"Classie" does us proud with second Group One placing for the week

Classie Brigade has shown that he is back to his very best form as a four year old and is competitive once again with the best open class pacers going around. His very good third in Tuesday's New Zealand Trotting Cup was followed up yesterday in the Free-For-All with a second placing after leading and going down late to the trailling horse Chase Auckland.

The Free-For-All was always going to be an intriguing contest and with John committed to trying to hold up early from his good draw, the first 200m proved crucial. After looking likely to be crossed by the cup winner Cruz Bromac, it was that runner going off stride after 100m that changed the whole perspective of the race leaving Classie Brigade in front and eventual winner Chase Auckland and Tim Williams on his back. 

With John able to dominate the tempo of the race through the mid-sections, the Free-For-All was always going to turn into a sprint home favouring those on the markers. As the field turned for home, it was the parked runner Spankem that threw down the first serious challenge that was seen off by the 100m. However, getting up the passing lane, having done no work in the running was Chase Auckland, which drew clear over the last 50m to win by one and a quarter lengths for his big band of owners. 

Now with two Group One placings within four days, it is fair to say that we have seen the re-emergence of Classie Brigade amongst the top echelon of New Zealand pacers. Robert and John have done a superb job to get him back to where he is for owners Colin and Grant Eynon and Mark McKinnon. He can now look enthusiastically towards next month's Inter-Dominions in Auckland, where he is likely to be joined by Henry Hubert. 

Just as was the case in the cup, Henry Hubert had no luck in the running yesterday. After following the Australian pacer Our Uncle Sam in the one out line, Gavin followed that runner as it tried to make a run three wide off the back. With Our Uncle Sam soon under pressure, Henry Hubert was forced to make his run four wide turning in and did well once again to finish just four lengths from winner Chase Auckland in sixth place. With positions in the running crucial on both days, Henry Hubert has done as well as you could expect given the circumstances. He is another that with the right trip will certainly be competitive up in Auckland and can be expected to get better and better.

The day's other feature the Dominion Handicap was a luckless affair for the stable runners Woodstone and Valloria and was won in emphatic circumstances by outsider Habibi Inta. 

Woodstone began safely, but slowly for Bob Butt, but a break at the 2200m mark proved terminal for his chances. 

"He couldn't get around that bend at the 1000m and broke," said Bob.

Valloria inexplicably went off stride after 200m, taking some time to return to his trotting gait. After settling in the back half of the field, he mate up huge slice of ground over the last 400m to finish fifth, only to disqualified after galloping too far early in the race. 

While John was pleased with Valloria's effort to finish where he did, he was left ruing how close he may have got to the minor placings.

"It's unbelievable. It's the first time he has ever broken in his life!"

On the day though there was no stopping the Paul Nairn trained Blair Orange driven Habibi Inta, which sat off the early pace, before making a strong run into it down the back. He went up and claimed pacemaker Marcoola turning for home and then ran away for a big win by seven and a half lengths over Australian Tough Monarch, with the old fella Monty Python, recording another Group One placing in running third. 

The major disappointment in the race was the hot favourite Oscar Bonavena which lost all chance early on, when checked out of the race. 

Article by Mike Drury

Posted: Sat 16 Nov 2019