By Duane Ranger
Alicia Harrison would love to win her first Country Cup crown when she has her first Country Cup drive in the Parawai Cup on the Thames grass tomorrow (Saturday).
The 21-year-old Cambridge horsewoman, who recently finished the last of her University exams (major in agriculture and minor in equine sciences), will get in behind the Arna Donnelly trained Imajollywally in $10,000 Bayley's Coromandel sponsored handicap for the R60 to R88 pacers.
"It would be massive if I could get up and win because Arna has sacrificed the drive for me. Her Mum also sponsors the race, so it would be so satisfying to win it for them.
"Arna is such a wonderful person to work for. It's the least I can do to pay her back for her generosity - and I think I'm behind the horse to do it. He's my favourite. I just love driving ‘Wally’," the 21-year-old said.
Imajollywally will start from the 20m handicap in the 2600m stand. The son of Armbro Operative will be looking to go one better in this year's Parawai Cup.
Twelve months ago the 8-year-old gelding and Donnelly finished a neck-second behind Sir Richie and Maurice McKendry (MNZM). He started off the front line (4) that day.
"It's his chance to redeem himself. He got beaten last year when he looked to have the race won. Wally goes into this year’s race in peak condition. He has awesome speed and if saved for one run he can run past them," Harrison said.
Up until his last start failure Imajollywally has been a model of consistency, but you couldn’t blame him for that 12th on New Year’s Eve. He raced against some of New Zealand’s very best pacers in Vincent’s Auckland Cup.
“This is more his go. He’s a beautiful horse and if I can get in the running line at some stage and then unleash his powerful sprint then I think he can go close. It goes beyond thankful for this drive. I’m just so excited,” Harrison said.
Up until the Auckland Cup Harrison had driven “Wally” in nine of his previous 10 starts with the highlight being a neck victory in a $10,000 R60 to R76 pace at Manawatu on November 23.
The R80 ranked pacer has now won 12 of his 98 starts, placed in 18 others, and banked just over $50,000 for his Waiuku owner and breeder, Craig Good.
The gutsy old bay has placed once from two starts at Thames.
"The secret will be covering him up and keeping him nice and settled so I can use his high speed. He's definitely my best drive at Thames," Harrison said.
Harrison will also steer the Donnelly trained Valmara in the second event - the $8,000 North Island Trainers & drivers R40 to R60 pace for the junior drivers.
"She has drawn well but there are some nice horses in that field. She can surprise them but ‘Wally’ is definitely the better winning chance of the two," she said.
Imajollywally finished fourth on the North Island Country Cups points table last year behind Fleeting Grin, Everything and Sir Richie.
Fleeting Grin and Peter Ferguson were last start winners at Cambridge Raceway on December 29 and can't be discounted from their 30m back mark.
Mo Casino (Zachary Butcher) and Count Landeck (Shane Butcher) are also capable of figuring in the photo finish from their nice front row draws. Delightful Zen and Benjamin Butcher can’t be discounted either.
The 2018 Parawai Cup will be the second time the race has been run under the Waikato - Bay of Plenty Harness banner.
The last 10 winners of the Parawai Cup on the Thames grass have been:
2017: The Steve Telfer & Chris Garlick trained Sir Richie (Maurice McKendry - MNZM).
2016: The Tim Vince trained Celtic Warrior (Kyle Marshall).
2015: The Arna Donnelly trained and driven Ideal Success.
2014: The Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained and driven Spirit Of Art.
2013: The Anne-Marie Best trained Tijuana Bromac (Scott Phelan).
2012: The David Kaa trained Speedstar (Jay Abernethy).
2011: The David Kaa trained Speedstar (Jay Abernethy).
2010: The Mike Berger trained Phil B (Arna Donnelly).
2009: The Mike Stormont trained Border Raider (Anna Stormont).
2008: The Ian Small trained Heez Justamachine (Philip Butcher).