Almanac Racing: The Inter-Dominion


To us country folk a day at the ‘trots’ was a major social gathering and something to behold. It was the sport for the man on the land, his workhorse often re-emerging for an extra shift on race day. As a kid I can recall ‘Goosie’ Andrews jogging one and leading two a journey of 15 miles from New Norfolk to Northall Park in Hobart to race, sometimes twice; returning home after dark.

Along with the Miracle Mile the Inter-dominion has always been a well-anticipated event on the national trotting calendar. Unlike ‘Goosie’, both have survived, albeit the Inter Dominion in a different coat.

Once ‘The Inter’ was capital city-based, and lasted a fortnight with three fiercely competitive heats and a gruelling final; all standing start, all under handicap conditions, with capacity fields. They were almost exclusively run at “the show grounds.” But not anymore. Nowadays there are heats all over the nation and beyond and a final wherever. All mobile starts and no handicaps, sometimes the heats have only a handful of starters. Now they race at purpose built tracks for ‘harness racing’. With long flat straights and banked turns today’s ‘harness horse’ has it made compared to their not too distant cousin.

And the style and tactics of trotting has changed too. There was a time if you got caught outside the leader in the ‘death seat’ it was just that, death. Good night nurse, tear up your brief, first horse beaten. Now all the drivers seem to do is seek that spot, do almost anything to get there, and sit ‘parked.’

Last Sunday Menangle hosted ‘The Final’ of ‘The Inter’. This year a Tasmanian (Tassy) horse won. Just eight Tassy horses have won the final. This year the best harness horse (trotter) Tassy has produced in a while, some say ever, Beautide, sat parked and won by twenty metres in near world record time. And what’s more it’s the second time he’s done it. Beautide is a very strong stayer. A champion. Down here on the island he excites us!

So what’s changed?

The ‘free-for-all’ conditions are a boon for the modern trotter. It’s why Our Sir Vancelot won three Inters and Black’s A Fake won four. They faced no handicap, enjoyed mobile starts and the latest lot face no gruelling carnival. In times gone by the handicap prevented horses like Paleface Adios, a winner of over 100 races, from winning just one.

Once the best Tassy horse was Halwes. He never sat in the death. No one sat parked in those days and won. He starred in Auckland in 1968 easily winning all three heats only to be scratched from the final. He never won the Inter.

Locals are raving about Beautide, rightfully so, some rating him Tassy’s greatest. I just wonder how he’d fare parked outside Halwes? But then again the doyen of Tasmanian harness history, Peter Cooley, rates Logan Derby better than both.


Daryl Sharpen 5 Mar 2015


Leave a Comment