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Jack ready to pack his bags for The Race

Alta Orlando and Jack Callaghan
Alta Orlando and Jack Callaghan

The rise and rise of top young Aussie harness racing driver Jack Callaghan will continue in New Zealand next month.

Callaghan, 20, was thrilled to learn one of his favourite pacers Alta Orlando had snared a spot in the inaugural $NZ900,000 The Race at Cambridge on April 14.

It will be Callaghan’s first time driving outside of Australia.

“He’s been such a great and important horse in my career, it’s only fitting he’s the first one I’ll drive in NZ,” Callaghan said.

“He was the first real Grand Circuit level horse I drove and I’ve been on him for about a year now. We got beaten a whisker in a (Group 1) Len Smith Mile last year and then ran third in the Inter Dominion final (December 11, last year).”

Despite being a 10-year-old, Alta Orlando has returned from a minor leg injury setback to post two impressive wins from as many starts this campaign for Team McCarthy.

“He’s absolutely flying the old boy,” Callaghan said. “It might have been a blessing in disguise having a bit longer out because of the leg, he seems so sharp and hasn’t been through the really hard races this campaign.

“He’s the right sort of horse for this race, too. He’s got terrific gate speed and is so versatile.”

The upcoming NZ trip continues a phenomenal past year for Callaghan, who enjoyed a wonderful ride through a string of major races with Alta Orlando’s brilliant stablemate Spirit Of St Louis. The pair have teamed-up for four wins and two seconds (Miracle Mile and Hunter Cup) this year.

“Even those two placings were incredibly big runs,” Callaghan said. “There was talk about him going across for this NZ race, but he’s out having a well-deserved break now. Old Alta is a great replacement.”

Alta Orlando is the third Aussie-trained raider confirmed for The Race, the first harness racing slot race in this part of the world.

The others are Newcastle Mile winner Mach Dan, who will join the powerhouse All Stars barn for the race, and brilliant Victorian mare Spellbound for ex-Kiwi trainer Nathan Purdon. - Adam Hamilton, Harnesslink