Barastoc Grand Circuit Series
Stories: Pacers 2008/2009 Season
The shock failures of Blacks A Fake and Changeover NZ in Australia’s premier sprint race on Friday night at Harold Park has turned the 2008/2009 Barastoc Pacers Grand Circuit on its ear, with Melpark Major and Divisive emerging from the Miracle Mile as the two Aussie pacers to follow in coming weeks.
Melpark Major was by far the biggest run of the race. From its outside draw at the gate, Amy Tubbs eased the big horse back to last before then circling the field, giving the $1.60 favourite Blacks A Fake windburn as it went past at the top of the straight. The Victorian was only run down in the final few metres by Divisive, given the run of the race by its trainer-driver Peter Rixon. Outsider, Make Me Smile, was third.
For the red and blue colours worn by Rixon, it was the second time these had saluted in a Miracle Mile. His father-in-law, Tony Turnbull, had worn these colours when he trained and drove Hondo Grattan to win the race in 1974, as well as successive Inter Dominions. Dixon is married to Tony’s daughter Cindy, a former successful reinswoman before her marriage.
So disappointing was Blacks A Fake in finishing fifth in the field of eight from gate two, that trainer-driver Natalie Rasmussen not only claimed it was his worst ever effort, but she has cancelled her trip to Melbourne to defend the Victoria Cup.
“I am taking him home to Queensland and he will not start again until I can discover what is holding him back this preparation.”
Rated Australia’s top pacer these past two or three years, Rasmussen explained this sudden loss of his best form as a complete mystery ….“The only concern there was after the race was his heart rate was up higher than normal, but the vets could find nothing else wrong with him.”
Meanwhile, the New Zealand stable of Geoff Small is expected to press on with the top Kiwi pacer Changeover NZ. At its previous start, Changeover NZ had won the biggest race across the Tasman in taking the two-mile NZ Cup in impressive style.
Changeover NZ (David Butcher) finished last. It was the failure of this highly rated pacer to keep up after rounding the home-turn that made it possible for Rixon to bring Divisive away from the rails to make its winning run.
It was earlier reported in the media that this SEW Eurodrive Miracle Mile had two female drivers in the race for the first time. Not so, as back in 1996 there were two others when Kellie Kersley won this event driving Norms Daughter.
Touted as the last time Australia’s premier sprint will be staged at Harold Park before moving to Menangle, the earlier barrier draw (as usual) had made up the minds of most punters.
When Blacks A Fake drew perfectly in barrier two, the horse was installed a $1.50 favourite in the early betting. As the night of the big race drew near, solid support for the classy New Zealand champion Changeover NZ led to Blacks A Fake easing out to a $2 tote chance one hour before race time.
However, steady support for the Queenslander sent Blacks A Fake out a $1.50 favourite at start time, with Changeover NZ having plenty of support to suggest it could dethrone the Aussie champ.
Natalie Rasmussen was more than happy to position her horse in the ‘death’ when polemarker Special Albert scooted to the early lead. Backers of the favourite were on good terms with themselves, as in some previous Group 1 races, Blacks A Fake had been able to control a big race when leading the outside line.
While the positions up front were settled early with no other drivers prepared to challenge the favourite for its position, this led to a slow quarter in the middle stages. Amy Tubbs had already committed Melpark Major to be out three wide moving forward. It was obvious a long way from home that the big pacer from Bacchus Marsh would be in for the toughest run in the race.
Only Peter Rixon being able to ease Divisive away from its good trail on the fence prevented Tubbs and her trainer father Alan from causing a boilover with Melpark Major, in what would have been seen as one of the toughest wins in this event. The last half was paced in 55.9 secs, last quarter in 27.8 secs.
Had this horse been successful, it would also have made history. No Miracle Mile has ever been won by a horse sired by an earlier winner of the race. Melpark Major is a son of Iraklis NZ, winner of the event in the mid-1990s.
Divisive did not go into the race with the usual preparation owing to a lung infection six weeks earlier. Three weeks before the race Rixon believed it was touch and go whether his horse would be ready for a race that promised so much between the best horses from both sides of the Tasman.
Being able to capture the big prize is a credit to him, and it will give NSW its best hope for further success on this Barastoc Grand Circuit.
The local Make Me Smile was an emergency that got a start following the scratching of the Victorian trained Tasmanian-owned Deanna Troy, while another NSW pacer, Iron Hudge NZ (Mark Rolfe), battled to the line well, though a long way from the first two home.
With Blacks A Fake out of this Saturday night’s $100,000 Treuer Memorial around the tight Bankstown track, it will be interesting to see if Changeover NZ backs up quickly, and what other Group 1 horses make it to the start in what will be the sixth event on the Barastoc Pacers Grand Circuit this season.
Results: 2008 SEW EURODRIVE MIRACLE MILE
Rixon) 1; Melpark Major (Amy Tubbs), 2; Make Me Smile (Gavin