By Michael Guerin
Sometimes the more things change the more they stay the same.
Which pretty much sums up the feature trot at Alexandra Park on Friday night.
Realmein did the right thing by punters by justifying his favouritism for the 2200m standing start, breaking 2:50 and winning effortlessly after a confident Phil Butcher drive.
The win was Realmein’s first since January last year, when he won in Australia when being campaigned by Tim Butt, with his last win for long-time trainer Matt Pemberton being November 2014, so almost two years ago.
But what most punters who saw Realmein down Charlemagne on Friday night won’t know is that the closest he had gone to winning a race in the last 18 months was a half head second in this very same race on the same weekend last year.
And on that occasion he was beaten by his quinellamate from Friday in Charlemagne. Adding to the oddity, the pair trotted their last 800m and 400m on Friday in almost identical sectionals to last season.
The greatest difference though is that Pemberton spent most of last season trying to get the best out of Realmein, now he knows he has him back.
“He got injured in Australia that campaigned when he galloped and took a chunk out of his front leg,” says Pemberton.
“That really set him back, first of all getting him right and then secondly he is not a horse who likes it when things go wrong so getting him back mentally was a challenge.
“But he seems great now. He is happy, relaxed and his manners are good so it special to have him back.”
So much so that Pemberton and his patient bunch of owners are planning a southern assault, which could start as soon as next Friday at Addington.
“We are keen to give him his crack down there so we will head down this week and he will be stabled with Bruce Hutton.
“The long term aim is the Dominion and we are not saying he can beat a horse like Monbet but if he races up to his best I think he can get money in those races.
“And he seems good behind the mobile at the moment, he ran second in a mobile the start before this, so that gives us some other options.”
Realmein had competition for the win of the night on Friday from comeback mare Start Dreaming, who was electrifying in the main pace.
Beautifully handled by trainer Barry Purdon, she sat in the one-one for the last lap before blasting down the middle of the straight to win going away.
It was impressive stuff from the daughter of American Ideal having her first start since a luckless fifth in the Ladyship Mile at Menangle on February 28.
But as excellent as the win looked to the eye, it was the stopwatch which really cemented Start Dreaming as the real deal, with the 53.7 second official last 800m one of the fastest ever recorded in New Zealand and Start Dreaming came out of the one-one so must have clocked 53.5, all of that off the markers.
Purdon has always had a huge opinion of Start Dreaming but while she will be given her chance against the better pacers in the Spring Cup, there are no plans to head to the New Zealand Cup meeting.
She will instead be aimed at the best mares races, with the first big aim the Queen Of Hearts in mid December.
Friday night’s meeting was a nightmare for the teams involved in the Kiwi Punters Challenge, the first of three to be held at Alexandra Park over the next month, with a relatively small total good enough to win after a series of $45, $29 and $35 winners in early races smashing punters.
(As seen on the Harness Racing New Zealand website).