National record came as surprise

A crew of Otago and Southland whitebaiting mates are behind the breaking of a 21-year-old national record held by one of Australasia's greatest trotting mares.

And it did not just come as a surprise to them. It seems everybody in harness racing failed to notice Pres The Belle overtook champion squaregaiter Pride Of Petite's 2200m New Zealand standing start record for mares when winning at Alexandra Park on May 3.

Harness Racing New Zealand confirmed yesterday the Robert Dunn-trained 5yr-old had taken 0.4sec off Pride Of Petite's 1998 record. Pres The Belle's national record stands at 2.47.5.

Owner Stuart Campbell, who races the horse with Des Minehan, Stuart Heal and Dexter Nind, said his group was delighted their mare's name had entered New Zealand's harness racing history books.

The quartet of owners race Pres The Belle on lease from highly regarded breeders Keith and Bevan Grice, of Canterbury.

Pres The Belle is the second horse they have raced, after getting the idea to band together on a whitebaiting trip.

''We go over to the West Coast whitebaiting and we thought we would get a horse together,'' Campbell said.

''The first horse we had was Waitoto Express. We named him after the Waitoto River, where we go whitebaiting. After him, we got this mare.''

Waitoto Express was the last horse former Ocean View trainer Campbell prepared to win before retiring from training in 2015.

He also prepared Pres The Belle's dam, Daisy Belle, for eight wins.

Campbell charged Forbury Park trainer Darryn Simpson with training Pres The Belle after his retirement. That move paid off when the mare notched seven wins from his stable.

Pres The Belle was then sent to Robert Dunn's Auckland stable late last year.

''Darryn did a fantastic job with her down here; he made the horse'' Campbell said.

''But there was nothing really left for her down here. She was racing off marks and it was going to be too tough.''

Lucrative Auckland Stakes and a connection with Dunn meant the decision to send Pres The Belle north made sense.

''Each week up there it is a $25,000 race, so it is a no-brainer for her to be up there.

''I have been mates with Robert for years, so we decided to give her a go in Auckland.''

That decision paid off when the trotter scored her eighth win and broke a national record.

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