The Inter Dominion Championship is rated as one of the world’s great harness racing series and the 2018 edition is set to commence this Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Melton.
This year’s event is organised by the Inter Dominion Events Committee, with representatives from both Australia and New Zealand and is billed as the premier harness racing event in Australasia.
The series was first established in the 1935-36 season, when the Championship’s basic protocol of three Heats and a Final was established and remained unchanged right through until 2008. At this time a bold initiative saw the series linked with the Australasian Grand Circuit, but this change did not gain much support or popularity, so further variations were made in the years 2009-2011, before the original format was to return in 2012.
In the championships staged through 2013-2015, a format involving seven heats held concurrently on major tracks in Australia and New Zealand was introduced in an attempt to revitalise the series and at the same time the Trotting Championship was discontinued.
Historically, the Inter Dominion Championships were held on an annual basis and rostered to major tracks in both Australia and New Zealand, but for the years 2013-2015 the Pacers Championship was awarded to New South Wales, to then be followed by Western Australia in 2015-2017 where the original three heats and a final format was revived. This will continue through 2018-2026, with Victoria, NSW and New Zealand as co-hosts, and also with the Trotting Championship to be reinstated.
The Championship is considered to be the ultimate test of speed and stamina in the original and now latest format and this year it returns to Melbourne for the first time in a decade, with the city last hosting the series in 2008.
The format this year will start with the first round of heats, for both the pacers ($30,000) and the trotters ($20,000), to be staged at Tabcorp Park Melton this Saturday, the 1st December. The second round of heats is to be held at Ballarat next Tuesday, the 4th December, followed by the third round of heats at Cranbourne the following Saturday, the 8th December. The Finals for both the pacers ($500,000) and trotters ($150,000) are to be staged back at Melton, on Saturday the 15th December.
There were 104 pacing nominations and 88 trotting nominations for the Championships, with the first rankings released on the 3rd October and the fourth and final rankings released last Wednesday, the 21st November.
The number one ranked pacer in the final rankings is Tiger Tara, improving from an original third ranking. He is followed at number two by the recent NZFFA winner Cruz Bromac, who has risen from number five in the initial rankings and Let It Ride settles as the number three ranked pacer after starting at number two. All of the top three ranked pacers are New Zealand bred, with Cruz Bromac also being trained by the powerful New Zealand All Stars Stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen and Let It Ride being trained by ex-pat Kiwi Tim Butt. Other NZ-trained runners set to line up are Spankem and Pats Delight. Interestingly, Spankem is part-owned by the Breckon Racing Syndicate and other contenders in Cash N Flow and Burnaholeinmypocket were bred by Breckon Farms.
The number one ranked trotter in the final rankings is the New Zealand owned and trained Speeding Spur, who is trained by John and Josh Dickie. He has been the number one ranked trotter since the rankings were first released. The second ranked trotter is the Australian, but New Zealand bred, Tornado Valley and third ranked is another local in Kyvalley Blur, trained by ex-pat Kiwi Brent Lilley and whose recent racing has been at the NZ Cup Carnival where he finished an excellent second in the Group 1 $300,000 Dominion Trot. Other NZ-trained runners are Monty Python and Alderbeck, while Wilmas Mate who to all intents is a New Zealand representative, has been officially transferred to the Tim Butt stable in Victoria.
Mark Purdon has the distinction of being both the trainer and the driver with the most Inter Dominion Grand Final wins. As a trainer, he has 7 wins and as a driver he has 6 wins, a remarkable achievement. Amongst his trainer/driver wins was the 2011 and 2012 Trotting Grand Final Champion I Can Doosit, who was also bred, owned and raced by the Breckons.
So, in the pacers ranks there are 14 from NSW, 17 from Victoria, 2 from Queensland and 3 from New Zealand set to face the starter and with the trotters there are 4 from NSW, 16 from Victoria and 4 from New Zealand. While this series has been deemed to be lacking somewhat in star power, following the many injuries, retirements and sales overseas of several open-class stars in recent times, it is sure to be a competitive series with the return to the traditional format and with good representation from throughout Australasia.
With the fields now released for the first round of heats, many of the Kiwi contingent have fared well and look set to accumulate good points going forward into the subsequent rounds of heats, that will hopefully ultimately see them qualify for the Grand Finals. The two leading New Zealand horses in each division of pacers and trotters, Cruz Bromac and Speeding Spur respectively, will be sent out as hot favourites for their first night assignments, so hopefully this will lead the way to a good points haul for the Kiwis on the first night of the championship.
We wish all competitors the very best of luck and GO THE KIWIS !!!