In many ways, the arrival of boom pacer Have Faith In Me was expected.
Fresh from a glittering three-year-old season which netted him a host of features followed by National awards at seasons end, the baby-faced assassin landed his biggest prize yet when scoring a determined victory in the Gr.1 $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park today (Thursday).
Blessed with a loopy long stride at an amazing speed, the Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen prepared gelding can now add mental toughness to his repertoire after digging deep in the home straight to fight past a game Hughie Green with Smolda a close-up third.
With the Auckland Cup returning to its traditional format, a 3200m standing start feature staged on New Year’s Eve, Have Faith In Me added his name to an illustrious list of past champions.
Victory in the Auckland Cup as a four-year-old is nothing new with recent winners including Auckland Reactor and Gotta Go Cullen proving successful under the old format when the Cup was run under mobile conditions at 2700m.
But looking deeper into the history of the Cup, Have Faith In Me has now propelled himself into potentially rare air where he could surpass some of the modern day greats.
The last four-year-old to win the Cup under the conditions of a 3200m stand start feature was the mighty Elsu when successful back in 2003, a pacer that proved to be a real game changer in the modern era of the Grand Circuit with his brutal and relentless style of racing.
Another former champion who won the Cup as a four-year-old was the incomparable Christian Cullen back in 1998.
The deeds of both Elsu and Christian Cullen are well documented.
Can Have Faith In Me scale those dizzy and lofty heights?
Making his best beginning to date under the standing start conditions, regular reinsman Tim Williams allowed Have Faith In Me to settle near the rear of the field while Mossdale Conner led early after both Tiger Tara and Itz Bettor To Win both made early errors.
Giant pacer Hughie Green quickly challenged for the lead and found it relatively easily with Mossdale Conner content to sit in the trail.
The lead time was covered in 2:08.9.
Smolda made the first move of the race taking out just prior to the mile mark and Williams quickly followed with Have Faith In Me parking outside of Hughie Green at the 1300m point of the race.
Tiger Tara was the next to make a move and quickly raced up on the outside of Hughie Green which then presented Have Faith In Me with a perfect one out/one back trail as they worked down the home straight with a lap remaining.
The first half of the final mile was posted in 30.9 and 30.6 seconds.
Heading down the back straight, Hughie Green led the way with Tiger Tara on his outside while Smolda attempted to flush Have Faith In Me out of the trail before Franco Nelson cut loose wider on the track.
The third quarter was covered in 29.1 seconds.
In the straight, Have Faith In Me edged past a defiant Hughie Green while both Smolda (wider) and Mossdale Conner (inner) closed late.
At the line, Have Faith In Me scored by a half neck from Hughie Green while there was a half head back to Smolda.
The last quarter was timed in 26.6 seconds.
The overall time was 4:06 which equates to a mile rate of 2:03.7.
The race record belongs to Chokin who broke 4 minutes back in 1993 when he clocked 3:59.5.
The victory of Have Faith In Me provided Mark Purdon with his 4th Auckland Cup triumph after previous success with Sharp And Telford (1996), Young Rufus (2002) and Auckland Reactor (2009).
For Tim Williams, it was almost a winning drive that wasn’t after he copped a 3 week driving suspension in the Summer Cup for failing to take all reasonable and permissible measures when an unlucky 6th behind Hughie Green.
Upon appeal, a day was shaved off the penalty which enabled him to take the drive and land his biggest victory to date.
The next leg of the 2015/16 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit is the Gr.1 $450,000 TABtouch WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on January 15.