The A-Team: Murray Howard, Cran Dalgety and Dexter Dunn celebrate their Cup success Photo by Harness Racing Victoria
The 2015 TAB Victoria Cup came down to ‘gate speed’.
The 2240m feature sprint at TABCORP Park, Melton was taken out by New Zealand star Christen Me who blasted the gate to lead before running away with the $400,000 feature defeating Lennytheshark and Adore Me.
The victory also sends Christen Me to a clear lead in the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit race, a title he claimed last season.
All pre-race talk centred on Beautide, running from gate three and expected to lead from his favourable alley but the mighty pacer was tackling the event on the fresh side, having not raced since the Miracle Mile on November 29 in Sydney.
But champion reinsman Dexter Dunn rolled the dice and charged hard off the gate with Christen Me and led comfortably while Beautide got away in third place.
The decisive tactics from Dunn proved to be a masterstroke.
The lead time was covered in 45.3 seconds.
In-form pacer Philadelphia Man quickly rushed around the outside to race without cover before his stablemate Guaranteed made his move to park outside the leader.
With early moves being made, Beautide was soon shuffled back in the pack, racing midfield.
The first half was covered in 30.4 and 30.3 as Dunn continued to deal with Christen Me in front.
Beautide was flushed out three-wide when champion mare Adore Me commenced her run but the pressure soon hit fever pitch as they entered the back straight for the final time.
Christen Me traveled strongly with Guaranteed matching while Beautide was hustled along deeper on the track.
The third quarter was covered in 27 seconds.
At the top of the straight, Christen Me had sailed away from his rivals while Lennytheshark went back to the passing lane and Adore Me started to charge wider on the track.
At the end, Christen Me scored easily by 2 metres with a further 3.5 metres back to Adore Me in third.
The last section was also recorded in 27 seconds.
The overall time was 2;40.0 and the winning milerate was 1;55.0.
“I was actually surprised how easy I got over at the start; he travelled so easily and rounding the home turn he felt like he was jogging. He’s going better than ever and it’s a credit to everyone involved with the horse.” Winning driver Dexter Dunn declared.
The victory also continues the love affair Christen Me has with Australian racing, the Christian Cullen – Splendid Dreams gelding is yet to miss a place in 10 starts on Aussie soil.
Already this season, Christen Me has claimed the Miracle Mile, NZ Free-For-All, Bendigo Cup and now the Victoria Cup.
Next week, Christen Me will attempt to defend his title in the Gr.1 $400,000 Del-Re National Food Group Hunter Cup.
For Dunn and trainer Cran Dalgety, it is their second Victoria triumph together following their success in 2009 with Bettors Strike.
Dalgety also prepared Desperate Comment who scored back to back victories in 1996/97.
Christen Me now has 210 points in the race to be crowned Grand Circuit champion with three legs remaining; his nearest rival is For A Reason with 150 points.