Alabar Victoria Derby success with Hung Jury tomorrow night would be without doubt Joe Pace's biggest thrill in harness racing. But this weekend's involvement in the $150,000 Group 1 event at Moonee Valley as a trainer won't be the only time he has taken part in Australia's oldest pacing classic.
Back in 1992, then 22-year-old Pace had a drive in the Derby. He took the reins behind Di Biase, who was trained by his father Vic, in the blue riband won by Lotsnlots.
"I remember in the heat there was almost a three-way dead heat," Pace recalled. "Of Sheffield and New York Jet dead-heated for first and I was a lip away in third.
"So we made the final, but in the final I drew barrier 10, dropped out to last and that's where I stayed."
"That was good, but now being a trainer, this would be my biggest thrill if I could win it."
And there are plenty of people who think that surprise packet Hung Jury can continue his rise to prominence in the 8.02pm feature and provide veteran reinsman Brian Gath with his second Derby success.
The son ofwas installed a $41 chance in fixed odds betting once he booked his place in the field with a tenacious third placing in his heat, but had his price slashed to $14 once he came up with the inside barrier for the 2575-metre event.
Continued support has seen the former Kiwi promoted to the second line of betting with Crown Bromac at $8 behind TAB Sportsbet's raging $1.50 favourite Captain Joy.
"Apparently a lot of people have been putting on $100 here and $100 there and been taking the good odds," Pace said. "Unfortunately I didn't take the $41 about him before the draw."
That's because having one of the leading contenders for the final was not what Pace expected when he paid up for the high-priced purchase, who has started just 10 times for two wins.
"He's a preparation away from being a top performer and I was basically using the Victoria Derby as a seasoning exercise against Captain Joy and all these other Group 1 horses," Pace said.
"I never thought the horse had it in him just yet (his heat run) and seeing how much he has improved so much has just been fantastic."