Green team gets one over the blue team as Copy That makes huge recovery in Classic
It took a spectacular performance by Copy That to break the Purdon/Rasmussen stranglehold at Auckland on Saturday night when he overcame an early gallop to win the $50,000 Alabar Classic.
On a night when the All Stars won seven of the eight races they contested, including the Interdominion Pacing and Trotting Grand Finals, only Lincoln Farms’ Copy That spoiled the party.
But it wasn’t so much that he bagged the Group II race and ran a startling 2:37.3 for the 2200 metres but the fact Copy That was able to do it despite all but selling out after only 300 metres.
The race looked to be going perfectly to script when Lincoln Farms’ Line Up streaked out from his wide gate to take the lead at the 1900 metres, giving Copy That the perfect trail.
But in what driver David Butcher figures must have been a momentary lapse of concentration, Copy That threw in a long stride and suddenly galloped for 50 metres, going back to fifth before regaining his stride.
Undeterred, Butcher set out after the leaders again, retaking the front with 1300 metres to run.
And just when he should have been getting tired turning for home, Copy That found fresh reserves, running closing sectionals of 55.9 and 27.5 to stave off the late challenges of the All Stars’ pair One Change and Smooth Deal to win by a head.
The result appropriately turned the tables on One Change who pipped Copy That in a tight photo finish in last month’s Sires’ Stakes Final at Addington.
“He’s stamped himself as the best three-year-old in the country with that performance,” said Green. “That was a great win and now we just have to work out where to go with him. There are so many options.”
Butcher was surprised when Copy That “pulled out one of his old tricks”, his habit of breaking for no reason one which stymied his early results.
Suggestions that a shadow angling across the track tricked Copy That held no water with Butcher.
“It’s only a guess but I reckon it was because he relaxed a bit after Line Up crossed us.
“He seemed to concentrate better last time when he was chugging along in front.
“But we got out of it in the end and that took a really good effort because Mark (driving Smooth Deal) started running me at the 500.”
Later, in the hospitality room, race sponsor Alabar Stud general manager Graeme Henley paid credit to Copy That for his great recovery which had given his supporters a “heart flutter.”
“This is a great horses’ race,” he said, pointing to the honour roll for the last four years of Ultimate Sniper (tonight’s Interdominion hero), Chase Auckland, Ultimate Machete and Lazarus.”
If he’d gone back one further year he would have named Itz Bettor To Win, who was raced by Copy That’s owners Merv and Meg Butterworth, who bought the colt from Green’s wife Debbie in June.
In accepting the trophy, Merv Butterworth acknowledged what a big thrill it was to win the race and for the “green team” (Lincoln Farms) to beat the “blue team” (All Stars).
“Ray told me back in May that Copy That was a potential cups horse - but when I said can I have that in writing he ducked for cover!”
Butterworth was clearly delighted with the win although he said he seldom got too excited these days - not after winning 134 races in one season across Australia and New Zealand some five years ago.
Debbie Green, whose name no longer appears on the ownership papers but still regards the horse as her own, put her head in her hands when Copy That galloped.
She was stunned when she looked again to see he had regained the lead so soon.
Green wondered if a collection of boils which had sprung up on race morning had affected the horse.
“The biggest one was just where the spreader sits on his shoulder.”
But Green was making no excuses for an animal whom he admitted would be easy to hate if he wasn’t so good.
His job now was to sort out the best path for Copy That who has a smorgasbord of derbies available to him both here and in Australia in the coming months.
His problem though is in the short term because Copy That is not eligible for the $175,000 Sales’ Series Final at Auckland on New Year’s Eve.
That’s a race he’s hoping Line Up can pinch after yet another sterling effort tonight for fourth.
“All he needs is a good draw and a decent trip,” said Green who has watched the colt tackle some terrible draws in recent starts.
Driver Anthony Butt said after his early exertions Line Up was left a little flat-footed turning for home and only whacked away.
Stablemate Hampton Banner, three then four deep on the markers, beat only one home but still clocked 2:39.6, a terrific effort for a seven start rookie.
Green said Hampton Banner could have his chance in the Sales Series race and then he would be extremely competitive back to his own grade.
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At last, Argyle gets the pole on Saturday night and Mark reckons it’s his big chance to salute
Our runners this week: How our trainers rate them
Friday night at Cambridge
Race 3: Lincoln Lou
“He’s a beautiful little horse and I’m looking forward to seeing him run. It’s hard to know how good he is, or how far he’ll go, but I guess we’ll find out on Friday. He’s the one to beat from the draw. If he doesn’t win, he won’t be far away.”
Race 5: Commander Lincoln
“I won’t be holding my breath. He tries hard enough but he lacks a bit of high speed.”
Race 8: Onyx Shard
“It’s two and a half months since she last raced, and she didn’t grow as much as I thought she would, but I’m expecting her to go a good race. Her last two trials have been good and she’s pulled up well.”
Race 8: Obadiah Dragon
“He’ll need a good trip from five but he’s not out of it. He went a good race last time at Cambridge and would be as equal a chance as Onxy Shard.”
Race 8: Beaudiene Rocknroll
“It’s heart-in-the-mouth stuff with him until they let them go but he should step away this time. Zac (Butcher) said the gate went particularly slowly before that race and that’s why he got impatient. I thought he did well to recover for third. If he made the front, where he goes best, he’d be hard to beat.”
Race 9: Frisco Bay
“He’s a tidy horse and I’m expecting a big run. We’ve sorted the problem he had with his breathing last season and he’s right in the zone now after a second and a win at the workouts.”
Mark Dux’s comments
Saturday night at Albion Park
Race 5: Argyle
11.02pm NZ time
“It wouldn’t have mattered where he drew this week, he’s in the money, barring bad luck. He’s going terrific and he gets in so well at the ratings.”