was found in Smoken Up's system
still rankles with Justice, but at 10, is Smoken Up too
old?Mah Sish has climbed his way to near the top of the
pacing pile this season, finishing fourth in the New Zealand
Cup before winning the Hunter Cup earlier this month. He will
love the 3000m staying test as long as he qualifies.
Pride Of Petite won two trotting series, but lined up in a
staggering five series from 1993 to 1998 (she missed the 1994
series). In her second series win - at Globe Derby in 1997 -
she came from an impossible position with 600m to go, looping
the field and unleashing a sprint down the outside fence to
Blacks A Fake was rightly called ''immortal'' by commentator
Dan Mielecki after he won the 2008 pacing final in Melbourne
- his third consecutive Interdominion title. Little did
Mielecki know Blacks A Fake would go on to win a fourth
series in New South Wales in 2010, while he also placed in
the 2009 and 2011 finals.
Gammalite had been kept away from the Interdominions until he
was a 6yr-old, and patience paid off for trainer Leo
O'Connor, as the son of Thor Hanover won the 1983 series in
Auckland and the 1984 edition in Adelaide, beating the great
Popular Alm and champion mares Bonnie's Chance, Armalight and
Delightful Lady when winning the first of his two titles.