The dangers were up with him by then, Anthony Butt following up and forcing
the issue with Mister D G, who had tracked up Just An Excuse and Harnetts
So picture this: with a lap to go Elsu is leading and stepping it out.
Mister D G is having a tough time of it outside him, our hero has settled
Just An Excuse happily on his back, and Harnetts Creek is a place behind. Of
note, but nothing else, Scorching is tracking Elsu.
Maheer Lord and Young Rufus are well back, after breaking at the start, but
Young Rufus runs on better than anything else.
However, the main stage is further advanced, to near the corner, where we’ll
let Todd talk about it.
“When we went forward I turned around and saw Mister D G following me. I
knew I’d get good cover from there.
“I pulled the hood on the turn and he just kicked. With about three-quarters
of the straight to run, I thought it would be good just to run second, but
halfway up the straight he got to Elsu fairly quickly.
“When I asked him to, he gathered up Elsu pretty nice. He was always nice
and relaxed throughout the race.”
This last mile was run deceptively fast – in 1.54.1. Butcher could fairly
have thought that nothing would slip past buzzing along at this rate, and
Mitchell was surprised he did.
Has the horse felt better?
“Yes, he has. In the Ballarat Cup, he felt tremendous.”
But Todd said the victory this year was a bigger thrill than last year when
he defeated Elsu and Jack Cade in 4.05.7.
“Beating Elsu was part of it,” he said.
“Everyone had pretty much dropped our horse.”
After sending his whip into the crowd on one side of the birdcage, and a cap
to a ‘Lindauer Lawnian’ on the other, Todd considered what a superb track
Addington was to drive on.
“I’ve had six drives in the Cup, won four, and the last three. I was just
beaten by Homin Hosed in another and Facta Non Verba was my other drive.
“I’ve won two Easter Cups on the track, with Facta Non Verba and Gracious
“I’ve been pretty patient with them,” he said.
Emotional day for NZ Cup winners
Ollie Haines praises trainer’s diligence
by Mike Grainger
Cup Day was a cocktail of triumph and tragedy for Ollie and Irene Haines at
Addington on Tuesday.
Minutes after watching Just An Excuse give Elsu a repeat beating in the
Canterbury Draught New Zealand Cup, the Haines’s learned their good friend
Graham Higgins had died in the stand nearby.
Higgins was a member of the Cambridge Harness Racing Club, President of the
club from 1986 to 1989, and was part of the support team behind Just An
Ollie, visibly shaken by the death of his old friend, took some consolation
on hearing that he'd died calling out ‘Go Mitch’.
It was all part of a turbulent ride the Haines’s have had since winning the
New Zealand Cup with Just An Excuse last year when he was a warm favourite.
Through one reason and another, Just An Excuse had fallen from favour, and
Ollie sat on the sidelines as trainer Robert Mitchell used all his
professional skills to put the jigsaw back in place.
“The time he spent on the horse was unbelievable.
“He has virtually lived with the horse for the past six weeks.
“Back and forth to vets, tooth men and farriers.
“I’m sure if he’d been in a big stable he wouldn’t be here now,” he said.
There was a chewing problem that some attention to his teeth fixed. There
was a jarring up problem to his club foot that some special cushioning to
his sole fixed. And then there was the abortive mission to Ashburton, which
nearly unfixed their whole campaign.
“We were gutted after Ashburton,” said Haines.
“It didn’t seem fair; we wanted a rewind.
“It wasn’t the fact we didn’t win there, but the fact he didn’t take any
part in it.”
But Haines didn’t lose faith in Mitchell, nor in the horse.
He chided the media for doing so.
“I don’t know why you fellas wrote him off,” he said.
Ironically, the Haines’s had been associated with the Butcher stable for 13
years, before Mitchell was given the horse after he’d been tried by
Cambridge trainer, Brent Donnelly.
The Haines’s had dozens of horses at the time, but five years ago Ollie
stuck to a principle and culled more than 30. One of those he couldn’t quit
was My Excuse, a Smooth Fella mare and her Live Or Die colt foal.
The foal was Just An Excuse and the culling was successful, because only My
Excuse and a Camtastic-Another Excuse 3-year-old remains.
Ollie still takes time to bless his Addington luck.
“I’ve only raced two horses here, and they’ve won five Group races. Just An
Excuse has won two Cups and the Superstars, and Smooth Performer won the
Oaks and the DB Fillies Final,” he said.
And while Todd calls Addington his second home, the Haines’s don’t mind the
place either. They could, however, do without the emotion and high drama
that came with their visit this time.