By MICHAEL GUERIN
Auckland Cup favourite Young Rufus suffered a loss but scored a minor victory yesterday.
New Zealand's best pacer lost his dad, super sire Soky's Atom, who was found dead at Alabar Stud in Victoria.
The US-bred stallion had become one of the greats of Australasian harness racing, siring millionaire Desperate Comment among a string of outstanding pacers.
Young Rufus' form in the past 12 months helped boost Soky's Atom's career at an age, 25, when most stallions are winding down.
He had already served 155 mares this season.
Although he looked healthy when Alabar staff fed him on Sunday night, he was dead yesterday morning.
Considering Young Rufus shared his father with more than 2500 other pacers, he would hardly have been mourning yesterday, when his Auckland Cup bid received a boost after he drew barrier three.
He will be starting surrounded by smart beginners Disprove, Pocket Me and Yulestar, which his trainer Mark Purdon undoubtedly hopes will aid Young Rufus in making a smooth beginning.
Aiding Young Rufus' cause is the fact that three of the cup's other big names - Holmes D G and Gracious Night (10m) and Facta Non Verba (unruly) - will be starting behind the front line.
Facta Non Verba is now the $5.50 second favourite with the TAB after his crushing win in the City of Auckland Free-For-All last Friday.
The field for the $250,000 cup (3200m) on December 31 is: Disprove (1), Atoll Bomber (2), Young Rufus (3), Pocket Me (4), Yulestar (5), Rare Gem (6), Eagles Together (7), Alert Motoring (8), Pic Me Pockets (9), Falcon Rise (10), Hanover Zip (11), Upanoff (12), Franco Heir (13), Final Ridge (14), Facta Non Verba (ur), front; Gracious Knight (1), Holmes D G (2), 10m.
By MICHAEL GUERIN