By Duane Ranger
Queensland’s only representative in the 2019 Inter Dominion Championship at Alexandra Park has settled in well to his South Auckland surroundings.
“He looks really happy. He’s in a paddock of his own because he’s a stallion, and I’m looking at him as we speak. He’s standing as still as a statue looking out at other horses at Tony Herlihy’s neighbouring property.
“He’s hardly moved from his spot. He looks an absolute picture. He seems to be thriving here. Australia’s other good chance in the Series – Bling It On, is also staying with us in a paddock not too far away.”
Those words came from Colt Thirty One’s host for the November 29 to December 14 Championship – John Green.
Green, who himself was a former Group One trainer and driver in both New Zealand and Australia. The Auckland businessman still has horses racing in Queensland – the best of them Hughie Green, who is trained by Green’s close mate, John Cremin.
Hughie Green, who has won 18 races and $256,635, was named after Green’s late father, Hugh.
Two-time Queensland Harness-Horse-of-the-Year, Colt Thirty One, was handed the ‘visitor’s’ draw for Friday night’s first heat on the right-handed (clockwise) track.
The Mach Three 5-year-old, who drew eight (of 13) in the first heat at 5.33pm (Queensland time), is being cared for by Dale Hogan in New Zealand until his trainer/driver, Grant Dixon arrives on Thursday.
But Green believes drawing the outside of the front row first-up isn’t as bad as it sounds.
“It’s only the first heat, and there’s no real pressure like say the third heat when you have to go all-out to qualify. He can sit back and then make a late dab for early points,” Ardmore-based Green said.
“He’s a very good sit and sprint horse, who possesses a lethal late sprint,” he added.
“The draw is not ideal and because it is a quality field with some very good pacers, I think I will be left with no option but to ease him out of the gate and then look for cover.
“I’m keen to get over there and see him. By all accounts he’s thriving over there and worked well on Monday. I’ve been driving for 31 years, and this will be the first time I’ve driven in New Zealand,” 47-year-old Dixon said.
Dixon will return soon after driving Colt Thirty One, and all going well will go back to New Zealand for Tuesday’s second round of heats, before returning to Tamborine after the third heats on Friday week so he can drive at Albion Park on the Saturday.
However, those plans could all change. Dixon and his wife Trista are expecting their third son any day. He said he wouldn’t be going anywhere until his son arrived.
“Family comes first and Trista is due today (Tuesday). If I can’t get there I will speak to Kevin Seymour (owner) about a replacement,” Dixon said.
Despite having never reined a horse across the Tasman, Dixon has driven in several Inter Dominion grand Finals before with Atomic Ark’s seventh in 2010 at Tabcorp Park Menangle his best placing yet.
“It’s going to be a big thrill driving at Alexandra Park. The right-handed way around won’t bother the horse because I train my team both ways at home. He’s used to it,” Dixon said.
The last time a Queensland trained pacer won the Inter Dominion Grand Final was the Rasmussen trained champion, Blacks A Fake in 2010. That Queensland immortal is the only pacer in the history of the Championship to win four Grand Finals after also nailing the crown three times in a row in 2006, 2007, and 2008.
However, Seymour did own Mr Feelgood when he won the 2009 Grand Final on the Gold Coast.