Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories:  Pacers 2003/2004 Season
Leg 2 Canterbury Draught New Zealand Cup   2003/2004Results   Points
              11/11/2003  Addington, Christchurch, NZ  3200m  Standing Start  $NZ400,000
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Mitchell a deserved NZ Cup winner - Just An Excuse called all the shots

by Mike Grainger

This article was first published in New Zealand Harness Racing Weekly, 13th November 2003, and is reproduced here with permission.

On Tuesday, Robert Mitchell carried the cup he should have held in 1975.

Just An Excuse brought the Canterbury Draught Centennial New Zealand Trotting Cup to him with the stamp of the new enforcer.

Had he been a truly confident man, rather than the restrained man that he is, Mitchell could well have began his trip to the presentation area after 600 metres of the race, because Just An Excuse had the lead from that far out, and a position of power.

He didn’t, of course, but the nail was in the coffin for many of them at that point – and Mitchell probably knew it.
If he had anything to worry about, it was the start. But Just An Excuse made a flier and was on the journey quicker than most of them.

“He was the last to come up and stepped away third,” said winning driver, Todd Mitchell.

“There was plenty of room outside Elsu, and Mark Purdon (driving Jack Cade) didn’t make it too hard for us to get past him,” he said.

Besides Jack Cade, Falcon Rise, Jagged Account and Elsu all slipped into good positions. Elsu moved again near the 1800m when Young Rufus rolled forward, and the next move came from Anthony Butt, near the 1300m, with Cool Hand Luke, and the last of any note came from Mister D G.

None of them were serious enough to force Todd to click the pacemaker up, and he must have had “this is for you, Dad”, well in his thoughts as he cruised past the 600m and then put the foot down.


Just An Excuse NZ

Cool Hand Luke did his best to level, and may have done so for a few strides.

Elsu then emerged, wider out, on a better run, and Jack Cade gradually closed along the marker line. But as gallant as they were, Just An Excuse always had them covered, and appeared to win with more authority than a long neck, which is how close Elsu got.

There was a moment of panic at the end when the siren went, which coincided by a visit to the stewards’ room by Purdon.

It concerned some movement by Just An Excuse into the passing lane, but nothing came of it, and the occasion never lost stride.

There could also have been a slight panic at the start, when a streaker took off down Queen’s Drive, in front of the main stand.

His timing was awful because starter Jack Mulcay had them almost in line. Racing Secretary Tony Lye was aware of some mischief, but not knowing what it was, suggested that Mulcay should hold them while it was sorted out. As it happened, it was over in a flash, and the field was sent away.

Purdon said Jack Cade had worked a bit to get the lead early, from Falcon Rise, and then he had the task of running past the pacemaker on a 26 final quarter.

“Just An Excuse may have come in a little, but he came straight back out,” he said.

Todd admitted that he was surprised to find the lead, certainly as soon as he did.

“I didn’t think we’d settle handy, and it was at the back of my mind to let something go,” he said.

Just An Excuse, a first-season son of Nevele R stallion Live Or Die, is raced by Ollie and Irene Haines who bred him from their Smooth Fella mare, My Excuse.

Todd recalled that he did the Haines' a favour when the horse was a late 3-year-old.

“Andrew Neal came up and said he was interested in buying him. I said he taps a knee a bit, and it didn’t go any further. It’s the best advice I’ve ever given.”

Todd has now driven in the New Zealand Cup five times for three wins – the others were Homin Hosed and Gracious Knight – and a second.

The race took 4.05.7 which was predictably slow once the favourites had control.

“Once that happened it was all over for us,” said Peter Ferguson, the driver of Falcon Rise.

“He needed the pace on from the start, and it didn’t go like that.”

Was anyone unlucky? Not that we could see, but Sly Flyin did get home well from five-deep on the fence at the 600m, and Jagged Account also ran home smartly.


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