Barastoc Grand Circuit Series
Stories:   Pacers 2007/2008 Season
Leg 3:  SEW Eurodrive Victoria Cup   2007/2008 Results   Points
            15/12/2007  Moonee Valley, Melbourne, Vic  2575m  Mobile Start  $350,000
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An unplaced favourite two years ago then third last season in the event, the lightly raced Robin Hood regained his best form to overpower Smoken Up NZ and the favourite Sting Lika Bee to win Melbourne’s prestigious SEW-Eurodrive Victoria Cup on Saturday night. 

The seven-year-old son of the sensational but now defunct sire Fake Left USA has for more than two years been plagued by troubled feet (quarter cracks) which kept him away from racing for months at a time.  He was having his fifth start from a lengthy spell and only in the past 10 days had the horse’s track work been like the pacer of old. 

Smythe’s Creek trainer Peter Tonkin explained after the win how his horse had for weeks been beaten in track work by the Emma Stewart-trained Manwarra Goforgold, also engaged in the Victoria Cup. “Then this past week Robin Hood began beating Emma’s improved pacer and I knew he was coming back to something like his best.” 

Tonkin, usually reluctant to be making speeches, broke down when telling the crowd at the presentation he was dedicating the big win to a close friend who had recently died. 

Punters remained loyal to another Ballarat district horse, sending Sting Lika Bee out a clear favourite despite it having drawn the outside of the second line, with Robin Hood drifting in the betting to start at a generous $17 on the tote. 

For Gavin Lang, considered by many to be the top reinsman in Australia, it was his first win in a SEW-Eurodrive Victoria Cup. A feature of his drive was his failure to be panicked when early he led the outside division before being shuffled back beyond mid-field.  He bided his time before turning Robin Hood loose up the home straight with the horse finishing on strongly when it seemed likely a tight finish would be fought out by the improving Smoken Up NZ, Sting Lika Bee and Ultimate Mark. 


Robin Hood

Robin Hood finished off its race so powerfully that on the line it won by 1 1/2m and a head to third in track record time for the distance rating a smart 1:57.3. 

The horse is raced by a syndicate of eight, mainly from around Ballarat. This also includes the trainer.  Not only did they collect $219,375 for winning, but automatic entry into a semi-final of the new-look Watpac ID08 Series with this heat scheduled for February 23. 

Lang explained after the race how it had taken Tonkin longer this time to get the horse back to its best.  “He came into work older and heavier, so it has taken longer for it to strike its best,” he said. 

The first two laps of the race were run to script as many predicted, with Chris Alford taking Penny Veejay straight to the front from barrier three, then handing over the lead to the aggressive Lance Justice when he made his intentions clearly known with Smoken Up NZ, coming across from barrier seven to make a bee-line to the front. 

Cincinnati Kid NZ failed to make use of its front row draw and found itself back at the rear with the favourite – until well before the completion of the first lap when Daryl Douglas wasted little time having Sting Lika Bee circle the field so often to take over leading the outside line from Robin Hood.  This was the first of several moves from horses back in the field. 

Some 600m from home Douglas began serving it up to the leader as these other horses moved forward, shuffling Robin Hood back in the field.  With the speed right on this far from home, the favourite poked its head in front 350m out, with Penny Veejay seemingly ready to pounce travelling behind the two leaders. 

Both Ultimate Mark (Kate Thompson) and Sequoiahs Spirit NZ (Jodi Quinlan) were running cheeky races at nice odds to keep the final verdict wide open at that stage, while pole marker Smooth Crusa NZ (John Justice) was third back along the rails in a tightly packed field. 

When Cincinnati Kid NZ (Mark Peace) was pulled out wide at the rear, it left Flaming Roadstar (Leon Sutton) a clear last.  That the latter was able to make up ground in the last half mile was full of merit from this outsider in the strong field. 

The four quarters of the last mile tells the story of the gut-wrenching effort again turned in by Sting Lika Bee. 

The first quarter took just 28.9 seconds, followed by a more leisurely 30.8. The favourite then turned up the heat on the leader with the fastest quarter for the race in a brilliant 27.8. It was these two furlongs that set up the track record with a not surprising last quarter in a struggling 29.2.  The mile rate for the 2575m was a gruelling 1:57.3 –beating the former record held jointly by Tribute NZ and Winforu NZ. 

Apart from the solid finishing effort by the winner, the best two runs in the race were turned in by the proven ‘Cups King’ Sting Lika Bee and the improving Smoken Up NZ. 

If the race was without the Queensland stars Blacks A Fake and Be Good Johnny because of the restrictions caused by the widespread EI up north, it still was made up of the best pacers in Victoria.  They turned on one truly outstanding spectacle that would have delighted the crowd with the aggressive manner the race was run from start to finish. 

Lenny Bromac NZ (John Caldow) was the only one clearly outclassed and finished a long last, while the two most disappointing efforts with the cut-throat race tactics came from the well supported Penny Veejay (seventh) and Cincinnati Kid NZ (tenth).  The latter was always toiling near the rear, while Chris Alford gave Penny Veejay the run of the race and it failed to show real dash up the home straight however Robin Hood’s winning run to the line was full of merit. 


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

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