Racing: Oz could be step too far for freak pacer

By Michael Guerin

Heaven Rocks may be too loopy to take to Australia. File photo / 123RF
Heaven Rocks may be too loopy to take to Australia. File photo / 123RF

The mental fragility of New Zealand's most eccentric pacing talent may be a blessing for local racing.

Because Heaven Rocks, freakish winner of Saturday night's $100,000 Easter Cup at Addington, may be too loopy to take to Australia.

And that could see him become a pacing rarity next season, a crowd-puller who races almost exclusively in New Zealand.

The 4-year-old with the huge motor and small brain recorded one of the racetrack stunners of the season on Saturday, overcoming an early gallop which cost him 40m to still thrash his older opponents.

That in itself would have been impressive from the veteran of a mere 14 starts but the jaw-dropping aspect was that Heaven Rocks made up all of his lost ground inside the first 800m.

Once driver Natalie Rasmussen settled the rampaging mammoth, who was scared into a gallop by rivals rushing up behind him, she gave him his head and he launched.

His giant stride saw him circle the field to seize the lead with two laps to go and he left some of New Zealand's best pacers floundering, winning by nearly three lengths in a tidy 3:58.7, his last 800m seemingly effortless in 54.1 seconds.

Heaven Rocks' next stop was to have been Alexandra Park for another clash with stablemates Lazarus and Waikiki Beach in the Messenger on April 28 but Mark Purdon has now changed his mind. He will now stay in the south and be set for the Harness Jewels at Ashburton on June 3.

He may not be ready to beat Lazarus yet but he appears to have a similar motor and,with Lazarus now out of the Jewels officially, Heaven Rocks is odds-on to repeat his win of last season.

But the more interesting question is whether the one of the most freakish shows in harness racing can travel, with the Australian riches overwhelming but the downsides obvious. Heaven Rocks may not be a perfect standing start horse yet but next season's biggest domestic targets - the New Zealand and Auckland Cups - are both stands where he can start off the unruly and ease away without having horses behind him like he did on Saturday. Under those conditions, given time to settle, he could be a staying superstar.

But Australia presents very different challenges. Every major race he could be aimed for there is a mobile and that would mean giving exceptional, hard-running rivals starts on sometimes smaller tracks and shorter distances. The saucer that is Gloucester Park would seem to rule out the Inter Dominions, while he would be dodgy at best for a 2240m around Melton for the Victoria Cup.

And no matter how big his motor and suitable Menangle would be, horses with his lack of early manners don't win Miracle Miles.

So for next season at least Heaven Rocks might be allowed to stay closer to home, learn some trackcraft and thrill local race fans in the process while his stablemates go hunting for Aussie loot.

On a night of big performances, Golden Goddess thrust herself back into Jewels contention with her first win of the season and Spankem moved to the top of the juvenile pacing pecking order with a dramatic Sires' Stakes win.

But the training performance of the night had to be Phil Williamson, who produced a debutante in Springbank Lachie to win the NZ Trotting Stakes, an incredibly rare feat for a first starter in a group three race.

- NZ Herald

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