By Duane Ranger (courtesy of Redcliffe Paceway)
The first Queensland horse to compete in, and then win the 109-year-old Victorian Trotters Derby is now targeting the Breeders Crown in Melbourne later this month, and then possibly the New Zealand Trotters Derby in Christchurch on December 4.
Another masterclass drive from Australasia’s leading driver, Nathan Dawson, saw the Graham Dwyer trained Not As Promised, win last Sunday’s (October 29) Group One $75,000 Victoria Trotters Derby 3yo Final at Maryborough. He is owned by Veivers Purchasers Ltd and was bred by Jess Tubbs, who had the horse for his first six starts.
“I’m just so pleased for Nathan and Tony (Veivers), who have now created a bit of history with this. We have all created a bit of harness racing history here in Queensland.
“Nathan’s drive was brilliant. It show-cased his amazing driving talents. He’s a clever driver and you can see that the way he connects with the horse and can immediately size up what’s going on around up. He’s just a genius in the bike.
“But I don’t think this win would have happened had it not been for my son Layne. He turned the horse around in a week. That’s quite astonishing for a 16-year-old,” Dwyer said.
The North MacLean horseman explained that his son had been looking after Not As Promised at Denis Grieve’s Myrniong stable 69 kilometres north-west of Melbourne.
“Layne will stay down there until the Breeders Crown is over, and then we are seriously looking at the New Zealand Derby. What Layne did with the horse in a week was amazing. He didn’t steer right in the heat the week before when he finished fourth, and Layne then sorted him out within a week.
“My boy played a big part in the victory. He showed horsemanship beyond his years. I’m very proud of him. I’ll go back down if the horse makes the Breeders Crown Final. Because of that the New Zealand Derby is now a real possibility – depending on how he comes through the Breeders Crown heat and Final,” Dwyer said.
“The horse didn’t travel that well down there either so that’s another feather in the cap for Layne. He really settled the horse in very well down there,” he added.
The 49-year-old trainer, who has been conditioning standardbreds since the 1992-93 season, said Sunday’s second Group One victory was by far his best.
“I’ll never forget my first Group One when Quik Change won the Q-bred 2yo Triad Final in August this year, but nothing compares to this Derby win.
“We have created history. This race was first held in 1914. As far as I’m aware no other Queenslander has ever lined up in the race, let alone win it – so I’m very proud, not just for the horse, but for everyone involved, including my wife, Martine,” Dwyer said.
“It’s undoubtedly the highlight of my career,” he added.
Not As Promised, a 3-year-old brown Albert Albert gelding has now won seven of his 13 starts and placed in five others for $82,335 in purses. His winning mile rate of 1:59.6 for Sunday’s 2,690m mobile was a personal best.
Not As Promised now has his name alongside Wagon Apollo (1994), Noopy Kiosk (1996), Houdini Star (2006), Speeding Spur (2015), Majestuoso (2019), and Pink Galahs (2019) as some of the top-liners who have won the coveted Victoria Trotters Derby.
Dwyer junior is now preparing Not As Promised for the Group One Breeders Crown Final at Tabcorp Park Melton on November 25, with the heats preceding that a week earlier.
Then if he performs to expectation in that $75,000 Final, then it’s all go for the Group One $100,000 New Zealand 3yo Trotting Derby (formerly known as the New Zealand Trotting Stakes) at Addington Raceway on December 4.
“I have never campaigned a horse in New Zealand, and I still maintain I’ve never really had a champion horse. All I do is people’s cast-offs. So, for a trainer like that to win the Victorian Derby, and then have a tilt at the Breeders Crown and the New Zealand Derby would be a dream come true.
“I don’t know what I put my successes in the last 12 months down to. Just good staff and hard work I think.”
Dwyer said Not As Promised would now go straight into the Breeders Crown heat without another race, and he would again be driven by Dawson. Dwyer was proud to have Australia’s leading reinsman driving in his colours.
“Brendan Barnes is my stable driver, but Nathan drives for a few of my owners, and that’s a privilege for our barn. He’s so in the moment at the minute. He has gears, and when he puts the foot down the horses really go for him.
“Nathan is what I would call a clever driver. He has time when others don’t. At times he makes other drives look inferior. It’s like he has a panel of switches that he controls and calls on whenever he wants.
“That Victoria Derby drive show-cased all of Nathan’s talents. The lad is a genius – and to think he’s just 28, and got a whole lifetime of success ahead of him,” Dwyer said.
Meanwhile, Dawson described Not As Promised’s nose victory as one of his greatest moments in 12 years of professional driving. That’s a huge call since the Glamorgan Vale reinsman has had a season from heaven to go with his three other Group Ones he’s nailed at Redcliffe and Albion Park.
“It’s right up there with the best because there wasn’t any nerves or pressure – and the win wasn’t really expected. The favourites drew well, and we drew poorly (12), and then when they got tucked away didn’t get the runs to suit, everything fell into place for us. We were in the right place at the right time. He didn’t go that badly (fourth) in the heat, and I certainly didn’t think he was a $41 chance going into that race,” Dawson, the 2023 Australian Driving Champion, said.
Dawson described Dwyer as one of the most astute trainers going around.
“Not many trainers would have placed the horse in that race, but Graham was prepared to put in the work and the miles. The victory is a credit to him because he backed himself and the horse when others thought he had no show,” Dawson said.
“He’s just a super trainer with exceptional skills,” he added.
Dawson said he was looking forward to the Breeders Crown, and thereafter said he would pounce at the chance to drive in New Zealand.
“I’ve never driven there and would jump at the opportunity if Graham takes his trotter there. I just want to get as much experience as I can, and we all know Addington Raceway is the home of the New Zealand Cup over there. I’d be keen as,” he said.
Dawson described 2023 as a ‘oncer’.
“it’s been a dream season and I think you only get one of these in a lifetime. It’s all come into place and now I really want to see if I can get to 400 wins this season,” said Dawson who smashed the Queensland all-time driving record with his 316th driving success Redcliffe Paceway a month ago.
Dawson currently has 356 wins in 2023 and earned a personal best $2.5m in stakes. He is a whopping 119 wins clear of second placed Gary Hall Junior on the Australia Training Premiership, and 166 clear of Queensland’s next best, Peter McMullen.
As for Dwyer, his 111 victories this season are a personal best – beating his 110 achieved in 2019-2020. His stake earnings of $988,633 are also a personal best by $304,305.
Dwyer is currently fourth on the Queensland Training Premiership with 106 wins, and is eighth on the National Premiership.
Footnote: Former Queensland horseman and now Great Western (Victoria)-based, Daryl Crone, trained the runner-up in Sunday’s Victoria Trotting Derby when his $151 outsider, Wishing Stone gelding, Prince Of Rock ran second with Tina Ridis in the sulky. The Queensland quinella paid $823.