Spotlight On: Inter Dominion 2023

The Inter Dominion returns to the Sunshine State for the first time since 2009.

Back in 2009, the pacing series was staged at the now defunct Parklands complex on the Gold Coast, owing to the Russ Hinze grandstand at Albion Park being condemned the year prior.

Former North American star Mr Feelgood (Tim and Anthony Butt) prevailed in an epic final, denying local champion Blacks A Fake an unthinkable four straight titles.

The following year Blacks A Fake claimed his fourth crown when successful at Menangle in Sydney.

As it stands, Blacks A Fake is the only Queensland-trained winner of an Inter Dominion Grand Final.

The Inter Dominion Championship is one of the world’s great harness racing series, and is currently organised by the Inter Dominion Events Committee (IDEC), with representatives from both Australia and New Zealand.

Traditionally, an Inter Dominion series (pacers and trotters) consisted of three heats and a final staged across a two-week window while on rotation across all states of Australia and both islands of New Zealand.

The Inter Dominion Championships were historically held on a yearly roster covering Australian States and New Zealand (NZ), but for 2013-15 the Pacers Championship was awarded to New South Wales (NSW), followed by Western Australia (2015-2017) where the original three heats and a final format was revived before further changes were implemented.

As it stands, the Inter Dominion has been manipulated, ripped, and pulled apart in many ways since the change of the new millennium leaving the future of the famed series fighting for survival.

But the biggest event on the harness carnival remains.

Now it returns to the famed Breakfast Creek oval of Albion Park for the first time since 2001 when the Kiwis came, saw, and conquered with Yulestar (Pacers) and Take A Moment (Trotters) proving triumphant.

No Queensland-trained pacer or trotter qualified for those respective Grand Finals. Will that change in 2023?

Albion Park has played host to five Inter Dominion series previously, with 2001 being the only time the state hosted both pacers and trotters simultaneously.

The 2001 series was an unforgettable series, fans and punters alike crammed into Albion Park to be part of the action, the Sydney-trained star Atitagain swept all three heats but was denied by Yulestar in the Grand Final.

Unplaced runners included Courage Under Fire, Breenys Fella, Shakamaker, Persistency, Lombo Rapida and Holmes DG among others.

The total series prize money was $800,000 (pacers) and $300,000 (trotters).

When the state first played host to a pacing series it was back in 1972, which followed the Addington (Christchurch) series claimed by Stella Frost.

Brisbane was abuzz with excitement and the crowds flocked across the series, which officially commenced on May 20 with the first-round heats conducted over 10 furlongs and 132 yards. The second round staged over the Grand Final distance of 12 furlongs and 132 yards while the final round was staged over 14 furlongs and 132 yards.

The final was taken by the New South Wales-trained Welcome Advice for George and Alan Harpley, defeating Monara and Reichman.

Mr Feelgood defeating Blacks A Fake at the 2009 Inter Dominion on the Gold Coast.

Some of the unplaced runners included the likes of New Zealand star Manaroa, Bold David and Deep Court among others.

The series was staged from the stand start with the final taking place on June 3 with total series prize money of $73,500.

Welcome Advice won two of his three heats before scoring comfortably in the final while Polo Breeze scored in the consolation.

No pacer made a clean sweep of the heats although Welcome Advice, Manaroa, Monara and Deep Court all won two of the three heats contested.

The wait for the next series staged at Albion Park wasn’t that long with the 1977 series allotted to the Sunshine State following the series staged at Globe Derby Park won by Carclew the year prior.

Again, it was primarily a stand start series although one round of heats was staged behind the mobile and kicked off on April 16.

The crowd again returned in full force to watch and cheer on the best pacers competing for the ultimate prize.

The three rounds of heats were staged over distances of 2130m (stand), 2150m (mobile) and 2940m (stand) while the Grand Final was held at 2530m (stand) with total series prize money at $115,000.

New Zealand ace Stanley Rio for George and John Noble prevailed in a gripping finish downing locals Master Findlay (Eldon Papworth) and Sporting Son (Kevin Thomas) in a classic final on April 30.

Again, in a deep final, some of the unplaced runners included Pure Steel, Paleface Adios, Sole Command and Don’t Retreat.

Legendary pacer Paleface Adios swept all three heats while local Sporting Son won two of his three heats.

It was the final series to be staged on the 800m right-handed track, which was placed on the inside of the sand thoroughbred track.

The next time the famed series returned to Brisbane was 1986, this time staged on the new 1000m oval with all heats staged from the mobile start and total series prize money of $356,000.

The new Albion Park reopened in 1983 and switched to anti-clockwise style of racing.

The series commenced on April 5 with four heats per night staged over the distances of 1609m, 1609m and 2100m while the Grand Final (April 19) was also staged at 2100m.

And it was the ‘Wonder from the West’ Village Kid for likeable trainer Bill Horn and champion driver Chris Lewis that completely dominated the series.

Affectionately known as “Willie” and a crowd favourite, Village Kid won all three heats before scorching to an easy victory in the final, defeating Vanderport and Line On while smashing the track record that was previously held by Popular Alm.

Most can recall the broadcast of the late Wayne Wilson when stating “it’s the kid, he’s King tonight” as he roared clear of his rivals in the home straight.

Queensland harness fans had to wait until 1993 for the series to return, but it was clearly worth the wait. In what shaped as one of the greatest series of all-time, it had fans salivating!

Hot And Treacherous.

Representation came from everywhere for this series which officially started on April 17, heats were staged over the distances of 2100m, 1609m and 2600m – the Grand Final was also staged at 2600m.

The total series prize money was $610,000.

Defending champion Westburn Grant carried the hopes of many while “buzz” Perth pacer Jack Morris set the series ablaze with some dynamic performances throughout the heats.

The Grand Final took place on May 1 and, in front of possibly the biggest ever crowd assembled at Albion Park, it was Jack Morris for trainer Sean Harney and driver Rod Chambers who justified his short price (favourite) as he scored easily after racing without cover for the entirety of the staying event.

Jack Morris easily beat Warrior Khan and Blossom Lady while his winning time was a full second outside of his own world record, which he set the previous week.

Some of the beaten brigade included Christopher Vance, Westburn Grant, Weona Warrior, Defoe, Franco Tiger, and Level Advice.

Rustic Lad (Graeme Bowyer – Kevin and Kay Seymour) was the only Queensland performer who qualified for the final and finished a respectable fifth.

The race was robbed of interest with the scratching’s of brilliant New Zealanders Chokin and Master Musician.

So, we’re set for another epic chapter in Inter Dominion history when the 2023 series kicks off on December 1 with a collection of the best pacers and trotters vying for the ultimate prize at Albion Park, the official headquarters of harness racing in the Sunshine State.

Can a locally trained representative take the prize/s and join the incomparable Blacks A Fake as an Inter Dominion hero?

Will a Queensland trotter create history and claim the biggest prize?

Will Leap To Fame rise to the occasion? Or will it be the likes of Hot And Treacherous, Turn It Up or Blacksadance to take centre stage?

The defending champions are I Cast No Shadow (Pacers) and Just Believe (Trotters) who scored in Melbourne last year.

Let’s go Queensland!

Leap To Fame will be looking to perform in ID23.