Horse Racing: Big Battle Ahead for Top Trainers

Amanda and Steve Telfer run the premier harness trainers but no longer have the services of Ben Butcher (left).

New Zealand’s newest Group 1 race meeting this Sunday could end up playing a decisive role in who wins the harness racing trainers’ premiership.

If that is to be the case, then the All Stars barn of Mark Purdon and Hayden Cullen could have the upper hand, even if they enter the weekend in second place.

While the partnership would be the automatic first choice if most punters were asked who is New Zealand’s leading harness stable, the All Stars last won the premiership in 2019, with Dunn Racing making it back-to-back premierships since then.

If it seems odd to be talking about premierships in December, that’s after HRNZ switched their racing season to a calendar

year, meaning this season ends on December 31.

For much of 2022, the premiership has been and continues to be run by the emerging powerhouse of Stonewall Stud, with trainers Steve and Amanda Telfer (brother and sister) running a two-stable operation in Auckland and Canterbury.

Not only has Stonewall boss Steve Stockman become a huge sales player, but they are now regulars in our Group 1 races and lead the standings by two, 87-85 over the All Stars.

Senior training partner Steve Telfer believes he has the firepower to reach 100 wins for the year and says if the All Stars can pull that off, so be it.

“At the beginning of the season, I had two numerical goals: one was to get to 84 wins to get to 500 career training wins, and the other, if we did well, was to get to 100 for the season,” he says. Cable car. “I think we can do it and although we’d love to win the premiership now, we’re so close,

if 100 isn’t enough, there’s not much we can do about it.”

The stable will have a small number of races at Cambridge and Alexandra Park on Friday, along with the few down south, but will be hoping for at least a couple of wins when they send a team of six to the second day of the Manawatū meeting next week.

They will also boost the famous West Coast circuit by sending a team to Westport and Reefton in the final week of the year, but Telfer says they will stop short of changing the schedules of good horses just to win the premiership.

“Horses like Kahlua Flybye in the Grand Prix race at Addington on Sunday will come home afterwards and have a spell. We’re not going to face them in races they shouldn’t be in just to try and win the premiership.”

The stable will soon have a new driver from the North Island, with Benjamin Butcher leaving his employment on good terms this week as he and his partner move back to his hometown of Cambridge.

“Tim Williams has committed to flying over the next few months to do a lot of that driving, while we have a lot of faith in our junior pilot Alicia Harrison in time,” says Telfer.

But the All Stars have far more serious numbers at the Grand Prix meeting at Addington this Sunday, the new marquee day that at least partially replaces the scrapped Jewels day.

Purdon and Cullen could be up to six favorites at the meeting with horses including Self Assured, Don’t Stop Dreaming, Millwood Nike, unbeaten High Energy and Akuta in the New Zealand Derby and True Fantasy in the New Zealand Oaks.

If even four of them win then the All Stars could start next week as premiership leaders and expect to take a team to the Invercargill meeting in mid-December where almost any line-up will be favourites.

Just a few days ago, Team Telfer won $1.40 to win the premiership and All Stars $3.30.

Until last night it was $2 for the Telfers and $2.10 for the All Stars, with the title likely to be decided by a couple of wins at most.

●New Zealand filly Bolt For Brilliance is the $1.10 favorite to win the Inter Dominion trot at Shepparton tonight at 11.56pm NZ time.

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