Barastoc Grand Circuit Series
Stories: Pacers 2008/2009 Season
This article was first published in New Zealand Harness Racing Weekly November 13, 2008, and is reproduced here with permission.
A RECORD TO WIN $1.2M NZ CUP
It took a record to lower the colours of Baileys Dream in the $1.2 million Christchurch Casino NZ Cup.
On a hot, balmy Christchurch day, it took a champion to clip Flashing Red's barely broken-in old mark by 1.4 seconds, and end the race pulling away.
Only Changeover could do it, and it came matched with great glee and tears and shouts of joy as the ATC Trot 2006 Syndicate tumbled into the Addington birdcage for their million dollar moments.
Trainer Geoff Small, not a big man, was buried in the human scrum for many minutes as folk from all parts of New Zealand swamped him with hugs and big paw pats.
It was a dream for them all, no less Small who had gone close before in the race, with Changeover last year and Elsu before that.
But it didn't start out that way, not this particular start.
The race in fact started six minutes late.
Ohoka Rebel was in a mood and wouldn't line up and delayed the start as he did at Oamaru. Held up after looking a chance to go away at one stage, Gotta Go Cullen also lost focus, swing round and buckled a wheel. He was sent to the outside to join Ohoka Rebel, and from there he made a poor start.
He wasn't alone in that, Monkey King and Changeover doing the same to a lesser extent, which was familiar for one but strange for the other.
Those that got on with the job were Likmesiah, Report For Duty who soon led, Special Ops, Ohoka Rebel and Waipawa Lad. From midfield Tribute was first on the move, followed by Changeover, Baileys Dream, Gotta Go Cullen and Monkey King. Changeover went on and led at the 1400m, passed by Baileys Dream, which left Monkey King doing it hard.
Baileys Dream was in superb order, ready for the race of his life and running it deceptively fast, and he took Changeover to the passing lane and past it.
Once David Butcher gave him a look at those Syndicate faces in the distance calling him home, Changeover opened up. He gave Baileys Dream no respect as he glided by and a monster win by nearly two lengths.
Baileys Dream did enough to win the race, but driver Todd Mitchell could see all the lycra in the world wasn't in the rescue package when Changeover was onto the attack so smartly. Report For Duty was a solid third, after being given a perfect trip, and Special Ops stormed home from five places deep to fourth and $54,130.
Butcher said he was surprised at the speed of the race because he didn't think they were travelling quite as quick as that.
"It was the track.
"They've just made a superb job of it," he said.
He wasn't the only one with words of praise for the state of it, because there were others making the same point.
But he had other matters on his mind before that.
"Missing away for a few strides wasn't a huge worry.
"I didn't want to be in the early fireworks, but I suppose what was happening earlier got to him a bit in the end.
"The only thing when you hand up is that who you hand up to doesn't fall back on you later on," he said.
With Bailey strumming the high notes, Butcher had no fear of that.
"We had a better run than what we had last year, and he was just cruising at the half."
Butcher, aged 44, said he gave Changeover "a couple" when he got down into the passing lane, not wanting to lose the advantage of it as he'd done in the Sires' Stakes Final two races earlier when Highview Tommy denied Tintin in America full access to it for 50 metres.
"And I knew Baileys Dream had to get tired."
A man with a comedy touch, Butcher was pleased about the special victory but unsentimental as well.
"Horses make their own mark. They do their job; I do mine."
Monkey King, the second favourite, ran last but if a last can be good, this one was.
He finished 12.7 lengths from the winner and his time of 3:58.7 was better than the 3:59.1 he ran last year when nosed out by Flashing Red.