Just a week after Majestic Man’s Inter Dominion campaign was in tatters the Kiwi trotter is now one of the favourites to win Saturday’s A$150,000 final at Menangle.
The only New Zealand-trained horse in either the pacing or trotting series looked on the verge of being withdrawn last Wednesday when he led and dropped out as a $1.25 favourite in his heat at Bathurst.
He was found to have a minor bug and caretaker trainer and driver Anthony Butt managed to get him through Sunday’s last heat at Newecastle with an improved performance before he drew perfectly at barrier two on Monday night.
So now he is in a position to lead and have options in the 3009m mobile as well as Butt and partner Sonya Smith having a week to resurrect his form.
Horses rarely perform as poorly in an Inter heat as Majestic Man did last Wednesday and then go on to win the final so punters should still be wary but he sits on the second line of betting and has a class edge over most of his rivals.
“He’ll lead for sure, then it’s a matter of whether we stay in front or take a sit on one of the good ones, which is probably his best hope of winning over the longer trip,” Butt said.
“In some ways it’ll be up to him whether I keep the front or not. He can get a bit keen in front and I wouldn’t have to really fight him to take a trail. Hopefully he relaxes and that’s an option for me.
“Sonya and I were really happy with his run after driving him really conservatively at Newcastle and he’s been really well since. Despite the hiccup at Bathurst, he’s come through the heats better than we actually thought he might.
“It’s nice to have a bit of a bigger gap to the final, it can only help him.
“It’s hard to say how close we can get him to his best for the final, but the signs are good. He’s heading in the right direction.”
The other Kiwi winners from the draw were ex-pats Richard and Emmett Brosnan who train rejuvenated veteran Maori Law (gate six), with Richard trying to win his second Inter Dominion Trotting Final having won one of the great finals ever in 1979 with No Response.
Saturday’s A$500,000 pacing final has no New Zealand-trained runners but plenty of ex-Kiwi interest in King Of Swing, Spirit Of St Louis, Alta Orlando and Triple Eight, who spent most of his career in Auckland and is still part-owned here.
King Of Swing has been the lone-time favourite for the series but lost that mantle after Monday night’s draw when his stablemate Expensive Ego drew the ace while King Of Swing will start from the second line.
But champion NSW driver Luke McCarthy, who is the regular driver of both, says it is not a case of Expensive Ego simply leading and having an advantage over King Of Swing.
“It is probably doubtful Ego can lead straight away so then it might come down to whether he can get off the markers early,” said McCarthy, who will driver King Of Swing, with David Moran driving the favourite.
“Then there is the question of who does lead, which might be Boncel Benjamin, and whether they want to take a trail on Ego if he can get around.
“And even if that does happen, what happens later in the race might depend on how hard they go early and how much that takes out of them all over the 3009m.”
McCarthy won’t be participating in that early burn, resigned to King Of Swing having to make a mid-race move to get handy, possibly with little chance of securing the lead even if Expensive Ego is in front.
“Even if he is leading then I doubt the King can get it off him because David will be driving to instructions from Ego’s owners.
“So there are a lot of factors in play and putting that all together I really can’t split them but the one thing I can say is that all four of ours (Alta Orlando and Spirit of St Louis the others) are very well so they will get their chance.”
Saturday’s two finals are on at 10.45pm for the trotters and midnight for the pacers.