THE best pacers from across the southern hemisphere will fight for harness racing’s Holy Grail at the famous Gloucester Park track in Perth tonight.
A massive $1.1 million is on the line as well as the trophy every harness racing trainer, driver and owner wants on his mantelpiece – the Inter Dominion.
First run at the iconic Perth venue way back in 1936, the Inter Dominion series was designed to bring the very best of the best from across Australia and New Zealand together for a two-week festival.
It has developed into the Melbourne Cup of the harness racing industry and tonight we have the perfect example of exactly what the concept of the Inter Dominion is all about.
We have New Zealand’s best pacer in LAZARUS, and Australia’s best pacers in LENNYTHESHARK, CHICAGO BULL and SOHO TRIBECA.
Throw in ‘former’ Kiwi TIGER TARA, and the stage is truly set for an epic contest.
When the marbles came out at the barrier-draw function last Sunday, LAZARUS was the lucky one.
There were just two barriers ‘left’ when it came his turn to pick and out came barrier two (the other was barrier 10!).
Given his astonishing ability and track-record breaking performance to win his third round heat at Gloucester Park last Friday night, he was immediately installed a hot favourite at $2.05 with CROWNBET.
Despite the fabulous depth and quality in this field, the reality is LAZARUS, from gate two, can control his own destiny and at some stage trainer-driver Mark Purdon will shoot to the breeze.
Purdon is undoubtedly the champion trainer-driver in this part of the world, perhaps even the world.
Across New Zealand and now Australia he travels, bringing his seemingly never-ending supply of star horses to win feature races wherever he goes.
Last year he won the Grand Final here with the smart Smolda, a horse even Purdon describes as honest and talented, but not in the same league as LAZARUS.
At the prime of his powers now as a 5YO, LAZARUS has already stamped his greatness by winning the past two New Zealand Cups – arguably the hardest race on any racing calendar to win.
He went straight from his New Zealand Cup win in Christchurch on November 14 to Perth to prepare for this series.
Although beaten into second place on the first two nights of the series, his runs were huge and indicative of what was to come last Friday, when he was stunning breaking the track record.
And now Lady Luck has shone on him with the perfect barrier draw.
For mine TIGER TARA ($6.00), who has raced brilliantly throughout this series, will lead the race from barrier one, with local champ CHICAGO BULL ($4.20) hard on his back.
The X-factor of this Grand Final is the distance – a gruelling 2936-metres – meaning the winner will need not just brilliance, but stamina and guts to win this Final.
TIGER TARA ($6.00) has all of that and some, as too does LAZARUS, who seems to have an unlimited stamina supply.
Then there’s ‘old’ LENNYTHESHARK ($16), who clearly has been a length or two below his best during this series.
He won on opening night then was beaten at Bunbury on night two when a long odds-on favourite, and again last week when he had every possible chance.
He will start from an awkward gate in barrier six in this Final, posing some interesting problems for his champion reinsman Chris Alford.
This really is a Final for the ages. For mine, LAZARUS can win and truly stamp his greatness, with the obvious horses – TIGER TARA and CHICAGO BULL posing the biggest threats.
Should be a great race – sit back and enjoy!