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BLAST FROM THE PAST


1990 DOMINION TROTTING HANDICAP: Won by Sundon

1990 TV3 NETWORK DOMINION TROTTING HANDICAP

Seldom has so much joy and merriment been punctured so suddenly than in the seconds of satisfaction following the Dominion Handicap. A large crowd, comforted by a warm pleasant night, had relished the return to form of Sundon in the Met's big trot. This was the very moment they had been waiting for ... the young champ back on his pedestal. Cheers laid dormant for months echoed around the course as the big bay put the cap on quality with a dashing front-running exhibition to beat southerner Game Paul and northerner William Dee. The clapping and calling started half-way down th straight when it was apparent this was Sundon's day. There was a great bubble of gaiety at the result until the siren blew it for six.

Cheers turned to out-cry of boos and confusion as word came out that the inquiry was into the winner. Clutching his notes, Metropolitan President Peter Andrews stood uncertainly in the birdcage wings as the drama unfolded. Driver Peter Jones headed for the stipes' room with the comment: "Do you know what this is about?" An emergency huddle of club officials made fresh plans for the presentation and sent Sundon off to the stalls. In the meantime, trainer Fred Fletcher stood in the shadows, bemused by the whole affair. Fay, his wife, wearing her lucky pearls, was more forthright in her opinion of the inquiry. Said Fletcher: "It's my luck lately ... and it's their right."

The inquiry was held into an incident about 350 metres from the start when Marcol's Pride and Gee Du Jour broke. The stipes went to consider whether Jones had crossed with Sundon too close and interfered with them. Tommy Knowles, the driver of Marcol's Pride, and Simon Adlam, who handled Gee Du Jour, gave evidence, the inquiry was dismissed, and Jones came out to say: "It was totally uncalled for. You usually know if you've done something. I was totally bewildered by this."

Jones paid Fletcher a tribute for the manner in which he had prepared the horse. "Fred's done a marvellous job with him. My main worry was getting him away from the second line, though Fred said it would suit him. He felt really strong all the way. I was pretty confident three from home when he pricked his ears," he said.

News of the dismissal met with instant approval and a revival of the cheers that the siren had snuffed out. Sundon was called back, decorated, and the crowd appeased, filed back to their seats. Fletcher has gone through some traumatic times with Sundon in recent months, the latest an accusation that he did not drive the horse on it's merits less than a fortnight back. Fletcher has since appealed against the suspension this charge brought, but he elected to sit the Dominion out. He engaged Jones, who has been driving members of his team with good success already this season. Fletcher had, in fact, suggested to Jones earlier this season that the Sundon drive was available if he wanted it, but a firm decision this was was not made until his recent bad news. "He's not the easiest horse to handle, but he drew what he wanted. He's got no problems and I see a lot of improvement in him yet. I don't think he's actually five until next year some time," said Fletcher.

Fletcher did not attach any extra significance to the Domininion, as he may have done for a stake of such an important race. "I said to Fay on the way in, it would be nice to win, but it is just another race." Sundon, who will now have a week off, is an easy horse to train. "He is the most placid horse I've ever had. He sleeps most of the time," said Fletcher.

Sundon won the race in 4:12.8, which was more than four seconds slower than it took Tobago - one of Saturday night's faders - to win the race last year. An excellent front runner, Sundon was in good hands. Jones took him through the first mile in 2:09.5, sharpened up near the end of that section when Tobago hurried forward to put himself in the call. It was a lonely trip and he sat parked and tired. Jones was able to back off from the mile to the half, which took 64 seconds. He was then in the choice position of being able to sprint at will from there which Sundon did with ease.

To the tune of cheers, siren, boos and cheers, the sun went down on another Dominion Handicap; one that started with drama and ended the same way.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HR Weekly

 
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