Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories:   Pacers 2004/2005 Season
Leg 13:  Hankook Tyres AG Hunter Cup   2004/2005Results   Points
               12/02/2005  Moonee Valley, Melbourne, Vic  3050m  Standing Start  $450,000
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The truly outstanding stayers can and do win the A.G. Hunter Cup from a back mark.  Champion Kiwi Elsu NZ showed he was right up with the best when he sat three wide for 1200m without cover before moving away to win impressively over Flashing Red and outsider Howard Bromac NZ.

Harness Racing Victoria was rewarded for an excellent promotion of its big night with the best harness crowd at Moonee Valley in recent years.  Few would have  gone home disappointed as even rival trainers and drivers were quick to express their awe of the winner's dominance in Australia's premier staying race.

Co-backmaker off 20 metres, Perth's The Falcon Strike NZ, winner of the recent WA Pacing Cup and the Australian Pacing Championship at Gloucester Park, weakened badly and beat only a couple home.  Its planned trip to the Auckland Inter Dominion next month must now be in doubt.

Though beaten into second place by 5.5m, Flashing Red was a grand effort, continuing its remarkably consistent run on the current Grand Circuit  Representing Queensland and driven by Adelaide's Geoff Webster when Ian McMahon elected to stay with The Warp Drive, it had to contend with drawing the inside of the second line.  Flashing Red made up ground in the home straight along the 'sprint lane', finishing better than the local hope The Warp Drive.  In grabbing third, Howard Bromac NZ returned $53 for a place on the Victorian tote.

Driver David Butcher was criticised for a lack of aggression driving Elsu NZ in the Miracle Mile on its only previous Australian appearance this season.  However, in recent weeks the five-year-old stallion has been right back to its very best.  That he has won the past two Auckland Cups over two miles underlines the horse's greatness as a stayer.

There was no lack of aggression from Butcher on Saturday night.  Taking off a long way from home, Butcher seemed content to sit out three wide without cover for the last 1200m.  The horse then made a real statement when Butcher, after glancing over his shoulder at the top of the straight, clicked his horse up, and it treated the opposition with contempt.


Elsu NZ

After the race Butcher said: "Elsu is a horse that makes me look good."

Despite the huge prizemoney on offer (the world's richest handicap race), it could be described as having been cleanly run.  Mister DG NZ, out of character did bungle the start, losing more than 40 metres, Oscar Wild NZ was checked soon after the start, and Te Kanarama raced a little ungenerously and finally galloped, being pulled out of the race when supporters were still hopeful over the chances of the second favourite.

Te Kanarama was having only its 21st start in a race.  It is extremely rare to find such a lightly raced horse going into the traditionally demanding Hunter Cup.  When trainer-driver Graeme Watts can sort out the gelding's habit of not always pacing smoothly, this five-year-old gelding will be an even tougher horse to beat.

Victorian-owned but New Zealand-trained Young Rufus NZ which can be risky away from a stand, provided the first surprise.  It began brilliantly from 10m, and was in front at the first bend, remaining there until the home straight the last time.  Five nights earlier it had lost 20m in a trial at Geelong, only to go on and outlast The Warp Drive.  Both horses broke two minutes, which rarely happens in trials.

The up-and-coming The Warp Drive, a winner of four of its past five starts, was sent out favourite.  After having a good run from the pole, it finished fourth, just ahead of Young Rufus NZ.  While many who supported the favourite might have felt disappointed with its failure to finish in the money, this winner of five of its only six starts this season can be expected to be even better next year on the Grand Circuit, as trainer Philip Chircop has been taking it along quietly with just two starts in Group 1 races this season.

It was a typical A.G. Hunter Cup field with considerable depth.  The only two proven stars to be missing were Sokyola NZ and Just An Excuse NZ.  After becoming Australia's best performed pacer of the season, Sokyola NZ may have paid for its long and tough campaign, with trainer Lance Justice giving it a short spell to try and freshen up the horse for a trip to the Inter Dominion.  It returned to work just two days before the Hunter Cup.

The Falcon Strike NZ which looked a spent force several months back, had burst back to something like its best to be the star of Perth pacing this summer.  After using similar tactics as he does back at Gloucester Park, Gary Hall Jnr had the co-backmarker up racing in the death a long way from home.  But the horse was a spent force when the pressure came.

When it comes to producing quality stayers, New Zealand is the dominant country in the world. (It's all one-mile racing in North America).  The Kiwis finished first, third and fifth on Saturday night.  Having more two-mile events in New Zealand probably gives them an added edge.

Mark Purdon on Young Rufus NZ was able to get away with a moderate third last quarter, with the last mile in 1:57.5 enabling the mile rate to be 2:01.9. The last four quarters were paced in 29.2 secs, 30.8, 28.0 and the final sprint home in 29.5.



All Time Pacing and Trotting Records pre-2001 please refer to the Australian Harness Racing Annual.

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