Cambridge trainer Arna Donnelly elected to bypass the rich Harness Jewels day at Addington with Liberal Arden last month and that decision has paid off, with the Sir Lincoln gelding taking out the Dunstan Horsefeeds Cambridge Horse of The Year title.
Liberal Arden posted four victories this term at Cambridge Raceway and a number of placings to secure the title with 33 points, while the Mike Berger-trained About Turn was close behind in second place with 30 points.
It was Liberal Arden’s first season with Donnelly, after joining her barn in September from Leeston trainers Terry and Glenys Chmiel, and she was rapt for his owners Ken and Audrey Piercy.
“That was really awesome (to win Horse of the Year),” Donnelly said. “He deserves it, he has been ultra-consistent this season, so it was very pleasing to see him get that, especially for his owners.
“Ken, he is 92, and his wife Audrey, they just live for their racing. It’s the highlight of their week when their horse races.
“They have got a couple in work with Glenys and Terry and they have got a couple with me.”
While Liberal Arden qualified for the Gr.1 4YO Emerald (1980m) on Jewels day, Donnelly was happy with the decision to keep him at home and focused towards the Horse of the Year title.
“Although he has done a really good job, he probably wasn’t up to those good horses in the Jewels down there,” she said. “He was definitely better off staying home for that (Horse of the Year).”
Liberal Arden’s closest rival for the Horse of the Year title, About Turn, did head to Addington last month after qualifying for the Gr.1 3YO Emerald (1980m), and he rewarded the faith of his connections with an eye-catching run for fourth.
Liberal Arden secured $4,000 for his owners after winning the competition, while Donnelly will receive a $3,000 product prize as the trainer.
Cambridge trainer Mike Berger will receive a $2,000 product prize after About Turn secured second spot, while Hawera trainer Willie Fleming will take home a $1,000 product pack after his 13-year-old trotter Above The Rest came third.
After a pleasing season Liberal Arden has been sent for a spell after he finished unplaced in the last meeting at Cambridge Raceway this season.
“He raced a bit below par last Sunday,” Donnelly said. “He’s pulled up with his bloods all out and he has got a bit of a cold, so he has just gone to the paddock for the time being. He’s had a long season.”
Liberal Arden is one of a number of South Island horses that have joined Donnelly’s barn this season and that support has assisted Donnelly in posting an all-time best for the season in both wins and prizemoney.
“It has been fantastic and it has been a big team effort, I couldn’t be happier,” Donnelly said.
“I am getting a few horses from the South Island, it’s fantastic. Terry and Glenys have been really good supporters of mine and a few others have just followed through, so it’s been great.”
Donnelly is hoping to continue her success into the new season and she has a number of rising three-year-olds that she is excited about.
“Having 30 wins this season, it’s going to be hard to do that again next year,” she said. “In saying that, we have qualified half a dozen two-year-olds this season and hopefully they will go on and race as nice three-year-olds and pick up some races.
“You never know when the next one from the South Island is coming through the door too, and they all help.
“A goal would be to get a Group winner somewhere along the line.” – Cambridge Raceway
Above: One of Liberal Arden's four wins at Cambridge Raceway this season, came in the Cullys Brutality: Their Hottest Sauce Yet! Moblie Pace on April 18, with junior driver Alicia Harrison in the sulky.