Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories:   Pacers 2005/2006 Season
Leg 14:  Cadbury Ballarat Pacing Cup   2005/2006 Results   Points
               28/01/2006  Ballarat, Vic  2710m  Mobile Start  $125,000
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In a night of firsts last Saturday night, Robin Hood became the first locally-trained pacer to win a Ballarat Cup in his first success on the Grand Circuit.  It was also the first Group 1 race in memory to have had three different favourites in the last 12 minutes of betting when this high-profiled provincial event was elevated to Grand Circuit status for the first time. 

Betting on the race in those final 12 minutes provided the remarkable sight of each of the nine or so TAB fluctuations in this crucial period having a different favourite as supporters of Sting Lika Bee, Slipnslide and the visiting Kiwi, Howard Bromac NZ, jostled for favouritism.  Then, to complicate the picture further, a significant betting move came for Robin Hood ($6.90 into $5.60) despite trainer Peter Tonkin’s insistence his horse was only 80 percent fit after a set-back six weeks earlier. 

Robin Hood ($5.70) finished stoutly to beat Howard Bromac NZ ($4.30) and About To Rock ($26.90), with Sting Lika Bee ($4.50) having no luck, and Slipnslide ($4.10 fav.) galloping and finishing at the tail of a classy field. 

While the win brought up the second major victory in two nights for top reinsman Gavin Lang, having won the Chariots Of Fire steering Innocent Eyes on Friday night in Sydney, it was really a triumph for local trainer Peter Tonkin, who first made a name for himself mending broken-down pacers when training at Portland. 

Now established near Ballarat at Smythes Creek, a serious quarter-crack six weeks earlier to Robin Hood had emerged after the horse’s only real failure this season when finishing well back in the Victoria Cup.  Time off from training while the trainer constantly worked on the injury, then enlisting the aid of master farrier Carl O’Dwyer at Kilmore to work away at the five-year-old’s troublesome feet, got the horse back to full training just a fortnight before the Ballarat Cup. 

“It was only a late decision to press ahead and start in the Ballarat Cup,” said Tonkin after the win. “I will wait and see how he pulls up now tomorrow, but I will probably start him in the A.G. Hunter Cup”. 

Meanwhile, the club at Ballarat and the promotions department of Harness Racing Victoria can take a bow on the splendid promotion of the Cup meeting, which included three heats of the Victoria Pacers Derby and the opening heats of the Inter Dominion Trotters Championship. 


Robin Hood

Shaun Kelly, of HRV, said the attendance was up by more than a thousand people over last year despite rain in the afternoon of the meeting. “We have not got the final figures in for betting turnover, but that too was looking very good.” 

Trainer Tonkin also said after the win that drawing the pole in the Cup was a barrier he did not think would suit his horse.  “People think the horse does not have speed. He certainly has, but I did think he was likely to be crossed at the start by Howard Bromac NZ and would finish up three back along the pegs.  With no inside lane at this track, I imaged he might have trouble getting clear in the final stages.” 

Actually, that is exactly what happened when Robin Hood and Gavin Lang did land in that spot soon after the start.

About To Rock (Kate Thompson) did begin best to cross to the lead from the mobile despatch, while Slipnslide (Luke McCarthy) was eased back in the field from its wide barrier.  

Jack Butler was quick to move out three wide with Dinki Di to move forward in a hurry. This brought an immediate reaction from Kirk Larsen to let Howard Bromac NZ dash forward and take up the running, placing Robin Hood three back on the inside running. 

Slipnslide, which finally started the favourite in the race, was pulled out three wide back at the rear, with McCarthy obviously staying there in the hope his horse would flush something out ahead of them to cart the favourite into the race.  Before this move could work, Slipnslide uncharacteristically broke in running, causing interference to others back in the field.  

Further interference would take place in the Cup that would later lead stewards to suspend Anthony Butt (Mister DG NZ) for four weeks after his horse hampered The Warp Drive and Sting Lika Bee at a crucial stage. 

It was later found that Mister DG NZ had pulled up sore, with Butt then announcing the pacer trained by his brother David would be retired from racing. (Mister DG NZ had raced 78 times for 20 wins, 18 placings and prizemoney totalling $727,183.) 

The efforts of both Sting Lika Bee and The Warp Drive in finishing unplaced should be overlooked in the lead-up to the rich A.G. Hunter Cup at Moonee Valley in two weeks. Allowing for natural improvement in Robin Hood, the Ballarat pacer will have an army of supporters for Australia’s premier staying event, remembering how this pacer had earlier won the two-mile Kilmore Cup. 

New Zealand’s top pacer of the moment, Howard Bromac NZ, would have lost no friends with its nice second in the Ballarat Cup.  Trainer-driver Kirk Larsen said after the race the effort had shown him his horse was as good as any around. “I can’t wait for the Hunter Cup because the long trip will really suit him,” he said. 

The Andy Gath-trained About To Rock (winner of the SA Cup a fortnight earlier) had some trouble gaining a clear run over the concluding stages when Robin Hood peeled off the back of Howard Bromac NZ to make its winning move.  About To Rock continues to race in the best form of its injury-plagued career while usually starting at big odds. 

Robin Hood is part-owned by Ballarat friends Kevin Lewis and Geoff Armstrong. They first ventured into harness racing almost 30 years ago when their ambition then was to have a pacer good enough to win a Mt Gambier Cup.  Robin Hood has long raced itself out of being eligible for a Mt Gambier Cup.  While they have yet to realise that ambition, they do now have one of the best pacers in the country capable of playing a prominent role in some of our major events. 

They said they took a liking to Robin Hood when they first saw him at the yearling sales. It is by Fake Left US from Surface Paradise.  They race the horse in partnership with Tonkin, Garry Mennie, Gino and Nancy Goegan, Joe Tullio, Russell Doyle and Joe Bono.  Its success story is an example how a number of friends can pool their resources to have the clout to purchase a well-bred lot at the sales. 

While there is no obvious super star racing presently in Australasia, there are quite a number of stars jostling to be recognised among the elite group that make up any list of our best pacers.  This is now providing Group 1 races with those rare occasions where one can make a case for any horse in the field having a winning chance.  It is indeed a boom time for the major clubs and their promotions departments. 


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

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