By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
Tony Herlihy, one of New Zealand’s most revered horsemen, had a near perfect night at Cambridge Raceway on Thursday, but it was not quite enough to bring up a significant milestone.
The South Auckland horseman trained and drove a treble in the first three races at Cambridge Raceway, bringing up his 999th victory as a trainer.
He went into the night’s feature race, the Dinny Johnstone Waikato Guineas Mobile Pace (2200m), with $1.80 favourite Last Tango In Heaven and looked a promising chance of joining brother-in-law Mark Purdon as the only two horsemen in New Zealand to have recorded 1000 wins as both a trainer and driver.
Last Tango In Heaven was taken back early to sit off the pace for Herlihy before he asked the three-year-old gelding to improve to sit outside leader Aladdin with a lap to go.
The son of Rock N Roll Heaven raced roughly down the home straight and couldn’t reel in the leaders, with Alta Wiseguy beating Aladdin home in the Guineas by two lengths, with a further 1-1/2 lengths back to Last Tango In Heaven in third.
Herlihy was humble in defeat but said his charge didn’t handle the left-handed way of going particularly well in the final stages of the race.
“It was a good run. They ran home in 55 and the quarter in 27,” Herlihy said.
“It was his first time that way around racing. He was just a bit awkward from about the 500m, but in saying that the other two were a bit strong for him on the night.”
While happy enough with Last Tango In Heaven’s run, Herlihy was pleased with the early treble recorded by stablemates Settle Petal, I See Fire, and Mia Ragazza.
“It was an honest run from Settle Petal,” Herlihy said. “I know it was only a small field and wasn’t run for a back runner, but she got up there and stuck to her guns up the straight and had her head in front at the finish.
“I See Fire is a horse with a bit of potential. He has been letting himself down, so it was good to get him trotting all the way. He is still not quite 100 percent trotting at this stage. He is still a work in progress, but he does have potential.
“And Mia Ragazza is a nice filly with a bit of speed. She stuck to her guns in her first run back for a wee while. The break did her good and she has come back a bit stronger.”
Herlihy currently sits atop New Zealand’s all-time driver’s list, with 3564 wins to his name, and with just one more win for his black and white silks and he will join nine other horsemen to have recorded 1000 training wins.