A controversial weekend has raised doubts over the big race campaigns of two of New Zealand’s best pacers.
But for now their $1million campaigns remain on track and set to start with a rare clash between the pair this Saturday.
Christen Me and The Gold Ace will meet for just the fourth time in the A$175,000 Ballarat Cup on Saturday night, a rich lead-up to the A$400,000 Hunter Cup a week later.
The pair are the early favourites for both those races as well as among the big four in the market for the A$750,000 Inter Dominion in Sydney on March 2.
But questions emerged over the weekend about whether they would actually be allowed to start in some of those target.
The Gold Ace was the star of the weekend after the Auckland-owned pacer sat parked to win the Shepparton Cup, downing the likes of Smoken Up and suggesting he is back to his all-conquering three-year-old form when he was consistently too good for Terror To Love.
After bobbling slightly from the 20m mark, The Gold Ace sat parked and beat one of the best Victorian fields of the season, justifying co-owner Steven Reid’s decision to send him to the powerful Belinda and Luke McCarthy stable for the summer.
But while The Gold Ace would be the favourite for both the Ballarat and Hunter Cups, his connections feared missing the race under the unusual rules of the Hunter.
They state a horse must have begun safely in a standing start race in the last year to be eligible for the Hunter and because The Gold Ace bobbled away it was ruled he had not met that criteria.
But that was re-visited by HRV bosses and stewards yesterday who ruled The Gold Ace had begun safely before having to take evasion action which made him gallop briefly on the way to his massive win.
So he will be allowed to start in the Hunter without having to race in another standing start, clearing the way for the mobile-start Ballarat Cup lead-up this Saturday as well.
“I am glad to see common sense prevail because he is flying and he can win these races,” said driver Luke McCarthy.
So while The Gold Ace is now all systems go for the richest six weeks of the year, the pacing’s world was abuzz with weekend reports long-time Inter Dominion favourite Christen Me was going to miss the A$750,000 classic.
They quoted co-owner Vicki Purdon bizarrely saying Christen Me would race in the Hunter Cup but then come home and miss the Sydney race.
Trainer Cran Dalgety quickly poured cold water on the story, saying no definite decision would be made about the Inter Dominion until after the Hunter Cup.
“If we win the Hunter Cup or go very well it is going to be hard to pack up and go home,” said Dalgety matter-of-factly.
Still, the story was enough to see the Australian TAB suspend betting on the Interdom until the situation was clarified.
By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of the New Zealand Herald)
*After further consultation with Vicki Purdon and trainer Cran Dalgety, Harnesslink still believes that Christen Me will more than likely miss the Interdomions.