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Summer at Mt Hutt Methven
At the Mt Hutt Trotting Club Mobile Pace, Eastern Southland based sire Washington V C continues to make an impression at stud, his latest promising individual being J D Fortune who walloped his rivals on the testing Methven grass track.
Dexter Dunn brought the favourite home wide out on the track with a power packed late charge to register a runaway win in the Mt Hutt Trotting Club Mobile Pace (2300m) that augured well for his future.
Trainer Gavan Burgess has now produced him five times for three wins and a fourth.
He started his career on a low key note with a nondescript 13th at Ashburton in late October but it has been all up and go since, not finishing further back than fourth in four starts.
J D Fortune was in a winning vein at his second attempt at Kaikoura in early November and backed up to score at Ashburton on 13 November in Cup Week.
J D Fortune was a creditable fourth behind Almost A Christian at Addington at his last start and appreciated the sharp drop in class.
As good as he is the $2.40 win favourite had to rely on Dunn's expertise when he was snookered with a lap to run.
Dunn got him onto the back of improving Tango With Mee just before the bell and, although held up before the turn, settled the issue in a few strides when he found room in the home stretch.
J D Fortune swamped his rivals and cleared out for a clear cut success that showed him up in a favourable light with the approach of holiday racing.
His mile rate of 2:02.8 on grass was creditable over 2300 metres, home in 59.2.
The winner, bought out of 2006 NZ Premier Yearling Sale in Christchurch, is out of the Caprock mare Jingle Bell Rock, who is closely related to Jim Wakefield and Cran Dalgety's former star filly Sparks A Flyin.
New Zealand skifields reported their best year yet and Southern Lakes ski areas were no exception.
Ski Areas Association spokesman Miles Davidson said association members sold 1,402,000 passes, 116,000 more than last year and 1000 more than the previous record, in 2006.
Snow conditions had been fantastic at all areas, with more snow falling than usual, he said.
Ski areas had opened in time for the July school holidays, and top-quality conditions continued until the season's end in October in the South Island and mid-November in the North Island, Mr Davidson said.
Snowmaking had made a huge difference to the industry and allowed for a longer season by building up snow bases, he said.
It also enabled snow quality to be improved throughout the season, particularly in high-traffic areas.
"Providing quality conditions for skiers and riders is paramount, especially at peak times such as holidays and weekends.
"Everyone is more enthusiastic and wants to participate more often when conditions are right."
More than 40,000 season passes were sold before and during 2008.
NZ Ski chief executive James Coddington said the season on its three mountains - Mt Hutt, Coronet Peak and the Remarkables - was "very robust".
"Mt Hutt had the record snowfall . . . Coronet Peak had record numbers, and Remarkables didn't have the record numbers, but overall it was a good season."
Mr Coddington said the $30 million summer upgrade at Coronet Peak, which included a new base building and installation of the automated snow guns which produced the "Armani" of man-made snow, had "quite a bit" of an impact.
"The record numbers [can be attributed] to a whole bunch of different things - strong snow, good snowmaking, but the base facility [also had an impact]."
Coronet was closed 24 days in 2008 - far more than it had in 2007, yet the numbers didn't reflect that, he said.
While Mr Coddington would not say how many passes NZ Ski had sold in the 2008 season, he said the three ski areas accounted for between 45% and 50% of all Ski Areas Association passes.
He said the effect of Australian tour operators sending their clients to Cardrona for a bigger commission than was given to them by NZ Ski had been "negligible".
"It's had zero effect - Coronet Peak has grown and we know Cardrona numbers have been flat this year.
"If anything, it's had a very negligible effect."
Mr Coddington said NZ Ski did offer commissions to Australian wholesalers, albeit smaller than other operators.
NZ Ski did not offer commission locally but at the local level the effect had also been negligible, he said.
More work was planned at the NZ Ski areas over the summer, but Mr Coddington declined to comment on what that work was yesterday, other than to say there would be more tidying up done at Coronet and a "strong focus" on the Remarkables for 2009.