Kentuckiana Lodge colt Krug wowed the harness racing world with a stunning Northern Derby win at Alexandra Park on Friday night that simply had to be seen to be believed.
Trainers Cran and Chrissie Dalgety watched on in amazement as their star pacer produced one of the most incredible derby winning performances seen in New Zealand’s recent history.
The early stages of the Group One feature went exactly as the couple had hoped but soon after the usually cool and calm Krug got keen and turned the Northern Derby into the most spectacular of one-act affairs when he led a star-studded field by 15 lengths leading into its last lap.
After producing those stunning scenes, Krug was eventually eased down at the finish by driver Tony Herlihy who left the pacer’s earplugs intact as he added a second Group One title to his glittering resume.
Cran was like any other harness racing fan in the middle stages, firstly surprised Krug had run to such a lead and secondly hopeful he would run out the derby distance strongly.
But at the 800m the trainer did not have the same concerns after doing some quick calculations.
“At the 800m I reckoned he was about 3sec in front of the field and I thought he could probably run home in about 31sec and still win it,” Cran said.
“He ran three back-to-back quarters in 28sec and if it was any other horse I would be expecting them to knock up.”
“But this guy is an exceptional animal.”
“And we had a master in the sulky.”
“Again, if it was anyone else driving him I might have been a lot more concerned.”
“But it was Tony Herlihy and even though the race wasn’t quite going to plan I knew he would have things under control.”
Krug’s spectacular win was made more satisfying by the extra efforts the Kentuckiana Lodge team went to to prepare their pacer for his first derby tilt.
Cran flew back and forth between Auckland and his home base in Canterbury, with his latter trips complicated by the country’s COVID19 alert levels changing.
The trainer was in a rare position in that he was pleased to be in Auckland for its latest lockdown as it meant he was there to overseas the final stages of Krug’s Northern Derby preparation.
“It was a big thrill,” Dalgety said.
“It has been about seven weeks since we first came up here and we have had our challenges.”
“I think I have flown up and back six times.”
“But it’s an easy trip to make when you are training a quality horse like this for a Group One race.”
“To pull it off is very satisfying.”
Krug and his stablemates have been stationed at Derek Balle’s Pukekohe stable during his northern campaign.
Cran paid tribute to the northern horseman for helping him take out his second Northern Derby following Raukapuka Ruler’s victory in 2017.
“The horses have wanted for nothing while they have been at Derek’s place,” Cran said.
“He has been a great friend to us and we couldn’t have done this without him.”
Krug will now return to Kentuckiana Lodge where he will be set for the New Zealand Derby.
Regular driver Blair Orange will take the reins behind the three-year-old in his second derby bid.
“Tony did a fantastic job filling in, but Blair will be straight back in the bike when he returns.”
“Blair has done a great job with the horse the whole way through his career and he deserves a lot of credit for our win tonight.”
Krug was not the only Kentuckiana Lodge pacer to cash in on a big night at Alexandra Park.
Casino Action notched a Group One placing when running on strongly into third in the Young Guns Cardigan Bay Stakes Final.
“He went super, the leaders had it to themselves but he ran on nicely,” Cran said.
“Things haven’t gone to plan in his last two starts but it was great to see him race like we knew he could tonight.”
Chevrons Bypass also produced a big race placing with her third in the Group Two Delightful Lady Classic.
“The wide draw was against her and that made things very hard, but to run on like she did was a super effort," Cran said.
“She is getting better all the time and we were very pleased with her.”
Mitsi Gaynor will have to wait to show her true potential in one of the upcoming feature events for two-year-old fillies.
She was wiped out of the Delightful Lady Classic when runners ahead of her galloped and she had to take evasive action.
by Jonny Turner