Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories:   Pacers 2006/2007 Season
Leg 2:  Watpac/Ariadne Trans-Tasman   2006/2007 Results   Points
             28/10/2006  Albion Park, Brisbane, Qld  2680m  Mobile Start  $125,000

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Just when Queensland’s Slipnslide and stablemate Be Good Johnny staked the first claims for the 2006/07 Grand Circuit Championship and were looking good, NSW outsider Sweet Fame USA ran over them to win Leg 2 on Saturday night, the Trans-Tasman at Brisbane’s Albion Park. 

It was a classic drive by Darren Hancock, nephew of the mare’s trainer Brian Hancock, who bided his time while others did the work up front before making a late run.  Another outsider, Sir Galvinator (Grant Dixon), turned in its best race for ages to snatch second. 

In a small field of only seven, Slipnslide (Luke McCarthy) was a most disappointing fifth, with Be Good Johnny (John McCarthy), last season’s Grand Circuit Champion, finishing third, just in advance of the McCarthy’s third contender, Cobbitty Classic (Andrew McCarthy).  

Five days earlier both Slipnslide and Be Good Johnny’s efforts in Leg 1, the Queensland Pacing Championship, suggested the pair had begun this series where they had left off in 2005/06, placing them firmly in the top three Australian pacers, with top-rated Blacks A Fake’s return to racing on hold following a recent virus. 

After the opening Leg five days earlier, it seemed Slipnslide and Be Good Johnny seemed virtually assured of being the first Aussie pacers to be invited to the $500,000 Miracle Mile on November 24. They may still be, but NSW HRC directors are now not likely to rush in with early invitations as was previously expected.  

With such a busy season ahead, it is more than likely Slipnslide and Be Good Johnny are being brought along with the plan to have them peak for the Miracle Mile, so both should not be written off at this early stage. It is difficult to imagine either missing out on a start in our richest sprint race having done so well in this event last season.  


Sweet Fame USA

Meanwhile, John McCarthy is pressing ahead with the stable’s third Group One performer, Cobbitty Classic, fourth on Saturday night, flying to Christchurch to contest the $NZ500,000 New Zealand Cup on November 14 at Addington.  It is considered to be a solid stayer and worth some chance against the best of the Kiwi performers in the Dominion’s biggest race of the season, especially now that Queensland-owned Flashing Red is doing so well in the first major races of the New Zealand season. 

Cobbitty Classic is usually seen coming from well back in its races, but on Saturday was able to retain the early lead despite being greatly pressured by Karloo Mick (Barry Lew), with that pacer having to be content racing in the ‘death’ with Slipnslide on the back of the leader. 

The race was virtually set up for swoopers, with the first quarter of the last mile paced in an average 30.1, followed by a 29.7 quarter.  When Lew took the NSW visitor Karloo Mick to the front in the third quarter, it produced a quick quarter in 27.9. 

While there was action aplenty up front, Hancock was biding his time with the US-bred Sweet Fame USA, and saved her for one final dash, pacing home the final quarter in 28.6.     

At one stage in the final lap of the Trans-Tasman when Karloo Mick could not maintain the lead, the McCarthy family appeared to be right on track to trifecta Leg 2 of the Grand Circuit.  Placings changed dramatically in the final 50 metres when Sweet Fame USA timed its final dash to perfection, moving up out wide and causing a boilover, having five days earlier shown little in the QPC won by Slipnslide. 

Sweet Fame USA is one of several pacers that raced in North America that contested the Hobart Inter Dominion last season, where its form was not consistent despite winning one heat.  The daughter of Apaches Fame (US) is owned by Ian Dobson, of Christen Cullen NZ fame, currently the best known owner in New Zealand. 

Former leading trainer-driver Brian Hancock, who retired from driving two years ago and now trains a stable of just four or five, has always thought highly of Sweet Fame USA.  After Hobart last March, Hancock said then he thought this mare needed time to become acclimatised, especially with the transition to longer distances than the one-mile journey of every event it had raced in the US.  After her win at the weekend, Hancock was quick to confirm his plans to take the mare to the Adelaide Inter Dominion in early January.  

The effort of Be Good Johnny was good for a horse gaining a reputation that it needs its racing to be spaced out, rather than starting just five days apart as it did last week. 

Albion Park secretary Rod Pearson said Saturday night’s meeting attracted a good crowd.  It was promoted on a theme of a ‘family night’ with bags of lollies on offer to all kids.  “With some 800 children there, we ran out of lolly bags before reaching the 800 mark,” he said. 

The next leg of the Australasian Grand Circuit will be the New Zealand Cup at Addington, followed several days later by the NZ Free-For-All, the fourth leg of the Grand Circuit.  After these two races, it is usual for one, and sometimes two Kiwi pacers, to be given an invitation to the Miracle Mile. 

NSW HRC directors this week issued a list of probables they are looking at for a start in the big sprint, but it is so wide that most of these are likely to be discarded in the coming week or two. 

Victoria’s It Is I does appear to be a certainty to be included, and just maybe the exceptionally fast sprinter Cams Fool USA, which struggles over any distance further than 1700m. Robin Hood is fast running out of time in his return to racing, but he is mainly a quality stayer and might require time to find its best after a long spell off the scene with an injury. 

Heading the NSW list is Sweet Fame USA and Make Me Smile, with Hexus, Karloo Mick, Smooth Crusa and The Phantoms Guest also listed. The big New Zealand Cup carnival will most certainly decide what Kiwi pacers are invited. 



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

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