Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories:   Pacers 2006/2007 Season
Leg 8:  SEW Eurodrive Victoria Cup   2006/2007 Results   Points
             16/12/2006  Moonee Valley, Melbourne, Vic  2575m  Mobile Start  $325,000
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Blacks A Fake confirmed its short priced favouritism by leading throughout to win the Group 1 Victoria Cup at Moonee Valley Saturday night, but the two placed pacers – Flashing Red and Robin Hood – both turned in more impressive trials for the forthcoming Inter Dominion after both had extremely tough races. 

The delight of Natalie Rasmussen (Blacks A Fake) immediately after the race was tinged with a touch of concern that her six-year-old gelding had to pull out all stops in the home straight to hold off Flashing Red (Geoff Webster) and Robin Hood (Gavin Lang) who kept coming despite having been wide at various stages of the race. 

Sting Lika Bee, Victoria’s second top hope in the Inter Dominion starting a week from this Friday, was another caught wide. Then, with what seemed like a lap-full of horse, David Murphy sought an inside run close to home only to be blocked by the back of the winner.  A clear run and this one could well have caused an upset. 

Rasmussen stated after the race that Blacks A Fake would start in the opening round of Inter Dominion heats at Moonee Valley on December 29 before a decision is made to move on to Adelaide five days later for the following two heats and Final.  She said what will be taken into account is how her horse is coping with racing, and the weather in Adelaide at that time. 

The two main disappointments of the Victoria Cup were Be Good Johnny (John McCarthy) and New Zealand’s top pacer from last season, Mainland Banner NZ (Ricky May).  Be Good Johnny did touch a knee during the race and when saved for a late run out five wide, failed to run on as expected.  It is no certainty to start in the Inter Dominion. 

Mainland Banner NZ, with a seriously interrupted program since resuming racing this time in, is not racing anything like her best.  She trailed the field for much of the race from her wide second-row draw, and could beat only Cobbitty Classic home. 

The strong McCarthy team that dominated many of last season’s Grand Circuit races, is now having little good luck.  Slipnslide was the first to strike trouble with its blood-count right down several weeks back with this one now being sent home to Queensland to recover.  Cobbity Classic, despite a grand second in the NZ Cup to Flashing Red, was so disappointing Saturday night that it too is off back home to the family property at Logan, an outer Brisbane suburb.  


In the lead-up to Saturday night’s Group 1 event, there was talk from the McCarthy camp how they intended to have Cobbitty Classic (Andrew McCarthy) take on Blacks A Fake for the early lead from gate 3, while connections of The Warp Drive were also talking up having their usually fast-beginning stallion cross for the lead from gate 4. 

Both these plans were tossed out the window at the start when Rasmussen timed her dive for the front on barrier release, giving nothing else even a hint of grabbing the early lead.  This left The Warp Drive leading the outside division, and Robin Hood (Gavin Lang) out three wide before moving forward to drop into the ‘death’. 

Toe Taper (Daryl Douglas) got an early break by being able to find the back of Blacks A Fake for an excellent trail. Smooth Cruza NZ (Gavin Fitzpatrick) also was then racing forward with good cover, but both Kiwi representatives Tribute NZ and Mainland Banner NZ were relegated to the rear. 

It would seem that no rival drivers were prepared to go forward and put the short-priced favourite under any pressure mid-race, as the leader got away with a 30.7 seconds first quarter of the last mile, followed by a 30.0 second quarter.  Such a breather at this point of the race appeared to make a sure certainty of the leader being able to out-sprint its rivals at the end of the trip, especially as Robin Hood and then Flashing Red had both been wide, with the latter now up racing in the ‘death’, a position from where it has often been in its races. 

Murphy at one stage had tried taking Sting Lika Bee up around the field, but could then see there was no way for his pacer to find any cover out there, and he eased back hoping to find another route home. 

The pace was upped for the second last quarter with a 28.1 section, then in the final sprint for the line, the winner paced it in 28.6, resulting in an overall mile rate of 1:58.6.  The margins of a head by 2.2 metres resulted in a much tighter finish than most people expected, including the trainer-driver of the winner, as it was far from being an emphatic victory for the horse many believe to be the best pacer in Australia. 

A huge effort in the race was that of Robin Hood.  Making a late return to racing this season after an injury suffered in last season’s Hunter Cup, Robin Hood six days earlier was flattened not long after the start of the Tasmanian Cup, and took no further part.  So, it could be said this race was only its third start from a long spell.  It was most impressive, as of course was Flashing Red, an ideal type for the Adelaide Inter Dominion. 

It is worth noting on Saturday night that throughout the meeting, only one horse came from well back in a field to grab first.  This was Foreal NZ, winner of the Cup Consolation.  Blacks A Fake was out in front, so perhaps the effort of the improving Tribute NZ in passing several horses close to home should be noted. 

Because this season’s Inter Dominion heats will be held in two States for the first time ever, officials have given a five-day break for horses to contest the opening round at Moonee Valley before all are floated across to Adelaide for the second round.  A five-day break is the longest yet between an opening and second round of heats in any Inter Dominion. 

Mainland Banner NZ had not been nominated for the Inter Dominion with trainer Robert Dunn preferring to space the races for his classy mare.  There are still good opportunities in coming weeks with the changes in dates to the usual schedule which in the past has culminated with the Inter Dominion.  There is the Ballarat Cup on February 3, the A.G. Hunter Cup on February 11, and three Grand Circuit races in Perth, pushed back to March this season.  


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

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