Alexandra Park, Auckland, NZ 3200m Mobile Start $NZ250,000
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Massive Value on Elsu -
1.53.6 Mile Follows Auckland Cup Win
by Mick Guerin
This article was first
published in New Zealand Harness Racing Weekly, 14th January 2004, and is
reproduced here with permission.
One phone call on Saturday morning summed up best just how great a horse
Elsu has become.
It was to the insurance broker who deals in the policy covering the
4-year-old pacer, and it confirms what everybody else in harness racing
Elsu is a champion and now a million-dollar horse.
That is the likely figure the muscular stallion is now insured for after
Saturday’s call to upgrade his policy.
And nobody is doubting Elsu is worth more.
Last Wednesday his connections turned down what is almost certainly that
amount for him, and it is rumoured that another offer of $1.5 million was
These come after a two-week period in which Elsu has come from a second-line
draw to bolt away with the Auckland Cup and then at Cambridge last Friday
smash Christian Cullen’s Alert Motoring’s and Nuclear Byrd’s New Zealand
Elsu paced the second-fastest mile in New Zealand history, 1.53.6, and
nobody who knows anything about harness racing could argue he could have
broken 1.53 had he had serious competition.
Last season’s 3-Year-Old of the Year has simply developed into the best
pacer in Australasia.
“It is a weird feeling because I have always believed in him, but at the
moment he is awesome,” said trainer Geoff Small.
“I watched the tape on Friday night and was watching it as his trainer.
“Then on Saturday I watched it again and tried to watch it just as a harness
racing fan. It was awesome, like I used to feel watching Christian Cullen or
one of the other great horses of a few years ago.
“It is a buzz for me to think I now have a horse like that in my stable.”
Last Friday’s win was a crushing display of power pacing, as Elsu led and
simply went so fast his rivals could not pressure him.
But his Auckland Cup win was even scarier.
Because what it showed is the son of Falcon Seelster is now able to follow a
hot speed, almost any speed, and explode over top of his rivals.
That night he paced 4.00.5, but had Just An Excuse put the pressure on
earlier then Elsu would have simply cruised along on his back for bit longer
and still outsprinted him.
Once again, had Elsu needed to he would have broken the national record.
So here we have a pacer who could, under the right circumstances, own the
national record for both a mile and 3200m.
At the start of the season Jack Cade and Just An Excuse were the most likely
heirs to the throne of New Zealand’s best horse that Young Rufus struggled
Jack Cade’s season is now over and Just An Excuse has done nothing wrong,
but he has had the misfortune that Elsu has been able to dodge.
Just An Excuse’s Miracle Mile trip was a disaster and he went into the
Auckland Cup short of his best. That he was able to fight so bravely for
second demonstrates his greatness, but his problem is going to be using his
massive heart to try and outstay a pacer like Elsu who can follow any speed.
At the moment the younger pacer, with the uninterrupted preparation and
perfect health, has the upper hand.
“He has matured physically in the last three months but also mentally,” says
“I think the hard racing in open class has made him as a horse.
“He knows what it is all about now, like a young footballer who gets knocked
around in his first big game but comes back better.”
Not that it really matters for the rest of the season, as Elsu is unlikely
to race against the open class horses again.
He goes next to the Chariots Of Fire in Sydney and will come home for the
Taylor Mile and Messenger Pace.
“After that we may look at the free-for-all on the final night of that
carnival, but we are already thinking about next year.
“That is, hopefully, going to be the big one for him.”
It is a scary thought that Elsu may get even stronger and his main aim will
be the Inter-Dominions on his home track, with the New Zealand Cup and
Miracle Mile along the way.
Of course it is never that easy and Elsu will one day soon run into the
problems that affect any great horse - the weariness, the soreness, the bad
luck that racing off handicaps brings.
He can’t, and won’t, win every big race he is aimed at. But after the last
two weeks, you would be a brave punter to bet against Elsu in any of them.