HUNTER CUP WASH-UP

It’s Lazarus’ world, we just live in it.
 
Again, the mighty New Zealander dominated a Grand Circuit event as a prohibitive favourite despite some momentous efforts from Soho Tribeca (2nd place) and stablemate Heaven Rocks (3rd place).
 
Lazarus dragged more than a few extra fans to Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday evening and we were all treated to beautiful balmy weather, slick racing and a record-breaking performance from a genuine all-time great of the sport.
 
Of the beaten brigade, Soho Tribeca’s run was worthy of a victory. Driver Greg Sugars zipped around to the breeze from his car park alley (13) before taking cover on the back of Lazarus.
 
As the combatants entered the home straight to meet the chequered flag, the West Australian Pacing Cup champion loomed as though he may run straight past a horse who has only been ran past once in his 43-start career.
 
It was not to be, though as Lazarus kicked again to win by one metre. Soho Tribeca looks the main and imminent danger to the Mark Purdon-driven superstar’s attempt at Miracle Mile glory on February 24.
 
A couple metres behind Lazarus and Soho Tribeca was Heaven Rocks and his run may have been even greater than both the winner and Tribeca.
 
I clocked his last 800m at 53.88 seconds despite being held up trying to secure a trail on Bling It On around the back. With Bling stopping, Natalie Rasmussen was forced to steer the giant gelding four and five wide on the home bend, making his efforts in running third even more magnificent.
 
Lennytheshark was again only fair after racing three-poles before a nifty move from Chris Alford extricated him from the fence seemingly with a kick to give. The Lenny of old was lacking though as Heaven Rocks made up lengths on him in quick time. Fourth in a Hunter Cup is an excellent achievement but it would seem Lenny is well off the very best horses.
 
To the spoils go the champ.
 
Lazarus came into the race on the back of a mind-boggling three-wide performance in the Fremantle Cup which resulted in him acquiring some concussion in his hooves. Mark Purdon worked feverishly on him to get him right after initially thinking the Hunter Cup – and even Miracle Mile – may be off the table.
 
Lazarus’ recovery from the hoof issues was as quick as his name would suggests and he entered Saturday night’s $500,000 Group 1 a $1.35 favourite.
 
He showed decent gate speed, was forced a shade wide when Tiger Tara wanted a retake of the lead then took up the breeze a long way from home once Soho Tribeca made his move. Trainer Kevin Pizzuto insisted Tiger Tara wanted to make this race a true staying test which would have had Purdon giggling from his hotel room. Lazarus sat at the wheel of the New South Welsh entire before striding past him entering the home straight.
Soho Tribeca peeled off his back but for every inch the Mick Stanley-charge gained, Lazarus took back an inch and held on for another brilliant Group 1 victory.
 
Lazarus now sits as the third highest pacing earner of all-time in this part of the world with the $750,000 Miracle Mile to come.
 
Sydney’s Carnival of Miracles promises to be every bit as good as the Summer of Glory in Victoria.
 
———
 
On a night dominated by the AG Hunter Cup, there were a handful of other excellent efforts on the night, namely 10-year-old veteran Kyvalley Blur in the Dullard Trotters Cup, Soho Burning Love in the 3-year-old Classic and Ample Power in the Group 3 Rising Stars Final.
 
Ameretto deserves a mention for a powerful finish in the Hunter Cup, ensuring she will be amongst the main hopes in the $200,000 Ladyship Mile at Menangle in three weeks.
 
This week, the Chariots of Fire for 4-year-olds headlines the weekend of racing where we will see Victorian up-and-comer Jilliby Kung Fu try and maintain his outstanding recent form.
With Vincent and Ultimate Machete gone from the event, this seems like a wide open race, particularly with Marg Lee’s raider drawn wide.
 
My night at Melton was fantastic. Alongside the New Zealand Cup this past November – it was my best trip to the trots and thanks to Harness Racing Victoria for having me on course. I’ll be back again soon!
 

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