Ukraine made history when producing sizzling speed to win his debut at Winton yesterday.
The pacer became the first 2-year-old winner in New Zealand in 2024, the first Australasian winner for his sire, Captain Crunch, and the first winner under Harness Racing New Zealand’s new 2-year-old bonus scheme with his excellent victory for Bob Butt.
Although Ukraine did not need a flash overall time to win, he showed an outstanding turn of foot to come from off the pace on a 26sec last 400m split to win.
That final sectional indicates the pacer has plenty of potential, and trainer-driver Butt’s immediate plans for the horse suggest exactly that.
"We have got to make up our mind now whether we go to the Young Guns or come back down south for the Kindergarten [Stakes]," Butt said.
Butt has always had a good opinion of Ukraine and thinks the horse’s great turn of foot will be a big asset.
Ukraine is raced by Canterbury owner-breeder Don Bates. The horse was bred by Norwegian Wood Breeding Ltd, which Bates owns with Stephen and Alana Hammar.
Ukraine banked an extra $12,000 in stakes, as yesterday’s race was the first eligible under a 2-year-old scheme from Harness Racing New Zealand.
Two-year-olds winning their first race in New Zealand now deliver their owners a bonus of $8000, $4000 to the breeders.
"It is great for Don. He has been a great supporter of mine," Butt said.
"He owns him and bred him, so he cops the whole lot."
Built For Glory was last of the pack at the 400m in his Southern Supremacy Stakes bid before he swept past his rivals to score stylishly.
As impressive as the pacer was, driver Tim Williams thinks the horse will only get better by the time the series final arrives.
"He has taken a bit of making. I said to some of the owners he is going to take racing to learn his craft."
"But he has got the makings there. He has got a good will to win and he is a nice horse to drive."
Ruby Roe also sped home from off the pace to win yesterday’s Southern Oaks heat.
The 3-year-old came widest around the home turn and let down powerfully to nail game runner-up All You Need Is Me right on the line.
Yesterday’s Wairio Cup was won by Tact McLeod for trainer Trevor Proctor.
The pacer was slow away but driver Blair Orange landed him a perfect run in the one-one before he angled out to win well.