Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories:  Trotters 2001/2002 Season
Leg 7:  Sky Channel Australasian Trotters Championship 2001/2002Results   Points
             9/02/2002   Moonee Valley, Melbourne, Vic  3050m  Standing Start  $100,000
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New Zealand would be represented in the prestigious Australasian Trotters Championship by the outstanding Take A Moment NZ and the enigmatic Last Sunset NZ. For Australia’s best squaregaiters, all roads led to Moonee Valley for the two heats on February 2.

With Take A Moment NZ having not raced for several weeks, Tim Butt started the horse at Moonee Valley in late January. The result showed the Kiwi would benefit greatly from that outing as the Inter Dominion champion was beaten into second place by Stirling Kiwi NZ. This win, well overdue for this talented trotter, came at a time when its critics were sharpening their knifes after several disappointing efforts. Trainer Robert Hamilton then said he had since discovered the reason for the sudden loss of form for the son of Straphanger USA had been due to a pinched nerve that was causing it to break.

The handicapping of the best trotters available rated La Coocaracha the equal of Take A Moment NZ. Both were placed off the backmark of 30 metres. Last Sunset NZ was given 20 metres, with Stirling Kiwi NZ, Djerriwarrh, Cool Fortune and Alabamas Idol all off 10 metres.

Last Sunset NZ was probably the most difficult horse to have handicapped. On paper, its past few outings were littered by ‘port-holes’ in its form. Yet, when in the right mood, there could be no denying its ability to reel off smart times over any distance.

No doubt when Sydney officials had earlier handicapped the nominations for the forthcoming Inter Dominion they had taken on board the thoughts of their Melbourne colleagues who are constantly handicapping our best trotters. For the Inter series, Take A Moment NZ was handicapped to give La Coocaracha a ten-metre start. That was probably how things appeared at that early stage when handicaps were first released. Since then the mare had taken all before her. Under the Inter Dominion rules, it was possible for Sydney officials to have another ‘crack’ at the handicaps before the series opened. Because of the continued improvement by La Coocaracha against the best, there seemed every reason to believe a re-handicapping of her was on the cards.


La Coocaracha

In the heats of the Australasian Trotters Championship, both backmarkers showed the 30 metres was not beyond them. La Coocaracha had trotted away slowly at the start of her heat. Kerryn Gath made her move two laps from home, sweeping around the field to drop into the ‘death’. Around the home-turn Stirling Kiwi NZ slipped away and for a brief moment looked the likely winner. However, when the bonny mare dug deep, she found yet another gear, and finished fast to score an emphatic win. The unreliable Alabamas Idol turned in a real eye-catching effort in this heat. After breaking up at the start, it made up a great deal of ground to finish third.

The mare’s mile rate was three seconds slower than Take A Moment NZ had taken in winning the first heat when superbly driven by Anthony Butt. It had raced in the one-out one-back for much of the trip before the gelding simply toyed with its rivals to win by more than 10 metres over Djerriwarrh.

The trainers of the two back-markers were more that satisfied with the efforts of their trotters in the two heats. Trainer Andy Gath stating: “She had been given an easy time since she last raced three weeks ago, so I know she will benefit a lot from this run.”

Bookmakers also agreed the mare had been impressive and, in anticipation of solid local support, The Melbourne Betting Shop installed La Coocaracha a $1.80 favourite in pre-race betting on the final. Take A Moment NZ was next at $4.50, and then Son Of Flair, Stirling Kiwi NZ and Djerriwarrh all on $11.

Anthony Butt had been well pleased with the manner Take A Moment NZ had trotted throughout in its heat. This reassured him the horse was close to its best after a slightly disappointing effort the previous outing at Moonee Valley when lowering its colours to Stirling Kiwi NZ. Butt had now seen enough of La Coocaracha to acknowledge the mare had shown she could handle two miles. When asked by the media, he explained that experience at this level would help Take A Moment give the local idol a real race that coming Saturday night.

Good trotters at Moonee Valley attract good crowds, and the Australasian Trotters Championship was no exception. Most came to see this latest trotting star, and La Coocaracha let no-one down. As Adam Hamilton wrote in his coverage of the race in the Melbourne Herald Sun, she ‘obliterated her rivals’, winning by a big margin over Take A Moment NZ and Waikare Gold. Last Sunset NZ again disgraced itself to finish last, and Stirling Kiwi NZ had maintained its improved recent form in just missing a place.

Within minutes of the ‘all clear’ signal, a phone call from Europe was taken at Moonee Valley from well known Swedish administrator Klaus Koch. This was the official who had earlier been responsible for the overseas campaigns of Pride Of Petite USA, Special Force NZ, and the more successful Knight Pistol and Lyell Creek NZ. “It seems Australasia has another trotter like Lyell Creek,” Koch said. “She seems to be very fast at the start, and that is important in winning our biggest races. I am sure if La Coocaracha races in Europe, it would be well worth the trip.”

Andy Gath was extremely delighted in the interest Koch was taking in his mare, as the Swede was the man who could open all kinds of doors with any European campaign. The trainer was interested, only sometime in the future. “Right now it is the Inter Dominion in Sydney that we are concentrating on”.

Kiwi reinsman Anthony Butt, the former driver of Lyell Creek NZ, was gracious in defeat. “I thought my drive on Take A Moment was one of my best in a big race, and our horse was even better than it was when it had won the Inter Dominion, but La Coocaracha made him look second rate out there tonight.” Racecaller Dan Mielicki might not have seen the great Maori’s Idol race, but he had seen the best since. He described the mare’s performance as “one of the best I have seen.”


Australian Trotters Grand Circuit commenced 1999/2000 season.

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