Day At The Track

His to lose

09:05 AM 24 Oct 2017 NZDT
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Lazarus,Harness racing

This is now Lazarus’s New Zealand Trotting Cup to lose.

That was the only possible conclusion from yesterday’s Ashburton Flying Stakes, traditionally the best guide to Addington’s great race three weeks today.

Lazarus did was Lazarus does yesterday, stepped away safely, settled beautifully and then did enough to win without needing to be asked to delve too far into oxygen debt by trainer-driver Mark Purdon.

It was professional, perfect and another step on his peerless path to the Cup and while it may not have looked sensational to the eye, the defending Cup champ paced a 53.5 second last 800m even though he only got serious in the final 200m.

That was enough for him to wear down stablemate leader Dream About Me, who was brave in second but perhaps just as important as the win from a NZ Cup point of view was the third placing of Heaven Rocks.

He bobbled away, caught the field and paced roughly at times before making good ground into third but while his performance would have been satisfying from any normal pacer what it did was show the gap between him and Lazarus.

The latter is the complete package and will draw the front line in the NZ Cup while Heaven Rocks will start from the unruly which almost guarantees he will settle close to last even on his best behaviour.

For all his ability, it is getting harder and harder to make a case for Heaven Rocks giving Lazarus a start and a beating in the Cup, especially as the champ gets fitter and returns to the 3200m distance he loves.

The TAB bookies have Lazarus at $1.70 to defend his title and while hardly enticing 21 days from the race, serious dangers are in short supply.

Lazarus is likely to go to the Kaikoura Cup next Monday while Heaven Rocks and Dream About Me could race at Addington on November 3 as their final Cup build up.

Lazarus might meet Titan Banner at Kaikoura which will give a good indication of where the latter sits in the pecking order.

Unless Titan Banner can at least push Lazarus at Kaikoura, the NZ Cup looks a Purdon-Rasmussen benefit but there is one shining light of competitiveness with Sydney trainer Kevin Pizzuto suggesting last season’s Cup runner-up Tiger Tara could now make a surprise trip to Addington.

That would add depth and Australian interest to the race while lost another entry yesterday with Cash N Flow sidelined with a minor setback.

While Lazarus was all class in the Flying Stakes, Great Things Happen continued his steep improvement curve in the Trotters Flying Mile.

He backed up an enormous comeback second at Addington last start by bullying his way to the lead early yesterday and easily holding off a huge late finish from Habibti Ivy.

 The performances suggested they are two of the trotters to beat in the Dominion during Cup week, with Great Things Happen now favourite in front of Bordeaux, who was allowed to miss yesterday’s race.

 While only fifth Stent was solid in his first race start for 21 months and will be fitter come the NZ Trotting Free-For-All on NZ Cup day but whether trainers Colin and Julie De Filippi can get enough miles into his legs for a start in the 3200m Dominion in 24 days remains to be seen.

 Earlier in the day three-year-old The Dorchester produced a stunning performance to set a national all comers 2400m record with a 2:52.5 clocking winning by seven lengths for young trainer Mitchell Kerr.

Michael Guerin

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