The only difference to the finish in this Heat to the first one was that the Australians ran 1,2 and 4, rather than 1,2 and 3. Choise Achiever was the lone New Zealand placegetter, beaten a half-head for second. The only Australian horse to miss a first three finish was Blacks A Fake, and it so happened that he's probably run best of them all.
With Washakie running on springs in front, and Choise Achiever just as keen in behind, Blacks A Fake ran easily in the open. They were all fodder for Themightyquinn once Gary Hall jnr dropped him to the trail. They sped home in 54.6, which again gave the chasing bunch no show. The first four around the corner held their places.
"My horse was a bit fresh, because I have been easy on him, and Themightyquinn has a brilliant burst," said Luke McCarthy, the driver of Washakie. Choise Achiever looked comfortable with the big step up, running strongly in the trail and anxious to do more. "That's the first time I've used him off the gate, and he made the lead easily," said Anthony Butt.
Given the same run that won him the Auckland Cup, Themightyquinn was in his element. Hall's main occupation after finding the back of Blacks A Fake was choosing the time to set him loose. The slush from the wet track made it difficult. "I had to pull my goggles down on the corner. I couldn't see how much ground we had to make up," he said. "It's good that he's doing it in the wet, because he hasn't been that good in it at home."
Hall said it had been easier for Themightyquinn back in Perth where the opposition did not have the depth that he is facing here. "But the horse is as well as he has ever been. I couldn't be happier. He's coming through these runs so well, because he's not being used up. At home, he's in a walk-in, walk-out box, but here he goes into a paddock at 9 or 10 o'clock, and stays out till 4." Hall does not have to worry about how much grass he eats. "He's not a guts, and has room for lunch. He does manage himself very well, like all good athletes."
But Hall knows the sunny days can turn cloudy at any time. "There are a lot of variables to consider. Smoken Up, Blacks A Fake, the others, all need different trips. The barrier draw will have a lot to do with it," he said.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 30Mar2011
If winning came down to looks, Themightyquinn wouldn't win much. Gary Hall jnr smiles at that. "Everone can pick out Blacks A Fake and Mr Feelgood. With this guy, they just walk straight past."
If winning had something to do with presentation, manners and articulation, Gary Hall jnr would be up there with Lance Justice. Both can run up a few good quotes, and driving great horses gives them plenty of practice. They've been doing all the talking in the barn at Alexandra Park so far.
Hall was applauded after his post-race comments immediately after the race last Friday. "It will be a long week," he said. "Dad has come over, but he's said he's only come to watch." That's gone down well. Hall jnr said he was a little concerned coming into the series, saying the pressure of training the horse without his father there "was a bit of a worry. But he is a very easy horse to train, and great for letting you know when he's right."
Themightyquinn has been right for months, but never quite in the zone of fitness and contentment that he's in right now. "I don't have the words to describe how fast he is going here. I do know it's a great asset to have. From where we were, I thought we would be lucky to pick up Monkey King, so his finish did surprise me. I didn't think he could go faster than what he has, but maybe now he is. We think he's better now than what he was for the Auckland Cup, and he could be a better horse for the Final."
While the Perth people went home and slept well, those in the Monkey King camp were tossing and turning. "He's not steering right," said driver Ricky May. "He doesn't feel good on any of the corners, and it's taking too much out of him. I've got to take hold of him too keep him off the markers. "We've got some issues." May said he was well aware of the punch that Themightyquinn brings to the fight. "I know what he can do; I drove him often enough. One time, Monkey King used to have the same speed that Themightyquinn is using now."
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HR Weekly 6Apr2011
The $800,000 Skycity Inter-Dominion Pacing Grand Final was a clinical triumph for the powerful Australian contingent. Had it not been for the courageous effort of nuggetty little Smiling Shard, it would have been a first four finish. The best endeavours of the Kiwi team could not match the grinding pressure that is the Australian calling card. In the end, it was not even close, even amongst the visitors.
Smoken Up was never really put to the test by Themightyquinn and won by three-quarters of a length. In the same manner Themightyquinn was unchallenged for second, but Blacks A Fake was in a squeeze for third, and only got there by a neck from Smiling Shard. Mr Feelgood was a luckless fifth and a good margin ahead of the second bunch.
Natalie Rasmussen pretty much determined the pattern of the race, sending Blacks A Fake on a fast move out of the gate. Luke McCarthy, who had moved Mr Feelgood on the first lap to sit parked, expected her to stay there, so he'd be covered when Lance Justice came up with Smoken Up. Much to McCarthy's alarm, Rasmussen let Justice go by. "She said she was going to hold up." McCarthy was disgruntled. "He's no sitter. I should have gone on myself," he said.
Having Blacks A Fake and Mr Feelgood where he wanted them, and knowing Themightyquinn had not travelled up, Justice didn't have much on his mind. "I drove him a bit quiet early, used a bit of patience," he said. "I knew I had a bit of grunt left in the straight. I was waiting and holding him. I saw Themightyquinn run out of steam alongside me. He got to my girth and then I knew I had it."
Justice said winning races at this level was the pinnacle of being a trainer. "The horse came into this series with only one race in two months, so his fitness was always going to get better. He can race the way he does because of the way in which I manage him between them. But he doesn't get beaten in a dog-fight. He'll be dead on his feet and keep trying. There was no need for that this time."
There has barely been a bump in his career since Canterbury standardbred agent Paul Davies arranged the sale for $60,000 after sending Justice a video of the horse. "He had a paddock accident once when he tore a muscle in his back and missed the Miracle Mile. That's been it."
An 8-year-old by the In The Pocket horse Tinted Cloud, Smoken Up is very much a one-man horse. "He's always a pleasure to work," said Justice. "I've got to be pretty crook or away somewhere if I don't work him every day. If they're good enough to take away you should go with them. I always like to make sure they're happy. He's called 'Trigger', after the horse Roy Rogers had. When I call him, he comes. And I think he must hold some sort of record for the number of apples he eats."
The key players in the ownership are Alex Kay and Peter Gadsby, who race Smoken Up with Kay's son Ryan, Danny Locastro, Vince MacDonald, Michael Van Rens and Allan Bonney. They won over $400,000 with Smooth Crusa, who was trained for them by Paul Fitzpatrick, and then engaged Justice after being impressed with his management of the ageless star, Sokyola.
Having top horses is nothing new for Kay and Gadsby, Kay having a share in the big West Australian winner The Falcon Strike, and Gadsby with Miracle Mile winner and $1.2 million earner, Double Identity.
Smoken Up has long since topped their commendable earnings, having now won 47 races and more than $2,6m.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 13Apr2011