Barastoc Grand Circuit Series
Stories:   Pacers 2007/2008 Season
Leg 9:  Hankook Tyres AG Hunter Cup   2007/2008 Results   Points
             3/02/2008  Moonee Valley, Melbourne, Vic  3065m  Standing Start  $400,000
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Australia’s premier staying race the 2008 $400,000 Hankook Hunter Cup on Sunday had everything – excitement; drama, both before and during it; record fast times, and a little sentimental mush for most at the sight of it being won by the backmarker, a true champion in Queensland’s Blacks A Fake.

 After the leaders had maintained a fast pace, trainer-driver Natalie Rasmussen, well back in the field having started off 30m, pulled out her 7YO gelding on entering the back straight the last time. 

Blacks A Fake, the winner of the past two Inter Dominions, began circling the field, only reaching the front with its last stride or two to edge out a gallant Smoken Up NZ (Lance Justice) and the Kiwi, Report For Duty NZ (Anthony Butt). In a blanket-finish, the tough stallion Safari (Brian Gath) was inches away fourth, Divisive fifth, with the unlucky Karlsruhe (David Aiken) the closest of sixths. 

The track record for this distance, set the previous season by Sting Lika Bee when winning this race, was lowered to a mile rate of 1:58.9, a time that equates to Blacks A Fake beating Sting Lika Bee by 30 metres!  

Rumours swept the course just prior to the race claiming how the pre-race favourite Safari had not eaten or drank any water during the 48 hours of its security confinement at Geelong. This led to an amazing drift late in betting by Safari, with the New South Wales pacer Divisive (Peter Rixon) being sent out the race favourite, from Safari and Blacks A Fake. The decision on integrity grounds by HRV to have a lock-down of all starters for the 48 hours leading up to starters being floated from the Geelong track to Moonee Valley, certainly led to comment in the media. 


Because of the distance and it being a handicap event, this race is to harness racing fans what the Melbourne Cup is to the thoroughbreds. Over the years there have been some outstanding pacers of their day fail to win this gruelling marathon, the richest staying race in the harness world.  

Brian Gath, the driver of Safari which had outstayed Blacks A Fake eight days earlier to win the Ballarat Cup, said after Sunday’s big race how his horse had not been the same to the one he had driven the week before.  “His energy today was just not there,” he told the media. 

Safari still turned in a splendid staying effort. Re-handicapped to 10 metres, Gath as expected wasted little time after the field had been dispatched in taking his horse forward to sit outside the leader Smoken Up NZ. Justice, probably expecting such an aggressive move, in the following two laps every now and then allowed his horse on the inside to surge, seemingly then preventing Gath from dictating tactics up front with Safari. 

While Smoken Up NZ was playing its cat-and-mouse game with Safari, Anthony Butt was having a dream run on the back of the leader with Report For Duty NZ, with Gavin Lang on its back with Advance Attack NZ.  Following Safari in the one-out line was Manwarra Goforgold, then Reba Rajah, with Divisive then running ninth. 

For a marathon race, they were low flying when Smoken Up NZ took the field through the first quarter of the last mile in 28.7 seconds, followed by the next in 30.5. The foot went back down for the next quarter in 27.5, running home the final quarter in 29.1.  The time for the last mile was an incredible 1:55.8, at a time when the winner was out wide circling the field during the last quarter. 

Natalie Rasmussen confirmed at the presentation how she had delayed a final decision to start her horse until as late as possible, explaining her main mission with the gelding this season was to try and win its third successive Watpac Inter Dominion, thus equalling the record set by Our Sir Vancelot NZ.  

But then, there have been previous instances of this horsewoman claiming she would not start Blacks A Fake in this or that major race when stabled in Victoria. To date she and her exciting horse finally fulfilled each of these engagements. 

The biggest crowd at Moonee Valley for the season gave Blacks A Fake a reception worthy of a champion.  They had been quick to recognise the victory was in the style of a great horse that while never winning its races by wide margins, seems to have that ability to arrive just in time. 

One surprise to come out of the race was the big showing by the outsider Karlsruhe.  While it may have had a good run for much of the race, in the final stages it was ‘chopped off’, yet was able to regroup and was charging into it until running out of room with nowhere to go in the last 50 metres.  David Aiken later said he felt certain his horse had plenty left when finishing the closest of sixths. 

There were two scratchings from the field – both days earlier -- the death of Christian Spirit NZ when being worked at a WA beach, and a set-back at Ballarat for Robin Hood.  This still left a field of 13. 

Surprisingly, Australia’s leading reinsman Daryl Douglas was not engaged for a drive in the race.  The night before at Cranbourne he had been tipped from the sulky and spent hours at the Dandenong Hospital.  He surprised many Sunday morning turning up to drive at Ballarat trials.  When he found his broken finger prevented him from being at his best, he quickly ruled himself out for the meeting at Moonee Valley. 

Among those not eligible to go straight into the semi-finals for the 2008 Watpac ID08 Inter Dominion Series is Be Good Johnny, impressive winner of Sunday’s Hankook Tyres FFA. As the defending champion, Blacks A Fake did not require Sunday’s eligibility for a semi-final at Moonee Valley on 23 February. 

An interesting point to emerge from HRV’s move to allow interstate horses to use Geelong for two weeks to quarantine, is that each of these, with the exception of Slipnslide, have come up well forward in condition, each ready to produce their best in the following weeks. 

The consistent form of Victoria’s Smoken Up NZ has enabled it to take a handy lead on the progressive points for the Barastoc Pacers Grand Circuit Series. Blacks A Fake went into Sunday’s Group 1 event with just two points, but with ample opportunities in coming weeks to build up further points.    


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

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