Unlike most, Just An Excuse’s driver Todd Mitchell didn’t have a pre-race
script for how he was going to attack the Free-For-All.
“A ‘Plan A’? No. If you head out onto the track with one of those, usually
you end up looking for a ‘Plan B’,” Mitchell said.
“Once Mister D G went to the lead I didn’t want him to get too far in front;
when I saw Mark and Young Rufus coming, it was time to go.”
Just An Excuse lobbed up alongside Mister D G as the field started the last
lap, and when the positions were unchanged turning for home the pair set
down to a titanic home straight struggle.
“I was quite happy to sit out there, he’s won most of his races sitting
parked,” Mitchell continued.
“In fact, he’s probably better sitting parked than anything. He is good
coming from behind though, because at the trials he’s run quarters in
twenty-six and just cruised them.
“We still haven’t seen him have to do that yet.”
Just An Excuse is now back at home in Raglan and enjoying a couple of days
off after losing a bit of weight and tucking up a bit more than normal from
his trip. For trainer Robert Mitchell, this has given him the chance to
reflect on what has been a truly magnificent Cup carnival.
“Never in a hundred years did I think that we’d get to live that feeling all
over again,” he says, in reference to Just An Excuse’s back-to-back Cup
“Last year it was pretty much plain sailing leading into the Cup, but this
time we’ve had to work really hard. We just had so many little problems,
what with him jarring up and then not eating, and you couldn’t call
Ashburton a run.
“It was just a case of working our way through it all.
“So I suppose this year’s Cup is more special to me. And then to top it off
by winning the Free-For-All, well, that’s just something else again.
“If you count the Cup Trial ‘Lordie’s’ had three good wins in the space of
nine days, which really says a lot for the horse because he showed his true
grit after such a chequered preparation.”
Mitchell says he and the horse’s owners still have to decide where they’ll
head next with the star Live Or Die pacer, with the choices coming down to
either the Victoria Cup in Melborne on December 18, or the Auckland Cup at
Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve.
Just An Excuse is the first horse for six years to capture the highly
sought-after N.Z. Cup/N.Z. Free-For-All double, and the 27th horse to
achieve the feat since it was first done in 1918 by Author Dillon.
The others are Peter Bingen (1928), Harold Logan (31), Red Shadow (33),
Indianapolis (35), Josedale Grattan (41), Highland Fling (48), Johnny Globe
(54), Lookaway (57), False Step (60), Lordship (62), Cardigan Bay (63),
Robalan (74), Lunar Chance (75), Trusty Scott (78), Lord Module (79), Hands
Down (80), Armalight (81), Bonnie’s Chance (82), Master Mood (86),
Christopher Vance (91), Blossom Lady (92), Chokin (93), Bee Bee Cee (94), Il
Vicolo (95) and Christian Cullen (98).