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It is not too often that a horse feels ''flat'' and still breaks a track record, but The Fiery Ginga is no ordinary horse.
The 6yr-old CR Commando gelding backed up well from his hard run at Cromwell on Sunday by scoring in style at Oamaru yesterday. He made light work of his 50m handicap, went to the lead with 1300m left and trotted the 2600m in 3.19.1, breaking the track record he set in September by 0.3 seconds. It was his 23rd win.
But trainer-driver Alan Clark still feels his star trotter is not completely at the top of his game, despite steady sectionals and holding off the challenge of firstly Miss Pegasus, then Te Horo Diva.
''He never really kicked like he should have,'' Clark said.
''He still feels a bit flat for some reason. I don't know why. It might be some underlying infection. I'll give him a quiet time and bring him back up again.''
Clark will consider a start at the Northern Southland meeting at Ascot Park on January 17 provided all is well with the trotter before looking across the Tasman to the trotting features in March.
The Great Southern Star series, a new initiative in Victoria, is expected to attract Australasia's best trotters for the concept in which the trotters will race in heats and finals on the same day, similar to the Elitlopp day in Sweden every May.
New Zealand's top trotters, including I Can Doosit, are likely to clash with former Australian star Let Me Thru who is on the comeback trail after a long lay-off through injury.
Third Oamaru success
Kotare Yaakov is showing a liking for the Oamaru track. Yesterday he bolted home in the 3-to-7-win handicap pace (2600m). It was the third time Kotare Yaakov had won at Oamaru - each time for a different trainer.
He won as an early 4yr-old at the Kurow meeting at Oamaru in August 2011 for Mark Purdon and Grant Payne, picked up a winner's cheque with the Robert Dunn team in September, and yesterday's win was his second start for Fernside trainer Phil Burrows since joining the stable in early December.
Burrows has been easing back on Kotare Yaakov's work, as the horse has a knee complaint.
''Confidence-wise, he looked to me like he wasn't trying,'' Burrows said. ''That's probably to do with pain, so we've backed off and done something different.''
Kotare Yaakov was good enough to beat open-class contender Easy On The Eye in September, so the talent had always been there, but the will had been lacking, even for a horse who had won seven races leading into yesterday's race. The knee issues have been worked on, Burrows said.
''Our vet, Mike Brown, has done a pretty good job on him.
''He's a wee bit sounder now than what he was. I think he needed a bit of a freshen-up, let him find his feet in the new stable, and just try something different to what was happening with him.''
Burrows chose the race at Oamaru as a way to get his confidence back. He was saved for one run by Gavin Smith and cruised past his rivals to win by 2 lengths on a last 400m of 27.1sec.
''We chose an easy race like this just to try and make racing a bit more fun again for him.
Burrows is in no hurry to line Kotare Yaakov up again, as he is conscious of keeping the horse sound.
''We'll just try and space it and try and find the right opportunity for him - hopefully a standing start, because he's pretty good at them.''
Nathan Williamson is willing to take his time with Wattie's Sweetheart.
The 4yr-old mare was backed into favouritism yesterday, despite having galloped at Roxburgh last week, and she duly delivered for her followers, scoring by 3 lengths with plenty in reserve.
The young Ryal Bush-based trainer was all set to let the daughter of Mach Three loose last season before trouble struck.
''She was ready to race last season as a late 3yr-old and then got a really bad virus and had to be turned out, so I gave her a good spell during the winter and set her for the Central Otago circuit,'' Williamson said.
''Unfortunately she galloped the other day [at Roxburgh] in the race we targeted, but it was another Harness Plus [bonus] here today, so that was good.''
Wattie's Sweetheart's impressive mile rate of 1.58.4 will serve her well in the future, as Williamson and fellow owners Ben and Karen Calder have a broodmare career in mind.
The mare's third dam is Aberfeldy, one of the great broodmares to come out of the foundation mare, Black Watch, for noted Waikato breeders Sandy and Jan Yarndley.
''She has got a lot of ability, so we'll just keep ticking away quietly with her,'' Williamson said.
''She was pretty impressive and that looks good for her broodmare potential.''
Shorteners were added to Wattie's Sweetheart's hopples yesterday.
''I'll back off her now,'' he said.