Racing: Reality check - NZ punters forced on to winners' diet

By Michael Guerin, Michael Guerin in Melbourne

Have Faith In Me (11). File photo / Stuart McCormick
Have Faith In Me (11). File photo / Stuart McCormick

The reality check hit Kiwi harness punters hard at Melton, Victoria on Saturday night.

After gorging themselves on a smorgasbord of New Zealand-trained winners in Australia this summer, headlined by Smolda and Lazarus, it wasn't exactly a famine on Saturday night but it was definitely a diet.

The Kiwi horses won just three of the seven races they contested but it was hotpots Smolda, Have Faith In Me, Piccadilly Princess and Vincent whose defeats cost the most.

Smolda underperformed in the A$500,000 Hunter Cup, fading to sixth after leading, trainer-driver Mark Purdon labelling the performances as flat.

Bling It On headed home a NSW quinella in Victoria's richest race, with a lead-trail-passing lane special from Luke McCarthy.

The night started well for New Zealand when Rocker Band stunned with her gate speed before leading throughout in the A$100,000 Ladyship Cup for trainer Barry Purdon and driver Zac Butcher.

The Harness Jewels winner is now qualified for the Ladyship Mile at Menangle on February 25 where Auckland Cup winner Dream About Me awaits.

But things turned sour for punters in the Victoria Derby when red hot favourite Vincent has his tyre flattened early and was pulled out of the race won by local Our Little General.

A rejuvenated Glenferrie Typhoon held off South Auckland trotter Speeding Spur in the A$300,000 Great Southern Star, the runner-up's condition giving out in the last 100m of only his second start since last April.

"We were proud of him considering the preparation he had," said driver Josh Dickie.

While Prince Fearless trotted faultlessly to win the last race of the night the most underwhelming of the three New Zealand winners was Lazarus, who gave punters a huge scare in the A$100,000 Bonanza.

The New Zealand Cup hero looked flat down the back straight and wobbled around the bend before his strength got him home in the straight.

The win qualified him for the Chariots Of Fire in Sydney this Saturday on his way to the A$750,000 Miracle Mile there on February 25.

Whether the defending Mile champion and Lazarus's stablemate Have Faith In Me joins him remains to be seen after he was beaten by Maximan in a free-for-all.

He still looks a shade of the horse who set the Mile record at 1:47.5 last season and even if he makes it into the race via the qualifiers on Saturday week it is hard to imagine him winning it.

The Auckland-owned Hughie Green won an M1-2 race for new Queensland trainer John Cremin while at Menangle, Partyon remained unbeaten on her away to the NSW Oaks.

- NZ Herald

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