Ultimate Sniper NZ
With a simple squeeze of the trigger at the top of the straight, Natalie Rasmussen and Ultimate Sniper raced themselves into the record books.
The pair combined for a historic victory in the Gr.1 $500,000 IRT Inter Dominion Pacing Grand Final at Alexandra Park, Auckland tonight defeating Mach Shard and Thefixer in the 2700m feature.
Ultimate Sniper becomes the first four-year-old since Mark Hanover back in 1991 to clean sweep a traditional series while the victory for Rasmussen propelled to her to the same mark as close friend Brian Hancock with a record equaling five finals.
Hancock landed his quintet with Koala King, Weona Warrior and Our Sir Vancelot (x 3) while Rasmussen won four with her champion pacer Blacks A Fake before tonight’s triumph.
Ultimate Sniper is co-trained by Rasmussen along with partner Mark Purdon and the dynamic duo has now claimed three of the last four series following the victories of Smolda and Lazarus in 2016/17, both staged at Gloucester Park in Perth.
Starting from gate five, Ultimate Sniper began moderately while the Barry Purdon trained trio of On The Cards, Mach Shard and A G’s White Socks all flashing early pace with the latter finding the lead role.
Australian trained pacers Sicario and San Carlo sat handy while Rasmussen allowed Ultimate Sniper to work forward quickly before parking outside the leader with 1700m left to run.
A G’s White Socks continued to dictate the speed with Ultimate Sniper keeping him company while Chase Auckland made the first move three wide with a lap remaining.
Entering the back straight for the final time, Ultimate Sniper quickly moved alongside A G’s White Socks and applied heavy pressure with Chase Auckland deeper off the track while Cruz Bromac and Thefixer followed up in the three-wide line.
But at the top of the home straight, Rasmussen released Ultimate Sniper who responded with a strong kick and bounded clear before fighting off the late closers of Mach Shard and Thefixer.
Ultimate Sniper scored by a neck margin from Mach Shard with a nose separating Thefixer and Cruz Bromac.
The winning time was 3:14.7 – the mile rate was 1:56.0.
“I’ve been lucky enough to drive so many great horses but this is really quite special tonight because I matched Brian’s (Hancock) record,” Rasmussen said.
“And for a four-year-old to do it the way he’s done it – he never had an easy run or anything but he made his own luck – I’m just absolutely rapt for the horse.”
The former dual Derby winner takes his record to 14 wins from 20 starts while his earnings approach $1 million with the promise of plenty more still to come.
His victory also provided champion sire Bettors Delight with his third straight Inter Dominion champion following on from Lazarus and Tiger Tara.
The next leg of the 2019/20 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit will again take place at Alexandra Park with the running of the $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup on New Year’s Eve.