Marlborough harness racing enthusiast and owner Greg Ruffell discovered his own glittering jewel at Addington Raceway recently.
Divinia Bellezza, the four-year-old mare Greg part owns with Loburn-based trainer Andrew Stuart and his fiancé Becky, finished second in the group one Woodland Diamond Pace, one of the most prestigious on the NZ harness racing circuit.
On Jewels Day at the Christchurch course, the American Ideal-Siena Franco mare, superbly driven by Blair Orange, picked up $22,500 in stakes for the owners, who became partners in the horse in 2018.
Greg and Andrew have been friends for many years, racing “seven or eight” horses together, including seven-time-winner Mr Chrome, who had to be retired young after suffering arthritis.
Greg suggests family connections sparked his prolonged interest in racing.
“The old man and my grandad have always had horses and I have always followed the races, so I guess it just progressed from that.
“But this is the biggest result I have had so far, it was a group one race … massive.”
Entry to the Jewels Day at Addington was restricted, places in the final field decided by how much stake money contenders had won.
The winner of the four-year-old mares race was the Purdon/Rasmussen hot shot Elle Mac, who prevailed by two lengths.
Greg said the driving skills of Orange played a huge part in Divinia Bellezza featuring in the finish of the feature.
“It was a freakish drive. He was last and on the rails and he managed to come straight through the middle of the field, they just opened up and she flew through.”
Greg was on course with Blenheim mates Geoff Barnett and Travis Haymes to see his charge pay $8.10 for a place at the TAB, laughingly suggesting, “It was Travis’s first collect off the TAB for two years”.
Given the efforts of Divinia Bellezza, who has racked up over $58,000 in stakes so far and won four times, there may be more to come.
Next up, is a trip to Auckland for a literal change in direction.
The mare will race clockwise on the northern tracks, a direction she prefers after going anti-clockwise in the South Island, added Greg.
She is likely to start in the June 14 meeting at Alexandra Park.