Day At The Track

All Tiger downs champion Auckland Reactor

07:30 PM 16 Jan 2009 NZDT
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David Butcher in a post race interview David Butcher salutes the judge with
David Butcher in a post race interview - just after All Tiger beat the brilliant Auckland Reactor.
Duane Ranger photo
David Butcher salutes the judge with - All Tiger after defeating Auckland Reactor in January 2009.
Duane Ranger photo
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There was an eerie feeling at Cambridge Raceway at about 9.25pm tonight (Friday). The big crowd couldn't believe what they had just seen. . . New Zealand's best harness racing pacer 'Auckland Reactor' had suffered his first defeat in 18 starts.

However the brilliant son of Mach Three lost no friends when putting in a Herculean type performance to run a three quarter length second behind All Tiger in the Group II $60,000 Jardine Bloodstock 4yo Futurity Stakes.

Like All Tiger, Auckland Reactor and driver/co-trainer, Mark Purdon, started from a 20m handicap, but 10 seconds into the 2700m standing start event, Auckland Reactor found himself 80m behind the early pace-maker.

He broke and took a long time to settle. With two laps remaining Purdon found himself 15 lengths behind the last placed horse. With a lap to run ‘The Reactor' was three-wide without cover outside All Tiger and Pembrook Benny. Down the back straight the last time the champion was parked and forced to out-sprint the nine-win pace-maker, All Tiger.

Purdon tried valiantly in the straight but fell short by a length. There was almost five lengths back to third placed Safin (Matthew White).

"Auckland Reactor is still a champion in my eyes," conceded All Tiger's driver, David Butcher.

"What he did tonight was huge. You have to remember horses are not machines. They all lose some time or another," he added.

Even the great Somebeachsomewhere tasted defeat for the first time last year and some of the crowd who turned out to watch Auckland Reactor still believed he was the best pacer they had seen.

"Wow I couldn't believe how close he got to winning after giving them a head-start almost the length of the back-straight. He's still the people's horse and he will still keep on winning," said Waikato race fan Michelle Burgess.

Staunch galloping enthusiast Phillip Quay said:

"I'm an ardent galloping fan and I'm not huge on trotting but Auckland Reactor has brought me to the track. Once a champion always a champion," Quay said.

It took a brilliant drive from Cambridge reinsman, Butcher to lower the colours of Auckland Reactor. He set a torrid pace in front but had just enough petrol at the finish to hold out the Grant Payne and Purdon trained entire.

All Tiger, a son of Christian Cullen paced the 2700m in 3:21.5 (mile rate: 2:00.1) with final 800m and 400m sectionals of 58.5 and 28.2 seconds.

Butcher couldn't believe what he had just done.

"He (Auckland Reactor) is a champion alright. What horse could lose that amount of ground and still get within a length of the winner. He won't lose any fans through that run, least of all me," Butcher said.

It was All Tiger's 10th win from 22 starts. He has now won just over $130,000 in stakes. It was his third win from five starts on the track.

"This fella is also a nice horse and he did a great job in front tonight. Geoff had him trained to the minute. People don't realise just how good a trainer Geoff is," Butcher said.

All Tiger was scratched from last Friday's Group Three $40,000 4yo Ambreed Classic. Instead he ran third behind Awesome Armbro and Mr Ricky in a five-plus win pace.

Asked if Butcher rated it one of his better drives he replied:

"I knew I had to set a torrid pace after Auckland Reactor blew the start. I had a bit left at the top of the straight so I thought he would go close," Butcher said.

Meanwhile Purdon, who trains Auckland Reactor with his brother-in-law Grant Payne at Yaldhurst, paid a tribute to his champion pacer.

"He has a huge heart and he showed that tonight. I'm proud of his run but not so proud of his start. We will work on that but I am happy with his performance tonight. He gave his all and that's all I can ask.

"He will head home for a short spell now before returning to the North Island for the Auckland Cup (March 6) at Alexandra Park," Purdon said.

Auckland Reactor was wearing the yellow Harness Jewels colours for the first time. It is unlikely he will race at Cambridge again. This time next year he is likely to take on the open class pacers in Group One events here and across the Tasman.

Video Part One

Video Part Two

Duane RANGER (editor)

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