Eyes will be trackside on horses and drivers during the $1 million race at Cambridge Raceway tomorrow (Friday) night – and three men will be playing a key role in making the event a well-run success.
The rich Race by Grins is last on the card at the eight-race meeting which starts at 5.23pm.
Clerk of the course Ron Weller of Ōhaupō has the job of ensuring the course is up to standard and the fields under control. He will accompany the winner of each race back to salute the judges, including the million-dollar winner.
Meanwhile Arapuni’s Trevor Bunting and South Aucklander Danny Blakemore, also a trainer, will be in the Ford Falcon five litre starting car known as the mobile barrier.
The field of 10 pacers in the feature race, aged three years or older, include two Waipā trained and driven horses – Kango and Nicholas Cage – who will line up behind the starting gates for the 2200 metre race.
Kango is trained by Arna Donnelly and driven by the veteran Cambridge driver David Butcher who has driven and trained hundreds of winners at his home track.
Andrew and Lyn Neal train Nicholas Cage and have Matthew White in the sulky. White is having a cracker of a season and guided the four-year-old gelding to an upset victory at Alexandra Park in Auckland last month to secure a slot.
Weller will be watching them closely riding Whiskey, a seven-year-old grey former Australian stock horse, as he will the entire field and the track itself.
The clerk of the courses are often referred to as “red coats” for their attire on race day, which they wear on top of their all white kits.
Meanwhile Bunting, who has been driving the start car at Cambridge for 21 years and Blakemore, a relative newcomer, have the job of getting the horses on their way.
While to the onlooker it appears that Bunting, sitting in the car’s driving seat, is controlling the vehicle, it is in fact Blakemore who has the control.
“He does most of the driving because he is the starter,” says Bunting whose job it is to steer the car while Blakemore keeps an eye on the horses and uses the hand accelerator to speed up to 80kph away from them heading to the straight.
The draw for The Race by Grins, now up to $1 million after the inaugural $900,000 event last year won by Self Assured, took place on Monday.
The seven-year-old gelding and last year’s pacer of the year got back into top form with victory in the $45,000 Flying Mile at Cambridge last week beating Copy That and Akuta.
Kango was sixth and Nicholas Cage ninth.
The bulk of the $1 million prize money for tomorrow’s race comes from slot holders who committed for three years. They are Aussie Lads, Barrett Homes, Cullen Breeding Ltd, Dunstan Horsefeeds, Hole in the Wall Gang, Honey Bros, Hydroflow Distributors Ltd, P I & G J Kennard Bloodstock Ltd, Senz and a group containing industry figures Summit Bloodstock, Aaron Bain Racing, Richard Cole, Glenn Holland, Stephen Hunt and Trevor Casey who combined to take the final slot.
The 10 horses racing are Akuta, B D Joe, Better Eclipse, Copy That, Kango, No Matter Wat, Nicholas Cage, Old Town Road, Self Assured, Triple Eight.
General admission sales are expected to boost the crowd to 5000 after the gates open at 5pm.