Racing: Smolda too hot for rivals at Ballarat

By Michael Guerin

It was a stroll in the park for Smolda, who easily won the Ballarat Cup on Saturday night. Photo / Stuart McCormick
It was a stroll in the park for Smolda, who easily won the Ballarat Cup on Saturday night. Photo / Stuart McCormick

Smolda may be forcing his connections into a rethink that could win him the most unlikely of titles.

The Kiwi veteran continued his golden summer with a record-smashing victory in the A$120,000 Ballarat Cup on Saturday night, outstaying red-hot stablemate Lazarus and Lennytheshark.

The win means Smolda defended the Cup he won last season but this summer has been vastly different to last, as he has already won the Inter Dominion title in Perth and the South Australia Cup.

Originally, trainer Mark Purdon was using Saturday's race as a lead-up to the A$500,000 Hunter Cup at Melton in 12 days' time, planning to miss this Saturday's Victoria Cup.

But so dominant was Smolda pacing his last mile in a crazy 1:52.2 on Saturday Purdon and his connections must now be tempted to start him this week as well, especially as he finished a close second in the Victoria Cup last year then still won the Hunter.

Purdon has until late today to make that decision and if he does accept it will add to some depth to a Victoria Cup which is shaping as a two-horse war between Lazarus and Hectorjayjay.

The icing on the cake could be that if Smolda wins this Saturday it would be very hard to make a case against him winning Australian pacer of the year.

That would be an incredible turnaround from two months ago when he was thrashed by Lazarus in the New Zealand Cup, finishing a distant fourth in a race that suggested he these days lacked the high speed to beat his younger stablemate.

Catch driver Anthony Butt decided to not wait around to find that out on Saturday, putting his foot down in front as soon as first Lennytheshark and then Lazarus made moves to sit parked mid-race.

That saw Smolda pace three successive 400m sectionals in under 28 seconds and he won with plenty in hand.

"He has thrived in Australia and he loves the heat," says Purdon.

"He is right back to his best and that was a huge win."

Purdon wasn't unhappy with Lazarus, who paced his final mile in 1:51.6 off the markers after his trainer-driver had publicly stated he was going into the race on the up but still not screwed down.

Lazarus should strip fitter for the Victoria Cup but will still want to draw inside Hectorjayjay tomorrow to retain favouritism.

It wasn't all fun and games for Purdon on Saturday though, as returning Miracle Mile winner Have Faith In Me galloped hopelessly in the score-up to a free-for-all at Ballarat and burned punters. "He felt fresh in his prelim and let's hope he has got that out of his system," said Purdon.

It was a further fall from grace for the one-time pacing hero, who has proved uber-costly for punters this season and may have dropped from No 1 ranking at the All Stars stable as low as being their fourth- or fifth-most-feared pacer.

And Waikiki Beach's Chariots Of Fire campaign in Sydney is looking shaky after he finished out of the money for the first time in his career in a lead-up race on Saturday night, working too hard early but still clearly outclassed by Salty Robyn and just about everybody else.

Summer of glory

• The features that lie ahead for the Kiwis at Melton in the next fortnight.
Sat, Jan 28: A$400,000 Victoria Cup; A$50,000 Dullard Cup; Victoria Derby heats.
Sat Feb 4: A$500,000 Hunter Cup; A$300,000 Great Southern Star Trot; A$200,000 Victoria Derby; A$100,000 Bonanza (Lazarus); A$100,000 Ladyship Cup.

- NZ Herald

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