Racing: Logic points to Lazarus winning Cup

By Michael Guerin

Lazarus will carry punters' hopes and money in the NZ Trotting Cup at Addington today. Photo / NZ Racing Desk
Lazarus will carry punters' hopes and money in the NZ Trotting Cup at Addington today. Photo / NZ Racing Desk

If racing was simple, a game played out on paper, Lazarus has already won today's $750,000 New Zealand Trotting Cup.

There is no other argument to be made. The 4-year-old, who has only ever been beaten by bad luck, has had the most faultless Cup preparation, dominating the two lead-up races that matter.

He has becoming increasingly confident from a standing start, can sprint hard or stay long and is trained by the most powerful harness racing stable we have ever seen.

To put some icing on the Cup cake, his most dangerous rival is his stablemate Have Faith In Me, who should settle a conservative 12 lengths from him. Have Faith In Me is good, very, very good at his best but is he 12 lengths, or even four lengths better than Lazarus? No.

Is he better than Lazarus at all? Probably at his peak, but not so far this spring.

Add to that the fact champion horseman Mark Purdon, who trains four in today's classic, including remarkably third favourite Smolda as well, has told the Herald he expects the winner to come from his top two and that Smolda, being older, is a length behind them.

So this is Lazarus's Cup to lose, evidenced by one of the shortest prices in the history of our greatest race.

But before punters gorge themselves on the $1.80 price for the 4-year-old it pays to remember one thing - this is the New Zealand Cup, not a Derby.

Derbys, or most other major pacing races in this country, tend to run to form. Sanity usually prevails.

However, the New Zealand Cup script often has a twist in it tail.

Consider the fact Purdon, now training with Natalie Rasmussen, has been at the absolute top of the industry for 20 years but has only trained one New Zealand Cup winner since 1996.

Trainers you have almost never heard of train New Zealand Cup winners. Horses that couldn't get beaten do.

The reasons are numerous, some obvious.

The standing start in front of harness racing's biggest crowd adds an element of intrigue and doubt. Then there is the searing early speed, with most of the winners in the past decade being those who have missed the early fireworks.

The lung-searing effect of the best horses on a rocket-fast Addington track when nobody wants to go home wondering.

It wasn't that long ago the Cup was won in 4:5, two years ago Adore Me ran 10 seconds faster.

At that speed, with pacers racing on the absolute limit of their potential, only the smallest thing needs to go wrong, even for just 200m, and even the best become vulnerable.

The Disney version of today's race script is Lazarus and Smolda will head forward after the early dash and Lazarus will end up in front, with the pivotal moment of the race being when Have Faith In Me invariably moves around the field.

If and when that happens does Purdon, driving Lazarus, take a trail, all but guaranteeing the stable a Cup quinella, or does he stay infront and the two wonderful sons of Bettors Delight make each other earn the right to be in the winner's circle?

Purdon admits either scenario is possible but regardless, Lazarus is his horse to beat today.

"He could definitely end up leading but even if he did trail a horse like Have Faith In Me I think he could probably come off his back and beat him," Purdon told the Herald.

"They are my top two chances and with the likelihood Lazarus should get the easier run then he has to be our best hope.

"But the one thing that would change all that is if he was slow away and Have Faith In Me settled near him or in front of him. Then the whole race changes."

Of course that shouldn't happen. Lazarus has been pacing's perfect prince for more than a year and especially this spring.

If this was any other race Lazarus would look close to a certainty today.

But it is not, it is the New Zealand Cup. Which is why you should back them both.

Guerin tips
LAZARUS
HAVE FAITH IN ME
SMOLDA

Addington's big day
What: New Zealand Cup Day.
When: First race 12.05pm today.
Where: Addington, Christchurch.
Races: $750,000 New Zealand Cup, $170,000 Sires' Stakes Final, $80,000 NZ Trotting Free-For-All, $35,000 Pacing Free-For-All.
Punt: Fixed odds all races; head to heads; $50,000 Pick6.
View: Trackside starts with preview show from 10am, the live coverage from 11.30am.

- NZ Herald

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