In his third Cup attempt, Monkey King has finally captured the most prestigious race in New Zealand, the Christchurch Casino NZ Trotting Cup. It was a spectacular run home for the seven-year-old as thousands of people cheered him along at a packed out Addington Raceway.
Starting in the unruly position, Monkey King stepped away well with leading driver Ricky May in the sulky, whilst Awesome Armbro galloped putting him out of the race. The lead changed hands many times throughout with two of the Aussies, Karloo Mick then Smoken Up taking charge. The race favourite, Kiwi Ingenuity, was pushed hard as she peeled out three wide chasing down the leaders mid-race.
Monkey King was back in the running before moving three wide with cover from the 1000 metres. As Smoken Up took them onto the straight, Monkey King was the widest on the turn. And it was the son of Sands A Flyin who had the strength and determination for a great sprint down the straight. He was able to hold off outsider Bettor’s Strike by a neck with Smoken Up running on for third. Monkey King’s time of 3.57.3 is the second fastest in the race’s history.
Owned by Cavalla Bloodstock Ltd (Robert Famularo), Monkey King today added $538,860 to his lifetime stakes of over $1.2 million. Always a fan favourite, he placed second in the 2007 NZ Cup and has won 10 Group races. This win has been years in the making and it has finally paid off for trainer Brendon Hill.
To view the race in Windows Media Player, click here.
Twenty-five thousand Cantabrians flocked to Addington Raceway for what has been described as harness racing's biggest party.
The size of the Christchurch event is often exceeded only by the next day's hangover, but according to 3 News organizers were determined to improve the yobbish behaviour that often mars the occasion.
"We've got the best pacers in New Zealand and some of the best pacers in Australia here today," says Shane Gloury, Addington Raceway CEO. "We've also got some fantastic fashion, and really it's just the whole community gets behind it."
As ever, fashion in the field offered a little something for everyone, but cup day has previously attracted criticism for excessive drunkenness on site. After the carnage of previous years, organisers were keen to crack down on alcohol-fuelled tomfoolery.
"It's an important part of any big event," says Greg O'Connor, Addington Raceway marketing director. "We want people to come here and have fun, but we don't want it to turn into a boozefest."
So this year age ID bracelets were essential. Non-alcoholic drinks were being handed out on entry, bags were being thoroughly checked and the cool blustery weather was also helping keep things in check.
But where there is a will, there is a way. Despite the restrictions, there was no stopping some.
Of course, there were some horses too, with around $2 million bet on course throughout the day. But for many, the racing takes a back seat.
The day did end on a classy note though - in a hotly-contested fashion in the field, Christchurch's Cindy Randall took out the top prize.
(with files from 3 News and Harness Racing New Zealand)