Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories:   Pacers 2005/2006 Season
Leg 15:  Hankook Tyres AG Hunter Cup   2005/2006 Results   Points
               12/02/2006  Moonee Valley, Melbourne, Vic  3050m  Standing Start  $500,000
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The thoroughbreds have their story of Seabiscuit, now harness racing can add the remarkable story of About To Rock’s comeback from three career threatening injuries to win Australia’s biggest staying race, the A.G. Hunter Cup at Moonee Valley on Sunday -- driven by the first female to capture the world’s richest handicap race.  

Just eight weeks before its trainer Andy Gath had taken the lightly raced gelding to the vet almost convinced the 6YO would not race again. His vet found this latest problem to be only minor and not related to the broken pedal bone or the two fractured cannon bones that had restricted the pacer to just 28 lifetime starts. 

The horse since has won the Tasmanian Pacing Championship and was second in the South Australian Cup. On Sunday regular driver Kate Thompson 22, a former legal secretary, drove exactly to the plan she and Gath had mapped out pre-race to defeat another Victorian, Tromos, with Perth’s No Blue Manna third.  

In a race with a poor record for favourites, Howard Bromac NZ and Queensland’s Slipnslide vied for outright favouritism, with a strong betting move for Maheer Lord NZ. The latter lost its chance with a poor beginning; Howard Bromac NZ briefly led around the home turn only to weaken badly up the straight; while Slipnslide (5/1 fav) raced wide in the final lap to be just edged out for third. 

It was a personal triumph for Andy Gath, as he has persevered with this horse since it broke a pedal bone after its first win. After that comeback, it then broke two cannon bones. 

Last year Gath had his share of knockers when he moved his stables from Great Western to Melton, a move that cost him 10 of the team he had trained. He developed a sand-based training track near the local airport and has continued using similar training methods as had previously. Since making the move, he has had the support of his father Neville around the stables, a veteran horseman and former metropolitan premiership reinsman.  


About To Rock

When the trainer was given the all-clear by his vet in early December, he pressed ahead with About To Rock, explaining how he was greatly attracted to the odds of 200/1 about his pacer when betting first opened on the Hunter Cup with TAB Sportsbet, and the win has done his bank account very nicely. 

A delighted Kate Thompson said after the race how she and Gath had pre-race planned to hold the pole at the start, and only hand over to one of several horses if challenged. “One of these was Dinki Di. I stayed in front a little longer than planned as it took that horse longer than we thought for it to get up there,” she said. 

Thompson said she had not known prior to Sunday’s newspaper that the Hunter Cup had never been won by a reinswoman, and it was a thrill for her to now have her name in the record books.  

She is the daughter of a Port Pirie trainer and worked for a solicitor before joining the Gath stables when he trained with the Manning’s at Great Western. The team was then driven by Kerryn Gath (now Kerryn Manning). On moving to Melton, the vivacious Thompson has taken over the driving of the Gath team. Earlier in the summer the pair combined to win the SA Pacing Derby with Jagged Knight. 

Although About To Rock captured the Tasmanian Championship around the new Hobart track, the horse is no certainty to race in the forthcoming Hobart Inter-Dominion, as four hard races within two weeks may test those injury-plagued legs. A decision about the trip will be made closer to the carnival, about a month away. 

The overall mile rate of 2:03 might not seem all that flash, even for the long journey. However, it was certainly not a case of getting to the front and slowing things down. With horse after horse moving forward during the event, there was more shuffling up than in a card game. 

The splits for the final mile were: the first quarter in 28.80 seconds, followed by quarters of 31.90, 28.70 down the back, then 30.21 to the post. Those up on the pace did have a strong head-wind to contend with each time travelling up the home straight. 

The winner is raced by Sydney businessman and newly appointed HRNSW Board Member Rob Nalder. It was a good result for Australian breeders with the first four home all being Aussie-breds. This is a departure from the norm, with the Kiwis having a great record in our major staying race these past few years.  

The winner was bred by Rob Woodhouse, a Wagga businessman who established Yirribee Stud in the 1980s. About To Rock is by River Khan, bred by the stud being a son of Genghis Khan USA. From just eight starts as a two and three-year, River Khan won $12,117 in stakes, taking a record of 2:00.8. 

About To Rock’s dam is Karalta Cheri, a 1992 filly bred in Victoria by French Chef USA and Milady Amanda. In 18 race starts, Karalta Cheri won just $7,040 in stakes.   

It would seem the move to Sunday for Victoria’s major race was successful enough for Harness Racing Victoria to continue with it, as the attendance of 10,250 was up slightly over last year, with the off-course betting turnover passing $1.6 million.  

HRV spokesman, Andrew Kelly, said after the meeting how officials were more than happy with the result. “What began as a bit of a gamble has turned out to be a good success,” he said. 


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

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