Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories:   Pacers 2004/2005 Season
Leg 3:  Lindauer New Zealand Pacing Free For All   2004/2005Results   Points
             12/11/2004  Addington, Christchurch, NZ  2000m  Mobile Start  $NZ100,000
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Magnificent Cup Week double by Just An Excuse

by John Robinson

This article was first published in New Zealand Harness Racing Weekly, 17th November 2004, and is reproduced here with permission.

They said he couldn’t do it.

No way, not on his chequered preparation. And not with a rampant Elsu and race-hardened Mister D G staring him down as he stood sandwiched between them at the start.

Nope. Almost unbelievably, Just An Excuse somehow slipped from favour for last week’s Canterbury Draught N.Z. Trotting Cup... dropped by some of the very same people that basked in his glory just 12 short months ago.

They were wrong.

Three days later it happened all over again. In spite of his emphatic Cup victory, Just An Excuse still had his doubters when he stepped onto Addington for the $100,000 Lindauer N.Z. Free-For-All.

There were those that thought he couldn’t possibly sit outside a pacemaker like Mister D G and beat him – which is how most pre-race calculations saw the event unfolding. But they were wrong again.

Whatever excuses these people came up with for the two ‘biggies’ over Cup Week, in the end they were just that – excuses; Just An Excuse proved that you can never underestimate the ability of a good horse to lift when it matters most.

Especially a great one.
Just An Excuse NZ

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 victories.

“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).


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

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