Day At The Track

Lazarus the horse to beat in the Victoria Derby

07:28 PM 28 Jan 2016 NZDT
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Lazarus - The horse to beat in the Victoria Derby
Lazarus - The horse to beat in the Victoria Derby

The Raising of Lazarus is a prominent miracle attributed to Jesus. Erasing Lazarus from the VHRSC Victoria Derby history books may take a similarly divine feat.

Mark Purdon’s trotting freak lived up to expectations in the Derby heats at Ballarat last Saturday, and most discussions about the Tabcorp Park Melton final are framed around New Zealand’s short-priced favourite.

Nathan Jack trains and drives Zee Dana, which ran second to Lazarus in last weekend’s heat.

“It was a bit disturbing how easy Lazarus could beat him,” Jack said. “He was pretty impressive.

“Once he straightened up it was just like Mark hit the turbo button and he was gone.”

Jack said Lazarus held all the keys, and while disadvantaged to draw 11, “he’ll have to have a lot of bad luck or interference to get beaten”.

But beaten he can be, says West Australia trainer Gary Elson, who will have Sprinter starting from barrier seven.

Elson said it was important not to get lured into serving Lazarus a red carpet run to the finishing line.

“He’s very good, but I don’t think he’s unbeatable,” Elson said. “We have one of those in our own team called Beaudiene Boaz. People think he’s a superstar, and Lazarus might be that, and so no one attacks them. If he has to do a bit of work things could be different.”

There’s certainly no bluster from Purdon’s camp that would increase the target on Lazarus’ back.

“He’s done nothing wrong all season and he’s still on the improve,” Purdon offered.

A strong contingent will attempt to unseat the raider, and potentially knock a boatload of punters out of the first leg of the quaddie.

Much of that form can be drawn around Jack.

First off, Zee Dana, his own three-year-old that drew horribly and will start from barrier 13.

Jack said he “was really happy with” Zee Dana’s Ballarat effort, having been back from a spell and had two soft runs before the heat.

“I tried to hold the front and see how he went. I was happy that I could hold the rest of them off.”

Jack also steered Brallos Pass and Kingofthestars into second placings in their respective Derby heats, and said all three would “be better for the run”.

“I was pretty happy with (Brallos Pass at Ballarat). He sat back and kept creeping forward and was really good in defeat, but that’s to take nothing from the winner (Dont Hold Back), who was just too good on the night.”

And of Kingofthestars, Jack said “he was like a junior footballer going into A grade – it was first game against the big boys”.

“He was pretty good. At the top of the straight I thought I’d win, but he probably got a little tired.”

It was Elson’s Sprinter that ran Kingofthestars down, completing its last 800m in 54.65s, the quickest of the three heats that included a 26.95s final 400m.

Only Lazarus (26.77s) and Cant Refuse (26.85s) ran a better final quarter-mile of those contesting Derby heats.
“I was really happy with how he run and really happy with the drive,” Elson said.

“The horse will improve this week, because we only got in about three o’clock last Thursday morning.
“I think he’s a real chance, he just has to get a barrier. Sprinter is really quick and knows where the winning post is.”

Sprinter drew barrier seven, having been the last horse called, leaving Kristy Elson a little downcast as she flipped the final hat to confirm their hope’s starting position.

On their immediate inside are Brallos Pass and Dont Hold Back, the latter being Mario Attard’s colt, a son of Courage Under Fire.

Attard said the field contained many threats.
“It is a good mark for us to come up against Lazarus, but also Sprinter – the guys from the west haven’t come here for the weather,” he said. “If you look at the field they are all good horses.”

Michael Howard

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