Classie Brigade NZ Cup bound
By Jonny Turner
Classie Brigade put a frustrating season behind him on Friday night when he dashed along the Addington passing lane to win the Maurice Holmes Vase and book his ticket to the New Zealand Cup.
The one-time arch nemesis of Lazarus outsprinted the leader, Hail Christian, and held off a late dive from A G’s White Socks to win the Group 3 New Zealand Cup qualifier.
Classie Brigade enjoyed a fruitful 4-year-old season following his epic 3-year-old battles with Lazarus, but was not able to step on the track more than eight times in the next two years.
Thankfully for his owners Grant and Colin Eynon and Mark McKinnon, the stars look to be aligning for their pacer’s 7-year-old year.
There is no Lazarus to contend with anymore, now he has settled in to his stud duties and Classie Brigade is fighting fit and ready for a title shot at the New Zealand Cup.
“Anytime when they go AWOL, you wonder if they are ever going to be anything like they used to be,” Grant Eynon said.
“We were thrilled with him as a 3-year-old, he ran second to Lazarus a few times and we wondered why we can’t beat that horse and we found no one else could either.”
Classie Brigade’s resurgence has come following his move to the Woodend Beach stable of Robert Dunn, which is headed by his son John.
“He’s loving it at the beach,” Eynon said.
“We can’t believe it – for him to come back from injury – we are just thrilled with the horse and thrilled with Robert and John for all the hard work they have done.”
Though Classie Brigade has moved on from former trainer Nigel McGrath’s barn it does not mean the Eynon's can not combine with McGrath to take out the great race.
The father and son pairing of Grant and Colin have their McGrath trained pacer Gran Chico nominated for the New Zealand Cup.
Gran Chico has not made a public appearance this season, but is expected to trial later in the spring.
The Maurice Holmes Vase was run at a sedate pace for much of its 2600m.
Classie Brigade and driver John Dunn followed Hail Christian and Blair Orange, who led throughout.
The slow early speed set up Classie Brigade’s fast closing sectionals of 54.3sec (800m) and 26.7sec (400m).
The winner wore down third placed Hail Christian early in the straight, before holding out the flying finish of runner-up A G’s White Socks.
Classie Brigade’s win saw him move to $17 in the New Zealand Cup market.
A G’s White Socks was at $12 and Hail Christian at $31 on the reopening of betting following the Maurice Holmes Vase.