Kiwi star Christen Me has raced to a clear lead in the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit standings after a determined victory in the Gr.1 $400,000 Del-Re National Food Group Hunter Cup at TABCORP Park, Melton last night.
Sitting atop of the leaderboard with For A Reason with 160 points, the Cran Dalgety trained pacer has now established a clear lead after earning maximum points defeating a brave Caribbean Blaster and The Gold Ace in the 3280m stand start event.
Beaten narrowly in last week’s Ballarat Cup behind Restrepo, the Cran Dalgety trained pacer went one better to claim Australia’s richest stand start race after racing without cover over the final 1200m.
Under free-for-all conditions, the big field began safely with Abettorpunt shooting to the early lead while aging warrior Smoken Up quickly raced up on his outside and pressed for the lead.
The lead time was covered in 125.4 seconds.
Smoken Up continued to lead the field as moves continued to be made behind him, Franco Nelson was the first to pull three-wide which was then followed by Mah Sish, Restrepo and then finally, Christen Me.
The first half of the final mile was covered in 29.9 and 31.4 seconds.
Heading into the back straight for the final time, Smoken Up led Christen Me while Keayang Cullen made his move wider on the track which gave cover to Caribbean Blaster and The Gold Ace.
With the back straight quarter covered in a controlled 28.9 seconds, the big field was tightly packed as they prepared to straighten.
Christen Me raced up to Smoken Up while Caribbean Blaster and The Gold Ace both let down with their sprints.
In a driving finish, Christen Me lasted narrowly from Caribbean Blaster with The Gold Ace a further 2.5 metres away in third.
The final quarter was posted in 27.3 seconds.
The mile rate was 1;59.2.
“I was happy with how the race unfolded and I felt comfortable at the quarter, he dug deep in the straight to hold out Andy and Kate’s horse. It was a gutsy effort and I’m thrilled with the victory.” Winning driver Dexter Dunn said.
The victory providing New Zealand with yet another victory in the great staying race, the Kiwis have now won 13 of the past 22 editions of the Hunter Cup.
For Christen Me, it was his first victory on Melbourne soil after gallant placing’s in the recent Victoria and Ballarat Cups, it was his first win in Australia since claiming the Chariots Of Fire last year.
The Christian Cullen – Splendid Dreams gelding is raced by his breeder Charlie Roberts along with Vicki Purdon.
It was also a first for both trainer and driver, Cran Dalgety and Dexter Dunn toasting their maiden success in the Cup.
Only two legs of the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit series remain this season, the $750,000 Inter Dominion Grand Final on Sunday, March 2 at TABCORP Park, Menangle followed by the $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park on Friday, March 7.
Christen Me now leads with 260 points followed by For A Reason (160), Caribbean Blaster (130), Beautide (120) and Terror To Love (104).
Who will be crowned the 2013/14 champion – the race continues.