Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories:  Pacers 2002/2003 Season
Leg 3Lindauer New Zealand Pacing Free For All   2002/2003Results   Points
             15/11/2002  Addington, Christchurch, NZ  2000m  Mobile Start  $NZ$97,531
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For more than sixty years of harness racing Down Under, the major race at most meetings at all levels was a free-for-all. The majority of Grand Circuit races are from mobile starts, but just one of these includes the classification of ‘free-for-all’ as part of its name.

The New Zealand FFA is held on the Friday following Tuesday’s NZ Cup. It’s not surprising that many of the pacers to have contested the big two-miler, back-up in the FFA from a mobile start over a much shorter journey. Friday’s Group One race is restricted to 12 starters (two lines behind the mobile). Only one new inclusion would come into the field -- the Ok Bye USA performer, Ok Ulisee (NZ) to be driven by A.J. Suddaby, who had steered Atoll Bomber (NZ) into 11th place in the Cup. There were a few backing-up on the Friday with much to prove, not the least being Young Rufus NZ, Yulestar NZ and perhaps Stars And Stripes NZ.

The distance would certainly suit Holmes D G NZ, having won numerous Grand Circuit races in Australia over distances from a mile to 2500m. Young Rufus NZ was the major talking point leading up to the race. With a safe beginning from the mobile, it would take luck and a big effort to lower the colours of this up-and-coming performer on the Grand Circuit. Writer Michael Guerin summed up the form of Yulestar NZ over the past 12 and more months with: “Sometimes he has been brilliant, but most times he has been pathetic.” Connections would place blinkers on Yulestar NZ for the first time.

Having a horse set for a particular race and knowing it has peaked on that day is one thing. Having it contest a gut-busting two-miler followed three days later by a second, even though dropping back 1200m in distance, is another. This was the challenge for 11 of Friday’s starters in the Free-For-All.

Anthony Butt was still retaining the drive behind Young Rufus NZ. This member of one of the nation’s best known harness racing families had been enjoying a remarkable three years in racing on both sides of the Tasman. His run began with the dizzy heights reached by the outstanding trotter Lyell Creek NZ, followed by the new No 1 trotter Take A Moment NZ, with various smart pacers in between. 

Yulestar NZ

Whether by stable advice or a personal desire to have Young Rufus NZ take up the early running in the Free-For-All, Butt turned the favourite loose soon after the start making a bee-line for the front. Securing the lead was something not handed to him on a plate by his rivals. The son of Sokys Atom USA had to work overtime for a short spell before besting the challengers for the lead.

Once in front, Butt was unable to back-off the speed to give his pacer an easy quarter or two. That early battle had stirred his horse up plenty where Young Rufus NZ then simply refused to settle down. The result was an exceptionally fast lap. Peter Jones had been able to drop Yulestar NZ in for the one-one trail after starting from barrier two, with Holmes D G NZ three back on the markers. Well back at this point was Tuesday’s big winner Gracious Knight (NZ). It was finding the going tough, even this far from home.

It was doubtful if any horse could have maintained the speed the fired-up Young Rufus NZ was setting as it sailed along out in front. Many in the crowd were so enthralled with the fast pace set up front that they remained almost silent as they waited to see if the favourite could maintain this frantic pace, no doubt wondering which of its rivals might emerge from the pack to throw out the challenge as they headed for the post up the long home-straight at Addington. The horse that was coming on hard was none other than Yulestar NZ. It had drifted in the betting to start at 18/1 on the New Zealand tote. Yet, here was the recently disappointing Yulestar NZ grabbing the favourite close to the line with Stars And Stripes NZ whacking away well to finish third.

If this result had stunned many into silence, the announcement of the time that followed certainly brought them to life. The time of 2:22.9 with a mile rate of 1:54.9, had shattered the most treasured national record still in the book. The mighty Armalight (NZ) had set that mark of 2:23.5 way back in 1981. Bringing the winner back to Victory Lane, driver Peter Jones said he was almost speechless with the horse’s effort. “I think we can put it down to the blinkers. He certainly was a lot keener out there today.”

Facta Non Verba NZ had finished a nice fourth, just beating home an unlucky Holmes D G NZ. Barry Purdon’s old gelding had started second favourite, and had been surprisingly beaten for early speed. Purdon said: “I think he is racing as well as he had been last season. He was unable to secure a clear run in the straight, and went to the line full of running.”

Two highlight in the distinguished racing career of Holmes D G NZ had been twice winning our premier sprint, the Miracle Mile. After the FFA, Purdon waited anxiously for the approach of the New South Wales HRC delegation with another invitation into the race. He was disappointed to learn how for the first time since the gelding had first hit the headlines on the Grand Circuit almost five years before, no invitation was forthcoming. “He did deserve a chance to win his third Miracle Mile, and he could have done it too,” sighed Purdon. “But I won’t be taking him over for the sprints to try and secure a late entry, because he does not deserve that. He has been too good a horse to put him through that,” he said.

The big disappointment of the race was NZ Cup winner Gracious Knight (NZ). At no stage did he give his supporters any confidence, settling back near the tail of the field and then unable to secure a ‘cart’ into the race. Todd Mitchell told the media: “He just never felt right in his preliminary. I think Tuesday’s Cup took more out of him that we realised. He will now go home and have a few days off. It is disappointing not to get a Miracle Mile invite, but it still has been a great week. We got the win we wanted on Tuesday,” he added.


1977-1991 known as Australian Grand Circuit.  1992 New Zealand included, and Circuit renamed Australasian Grand Circuit.

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