Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories: Pacers 2003/2004 Season
When Lance Justice attempted to make light of Sokyola NZ’s second row draw by charging forward out wide soon after the start, hell-bent on reaching the ‘death-seat’ outside the leader before Jack Cade NZ. The move posted the favourite out three wide. Jack Cade NZ worked overtime, and a long way from home it was facing an almost impossible task.
Sydney’s Darren Hancock took Jofess around the field after just one lap to be the next horse up front to start eye-balling the leader Mister D G NZ, allowing Jack Cade NZ to have cover on its back. But the damage had already been done, especially as course broadcaster Dan Mielicki had called the ‘lead’ time a record for Moonee Valley, then followed this soon after with a 30.5 seconds split for the first 400m of the last mile. It was obvious some reinsmen would soon be paying for their over-aggressive tactics.
With some of the best horses on either side of the Tasman engaged, it was almost mind-boggling to see several of these running up the white flag on the home turn, allowing the lessor-lights Hexus (NSW) and Flashing Red (Queensland) to get past up the home straight. Moonee Valley’s track is not among the fastest in Australia, so the new track record of 1:57.2 was a splendid time for this distance.
Had the two highly-rated Western Australian pacers Baltic Eagle NZ and The Falcon Strike NZ not been in the wars on their recent trip to Sydney, this pair would certainly have been in this field, probably at the expense of the two pacers that ultimately finished in the placings!
The depth to this field can be seen in the record of each horse. In barrier order: The much improved Mister D G NZ had won 12 of its 44 starts, including the recent Cranbourne Cup and the Popular Alm FFA at Moonee Valley. Flashing Red had won 20 of 71 starts. Hexus 15 of 61 outings. Selby Bromac NZ 17 of 42. Jack Cade NZ 15 of just 29 for stakes of $697,044, and making up the front row, Mont Denver Gold 16 of 57, pocketing $502,207 to date.
Second line: Franco Heir NZ 16 wins from 40 starts for $334,945. Wally Walton 24 wins from 82 outings for $343,309. Smooth Satin 36 of 75 and $1,270,223. Jofess 32 of 74 and $708,697. Double Identity 41 of 95 for $895,998. Sokyola NZ 50 of 91 and $811,141. (Sokyola NZ has already won 15 races since the start of the season in September.)
The controversy that raged in recent weeks followed the Board’s decision to do away with the traditional random barrier draw for what is often regarded as the Cox Plate (wfa) of Australian harness racing. Victoria’s other event on the Grand Circuit, the A.G. Hunter Cup, is a handicap race. Because the latter is over two miles, this can be described as the Melbourne Cup of harness racing.
Interestingly, the former champion New Zealand mare Blossom Lady NZ, winner of two Hunter Cups off back marks of 20m and 30m, is the dam of Mister D G NZ which tried valiantly to lead throughout in the Victoria Cup. The famous mother of this six-year-old gelding relished the chance to have grinded her rivals into submission over marathon distances.
The past two Victoria Cups have been won by horses that led throughout, including Young Rufus NZ last year. Trainer-driver Mark Purdon going in to the latest Victoria Cup said he rated stablemate Jack Cade NZ every bit as good as Young Rufus NZ had been when it won in 2002. Such a statement from the usually conservative No 1 trainer in New Zealand was enough to add further confidence to the supporters of the latest stable representative. It was confidently backed in betting.
Double Identity had won Grand Circuit races in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide last season, and its first Moonee Valley success could hardly have made a more lasting impression than its remarkable victory on this visit.
Following the gelding’s disappointing performances at the Christchurch Inter Dominion Carnival last year when the gelding was slowly away in two of its starts, Harry Martin says this latest triumph in Melbourne leaves only the forthcoming Inter Dominion in Perth to complete ‘unfinished business’ for his horse.
Martin said he hoped to take Double Identity to Perth for the $100,000 Australian Pacing Championship there on January 16 and the $200,000 Western Australia Cup the following week leading up to the Inter Dominion in March at Gloucester Park.
However, should there be any problems securing a suitable flight, he did have options in the gelding contesting the South Australia Cup in Adelaide and the Ballarat Cup as a lead up to the Inter Dominion. Martin says he now believes last season he may have gone too hard with the early Grand Circuit races with his gelding. “This time it’s been all about spacing his races more and making sure he still has plenty in the tank for the big races after Christmas.”
Jack Cade NZ has now returned to New Zealand where it will race in the two-mile $250,000 Auckland Cup on New Year’s Eve.