Racing: Money rolls in for Kiwi star

By Mike Dillon

Highlad (No 12) has drawn badly but should be a good place chance. Picture / NZ Racing Desk
Highlad (No 12) has drawn badly but should be a good place chance. Picture / NZ Racing Desk

The avalanche of money that has come for New Zealand's Sacred Elixir could see him start one of the shortest-priced favourites in recent years for tomorrow's Victoria Derby at Flemington.

The narrow, but stylish win in last week's A$200,000 Vase at Moonee Valley almost guaranteed Sacred Elixir favouritism, but even his stable did not anticipate the level of support he has attracted.

From the opening quote of $3.50 on Wednesday night, Sacred Elixir came into $3.20 then into $3 and late yesterday he was $2.80 on the New Zealand TAB and $2.90 in Australia.

So dominant is Sacred Elixir, the next most fancied are So Si Bon at $9 and Swear at $9.50. The remainder are $10 and better.

Even the trainers of some of the fancied runners are tipping the New Zealand victory. Said the astute Mick Price, trainer of Rocketeer: "The way he charged through to win at 2000m last week says he's screaming out for the 2500m."

And that is totally the essence of this race - the ability to see out the 2500m on a track as brutal as Flemington. What makes that so tough is the timing, most of these horses have in real terms only just turned three.

In fact, Sacred Elixir and the other New Zealander Highlad are equally the second youngest in the field, having turned three only 11 days ago. Remarkably, both were born on October 17, 2013.

The youngest of those guaranteed a start is Rocketeer, who was in real terms three only five days ago.

With the 2500m Flemington starting point very close to the sharp bend out of the home straight, the connections of a few runners would not appreciate the No 1 barrier draw for fear of being buried back in the pack on the inside, but the rails barrier will be a big plus for Sacred Elixir.

Hong Kong-based Australian jockey Zac Purton will get the opportunity to put Sacred Elixir into a slumber for most of the trip.

"He can get racing too fiercely if he gets into the open in his races, so we have no problems with the inside barrier," says trainer Tony Pike.

As is the case almost every year most of the 3-year-olds are struggling with the ability to stay the distance by the 800m and start to drop back.

That allows gaps and Purton will be looking for one of those between the 800m and the home bend.

Fortunately, Sacred Elixir has remarkable acceleration for a staying type and even if Purton has to wait until the home turn his mount will cope with the distance left down the long Flemington home straight to produce his fine finishing dash.

Murray Baker is disappointed Highlad has again drawn an awkwardly wide barrier - No 12.

"It's a terrible barrier to draw wide at," he said.

Highlad's 1139 formline does not match Sacred Elixir's, but that is not truly representative. He badly needed his first Australian run on October 2 then was trapped three and four wide from an outside barrier at Caulfield last start.

Rider Damien Oliver got off Highlad that day and told Murray Baker: "Just forget he ran today." With Oliver suspended until the end of racing tomorrow, Craig Williams has landed the ride.

"Not disappointed, we've gone from one good rider to another," says Baker. Highlad is $21 in the market and might be good place value. He has plenty of class.

New Zealand won three straight Victoria Derbys with Monaco Counsul in 2009, Lion Tamer 2010 and Sangster a year later, but it is not easy to prepare a horse for such a dour staying test at this part of the season because of our wetter spring tracks.

Sacred Elixir had a big advantage in staying in Queensland after that state's winter carnival before heading south to Melbourne.

"He came down here with residual fitness," says Tony Pike. "It would have been too hard to take him home and try and bring him up again for this.

"His work this morning was excellent. He's nice and sound and he looks exceptional." The sum total of that will be seen at the Flemington winning post tomorrow.

Punting pointers

• Take the short odds: Sacred Elixir (R7 Flemington). Which ever way you sum up this race he comes out on top. He should simply outstay them.

• Course winner: Seventh Up (R7 Tauranga). Compiling a great record. Slightly fitter than when beaten a nose last start.

• Shiny at the trials: Shine On (R3 Tauranga). Won his past two trials stylishly. Ready for a good debut.

- NZ Herald

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