Mates combine for popular win

There was something special about the win of Hug A Ginga in the UGL — Tauranga RSA 1200 at Tauranga last Wednesday.

Sure, it was only a Rating 65 sprint, but the victory was sweet for two long-time mates, Cambridge trainer Earl Harrison and top jockey Noel Harris.

Despite the pair being mates since Harrison’s riding days, Harris hasn’t had many opportunities to ride a winner for his pal. “In fact I’ve only had one other ride for him and that was Shoji one day when the horse needed the run,” recalled Harris. “I was talking to him recently and jokingly said it’s about time you gave me a ride and that’s how it happened.”

Hug A Ginga had picked up a third and a fourth in her latest three starts leading up to last Wednesday’s event and promised to be a good ride. And so it proved.

Harris had the horse handy on the outside coming to the home turn and kicked her clear to win easily by three and a quarter lengths.

The win could be considered some payback for a special deed Harrison did for Harris 39 years ago when the latter was chasing an outright NZ Jockeys’ Premiership win.

Harris and arch rival were locked in battle on 91 wins apiece and Harris had no ride in the last race, but Harrison was to ride the well-fancied Nelsonian. Wanting Harris to win the Premiership, Harrison gave up the ride to his mate, but try as hard as Harris did, Nelsonian had to settle for second.

Peake went on to also be beaten in his last ride, at Te Awamutu, and history shows Harris and Peake deadheated in that 1972-73 NZ Jockeys’ Premiership.

But Harris says he will never forget what Harrison did for him that day. “When I look back he didn’t have to do it,” recalled Harris. “He was a battling jockey and there was a riding fee and it was money and that’s what we’re in the game for. It’s a true jockey mate that would stand down for you.”

Obviously, Harrison gets a mention in “Harry” The Noel Harris story, which has been published by Hachette NZ and hits the book stores on August 1. The first of two official launches of the book about the life story of one of New Zealand’s most successful jockeys will be held at Matamata racecourse on August 16 and the other at Awapuni the following Wednesday.

Harris’ immediate focus is now on the Opunake meeting tomorrow, but further ahead he is looking forward to riding Marea Alta in the Listed Taumarunui Gold Cup at Te Rapa on Saturday week. He won the race on her last year and also the recent Kiwifruit Cup at Tauranga.