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Hector's home run

by Adam Hamilton

It was the performance Hectorjayjay has been threatening to deliver.

Hectorjayjay’s breathtaking Group One Blacks A Fake win was not only the biggest of his career, but certainly the most important as well.

The win silenced the doubters and, unfairly, there have been plenty of them.

There is no doubting Hectorjayjay is not only one of the best pacers in this part of the world, but also one of the fastest we have seen … full stop.

To swoop around the field from a mile back, come five and six wide on the last bend, and fly through the slush in race record-equalling time said it all.

Throw in the fact he beat a genuinely star-studded line-up and this was was a performance for the ages.

The winning margin was 1.1m, but significance far greater.

It settled the debate once and for all about how best to drive the six-year-old of Dream Away in the sport’s biggest races.

While he is versatile and can lead throughout in most races, at the top level he is without doubt most lethal when saved for his big finishing burst.

The similarities with former megastar Im Themightyquinn are remarkable, albeit Hectorjayjay has quite some work to do to match Quinny’s CV.

It wasn’t until I'm Themightyquinn’s connections locked-in to sit-sprint racing when his career soared to a whole new level.

The same seems to be unfolding with Hectorjayjay.

The Blacks A Fake – now justifiably a Grand Circuit race – had all the right ingredients on paper and delivered everything fans hoped.

Deep into the season, it may well have been as good a feature race spectacle as we’ve seen all term.

Heavily-backed favourite Tiger Tara made use of his front row barrier advantage to work forward and find the lead for Todd McCarthy, who was focused on allowing him to roll along in front rather than grab any breathers.

Mighty warhorse Lennytheshark came around to do the grunt work outside the leader and, through some magical Anthony Butt driver, My Field Marshal landed the one-one trail.

Meanwhile Hectorjayjay was back near last and, at times, spotting the leaders at least 30m start.

Things got serious from the 1200m when McCarthy scorched through a 27.7 second split of the last mile. He then backed it up with a 27.3 split down the back straight.

That’s a 55 split from the 1200-400m.

Tiger Tara pinched a break coming to the final bend, Lennytheshark started to lift again after looking spent. My Field Marshall issued his challenge, while Josh Aiken on Hectorjayjay had to take off his driving glasses to see through the mud and set out after the leaders when closer to the outside fence than marker pegs.

Just when it seemed My Field Marshal was set to win, Hectorjayjay exploded down the outside and snatched the prize.

“His speed is just amazing and he’s tougher than people give him credit for as well,” Aiken said. “He deserved that win. He’s a great horse and he showed it tonight.”

It was as big a win for Aiken as it was the horse, given the frustrations of defeat in races like the Perth Inter-Dominion, Victoria Cup and Miracle Mile so far this season.

Aiken could be forgiven for feeling as much relief as joy.

“No, it’s just really exciting,” he said. “People talk about the pressure, but there’s no internal pressure from the connections with this horse. I’m just thrilled to have the chance to drive him.”

And what a drive it was. Aiken showed nerves of steel to wait and wait and wait. He backed Hector’s explosive speed and it paid dividends.

Connections will decide the path ahead this week, but you can almost certainly lock in the October 14 Victoria Cup ahead of the Perth Inter-Dominion.

My Field Marshal, who ran yet another cracking race, and Tiger Tara (third) are headed on the same path. So too the old dude Lennytheshark, who was just 3.9m from Hectorjayjay in fourth spot. He’s certainly no spent force.

It’s a different story with the emerging Mr Mojito, who’s eye-catching and close-up fifth at his first dip into the big league was a pearler.

“He’s a really, really good horse this one,” owner Merv Butterworth said. “He’ll go to the NZ Cup and then Perth for the Inter-Dominion.”

Butterworth’s only decision to make is whether he follows the Arden Rooney path and goes to Addington via the Kaikoura Cup.