In a time where many aspects of our lives have been turned upside down and inside out, there is an element for us Harness Racing fans to get real excited about.
Whilst we have lost some of our biggest races, the brightest stars of the sport have been stepping out and teasing us with what may lie ahead once things clear up from a health and travel perspective.
Harness Racing has a large spread of outstanding horses. Superstars who can light up the track and when they finally come together, give the sport some real punch in the mainstream market.
My last Power Rankings column was done way back in February and plenty has happened on and off the track since then. (That’s an understatement!)
This time in, I’ve tried to blend in a combination of ‘what have you done lately’ as well as the potential that each horse has moving forward. At the end of the day, most of this is opinion based and opinions are exactly what gets the people talking and raises interest in the game. I look forward to everyones feedback. Be kind…
Here is the August edition of the Unofficial Harness Racing Power Rankings…
1 KING OF SWING (Craig Cross, 55 starts, 24 wins, $1.4m, MR 1:48.0)
Best performances: 1st Miracle Mile, 1st Hunter Cup, 1st Allied Express Sprint.
Sport throws up funny things! And this bloke is the epitome of that saying after bursting onto the Aussie scene as a travelling Kiwi winning the two-year-old Breeders Crown before being purchased by West Aussies where he won the WA Derby before falling in a hole. He was transferred to the Craig Cross stable and in his six starts for the new team, has won three Group 1’s and earned close to $900,000.
Naysayers point to King of Swing’s inability to do work or win a big race from off the speed but knocking any horse that has the recent resume of this guy is foolish. He’s the proven No. 1 on form and with upside to come under the masterful guidance of Cross/McCarthy.
2 ULTIMATE SNIPER (All Stars, 20 starts, 14 wins, $843k)
Best performances: Clean sweep ID series, 1st NZ Derby, 1st Northern Derby.
Unraced as a two-year-old, the younger brother to Ultimate Machete took the world by storm at three, winning two Derbies in NZ before transitioning into the open class ranks. Injuries have hounded the stocky son of Bettors Delight but he announced himself as a sensation in sweeping the 2019 Inter Dominion series in Auckland.
His heat victory when three-wide throughout was hard to fathom and he did the job against a nice field in the $500,000 final.
A return to the race track is a while away but he is back in work.
3 LOCHINVAR ART (David Moran, 37 starts, 18 wins, $680k, MR 1:48.6)
Best performances: 1st Victorian Bonanza, 1st Chariots of Fire, 2nd Miracle Mile.
Consistently unlucky as a young horse, he took matters into his own hands as a four-year-old. His Bonanza was hard to believe, especially as the timing board malfunctioned at the track. He left a boom horse in Self Assured standing in a blistering 1:48.6 mile around Tabcorp Park Melton.
He won the Chariots from the breeze in a 25.3 final split and looks to have more toughness than any going round.
4 CHICAGO BULL (Gary Hall, 80 starts, 52 wins, $1.8m, MR 1:51.7)
Best performances: 1st Fremantle Cup, 1st WA Pacing Cup, 2nd Inter Dominion Final.
An assault on New Zealand beckoned for Chicago Bull and he began with a blazing stand start victory at Alexandra Park but a freak accident saw him suffer a severe back injury.
A miraculous return to racing in WA saw him perform only mildly but this time in, the Bull from old looks back with a bang.
He’s been driven supremely by Gary Hall Jr but he’s given the Gloucester Park free-for-all crop a beating. Whether he attempts another eastern seaboard mission is up for discussion but his form over a few years stands up, as do his recent runs.
5 SELF ASSURED (All Stars, 16 starts, 11 wins, $385k, MR 1:50.2)
Best performances: 1st Auckland Cup, 1st QLD Derby, 2nd Chariots of Fire.
Exploded onto the scene with a couple of outstanding wins over Lochinvar Art in Queensland last season. The tables turned at 4, though, as Self Assured gallantly had to chase home the Victorian superstar in the 4yo Bonanza and Chariots.
He jogged in an Auckland Cup last New Year’s Eve and has come back in ripping form in New Zealand.
6 RIDE HIGH (Clayton Tonkin, 15 starts, 14 wins, $259k, MR 1:49.0)
Best performances: 1st Breeders Crown Final, 4&5yo Championships.
This son of Art Major has exploded onto the scene with some of the most track scorching performances seen in the sport. Only has a three-year-old Group 1 to his name but injury has plagued this ultra-fast horse.
A pending match race with Lochinvar Art and eventual major races once COVID-19 weakens will show us exactly how good this bloke may be.
7 SPANKEM (All Stars, 39 starts, 16 wins, $1.2m, MR 1:47.7)
Best performances: 1st Miracle Mile, 1st NZ Messenger, 1st NZ Easter Cup, 2nd NZ Cup.
Injury interrupted his assault on the Grand Circuit stage but not before Group 1 victories in the Easter Cup, NZ Messenger, Taylor Mile and a 1:47.7 Miracle Mile salute.
His coming out party was a brilliant ID18 campaign and all are hoping he can return to the track somewhere near his best.
8 CASH N FLOW (Craig Cross, 62 starts, 28 wins, $478k, MR 1:49.2.
Best performances: Won past nine races at Menangle.
Most accept Cash N Flow is a rung below the very best and his form proves that with just one placing from seven Group 1 tries.
What is hard to look past is his recent form, peeling off nine straight wins over the mile at spacious Menangle. He’s gone sub-1:50 in four of those wins but a sub-1:48 mile looks out of reach and is what you’ll need to win the big ones in Sydney.
9 ALTA ORLANDO (Craig Cross, 74 starts, 16 wins, $610k, MR 1:50.0)
Best performances: 3rd Miracle Mile, 1st Schweppes Sprint, 1st Shirley Turnbull.
A veteran of 74 starts, Alta Orlando is among the group of open class stars under the guidance of Craig Cross.
His third placing in the Miracle Mile was meritorious but luckless and he was scratched from the Hunter Cup in unfortunate circumstances. Is a Group 1 winner in the Miracle Mile lead-up as well as a strong Group 2 victory over a decent bunch in the Shirley Turnbull Memorial. An assault on last season’s WA carnival was also aborted because of travel issues.
10 CRUZ BROMAC (Amanda Grieve, 52 starts, 23 wins, $1m, MR 1:50.7)
Best performances: 1st NZ Cup, 1st NZ FFA, 1st Len Smith Mile, 3rd ID Final.
Seen as a mercurial talent before a stint with Kevin Pizzuto landed a Len Smith Mile at 30/1 and a potent season with All Stars, landing him a NZ FFA and a coveted NZ Cup. The son of Falcon Seelster is ageing and returning from injury but he’s a threat in any race under the correct circumstances. Currently under the care of Amanda Grieve in Victoria.
Next in line;
Thefixer – A NZ Cup champ and runner-up in a Miracle Mile. That form eluded him in last summer’s trip Down Under.
Shockwave – Highly touted but an age-restricted Golden Nugget his biggest victory… so far.
Mighty Conqueror – Progressive horse with a WA Cup under his belt. Still just five.
Mach Shard – Runner-up to U Sniper in the ID Final and would have gone close in the Hunter Cup before being scratched.
Code Bailey – Burst onto the scene last season winning the Terang Cup and placing in Group 1 Allied Express Sprint.