by john manzi, with Joe Lee, for NAADA
Once again be reminded that international amateur driving challenges are grand vehicles for human relations as witnessed by the recently completed competition between the North American Amateur Drivers Association and the New Zealand amateurs. When it was over the final score was the least important aspect. The friendships shared were paramount.
Lee began his synopsis on the off day of December 9 by stating, “Peter Kleinhans got to call the fourth race at Adlington Racecourse in New Zealand. Since the thoroughbreds have a strong group of announcers from Down Under calling races in the US, Peter may be one of very few who turned the tables around and called a harness race on New Zealand soil.
Lee then continued; “The hosts here in New Zealand have kept us quite busy. They had so many wonderful things planned for us each day. Sometimes upwards of 13 hours a day. It has been a great experience and truly will be hard to top should the New Zealand amateurs ever come to the states for some driving.
“On Saturday we opened the card at Addington Raceway. Twelve horses went to the post; nine across and three in the second tier. Peter Kleinhans, driving Earthbound, left from the eight-hole and while crossing over to be third on the first turn the pacer uncharacteristically made a break and Peter had to take the horse to the inside and off the course.
“Meanwhile, I left out of the 12 post and got away eighth with Jema Jet and then moved to be in the two-wide flow for the first lap of the mile and 5/8th race. After the first lap I pulled Jema Jet to the outside and began the three- wide line of horses and paced up toward the leaders with a lap to go.
“Gerry Fielding had a tough task driving Red Under Fire from the outside post. He got away last and had a rail trip for the two lap distance and over on in the stretch to be 7th. Dave Offenberg was driving a Bettors Delight gelding, Better Backim and they got a way toward the back of the pack.
“There was quite a bit of pace up front and with me and others pressing. Dave was able to launch his horse with a huge move from the back of the pack the last half of a mile and paced forward the entire lengthy Addington homestretch to finish third, just a nose off second losing the entire race by 2.5 lengths.
“Sunday's racing took us to Motukarara Raceway which is a mile and an eighth racetrack for grass racing. The amateur clan was in the second race on the all grass card.
“The race was contested at a mile and a quarter this time. Dave Offenberg had a tough go here with an unruly and nervous horse who was making his first start in over a year.
“I floated away from the five-hole leaving him and moved to be first-over with the leader down the long green backstretch.
“I was driving an in-foal mare named Stylish Babe, who Peter Kleinhans drove Thursday. She was making her last career start and I took her up to the leader until the top of the stretch where she tired and we finished back in the field.
“Gerry Fielding was driving (the host) Gavin Cook's, Red Maro, who I drove Thursday night and was racing on short rest. We got away toward the back of the pack and made a big move on the last turn and even took the lead into the stretch before tiring in the extremely long turf stretch.
“Peter Kleinhans drove The Edge of Reason. He had the rail and got away third on the inside.. As the flow developed and got three lines deep, Peter’s horse got shuffled and didn't make enough headway in the lane to gain on any of the leaders.
“Unfortunately the Americans, who all had their first experience on the grass, finished 10th 11th 12th and 13th for a reverse superfecta. Everyone had a great experience driving on the grass. It certainly is a different type of racing.
“We were partnered up with four other New Zealand drivers since we were a team of four and they had more representatives. When all was said and done, the hometown Kiwi's took the competition and won the bragging rights. But who really cared?