Tiger to hold lead

By Adam Hamilton

KIWI champion Lazarus looks set to have to sit parked to win Saturday night’s $500,000 Group 1 Hunter Cup (2760m) at Melton.

That’s because rival trainer-driver Kevin Pizzuto quickly dismissed speculation he may opt for “softer” tactics and ask driver Todd McCarthy to take a sit with Tiger Tara from the pole.

“We got outsprinted in the Inters. This time we’re going to try and outstay them. My boy will stay all day. He’s tough,” boomed Pizzuto when asked about tactics.

Talk off Tiger Tara potentially taking a sit stemmed from the fact Lazarus sat outside and comfortably beat Tiger Tara in Perth.

“Toddy went to slow in that Inters final. It didn’t our horse,” Pizzuto said.

It’s worth noting Tiger Tara did lead and beat Lazarus in the second round of Perth Inter Dominion heats, albeit in a stop-star affair over a shorter 2100m trip.

The stretch to 2760m doesn’t faze Pizzuto.

“My horse is a great stayer. He showed that again at Goulburn the other day and that was his trial. We’re ready for this.”

Despite Pizzuto’s declaration, Tiger Tara has continued to drift ($7.50 to $9) since Tuesday night’s barrier draw, while Lazarus has firmed from $1.40 to $1.35 and now $1.33 on the Aussie TAB.

One horse who many thought would be in the early speed burn, but won’t be is Shane and Lauren Tritton’s Yayas Hot Spot from gate six.

“There’s too much speed underneath him and we learnt from the Perth trip we can really knock him around if we burn early and don’t get across,” Shane Tritton said. “We just have to go back and drive for luck from that draw.

“We can’t risk leaving everything out on the track this week with a Miracle Mile qualifier and hopefully the Miracle Mile itself just around the corner.”

The expectation Tiger Tara will lead boosts the chances of ageing Victorian champion Lennytheshark, who is drawn inside the back row (gate eight), will most likely be right on his back and awaiting the sprint lane in the home straight.

“That’s my best chance,” Lennytheshark’s driver Chris Alford said. “As good as he’s gone in front and outside the leader, David (Aiken, trainer) and I have always felt he’s lethal with a sit on them. He might the chance to show that this week.”

Alford said Lennytheshark felt “like he was absolutely flying” when he won last week’s Casey Classic at Melton.

“The official timing didn’t work for the race, but I’ve had some clockers tell me broke the track record Lazarus set winning the Victoria Cup last year for the 2240m,” Alford said.

“He’ll definitely be fitter again for the run and if the race is truly run and we get the last shot at them, I’m sure he’ll be hard to hold out.”

Lennytheshark has also eased from $7.50 to $9 since Tuesday night’s draw.

Lazarus’ stablemate, Heaven Rocks, is the $6 second favourite with the Aussie TAB from two-out on the back row with Natalie Rasmussen aboard.

Australia’s top harness racecaller Dan Mielicki, who will call the Hunter Cup, is tipping Heaven Rocks to upset Lazarus.

“He’s got so much talent and amazing speed. I thought there was a real arrogance about his Ballarat Cup win and, if Lazarus does plenty of work, Heaven Rocks is good enough to beat him,” he said.

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