Difficult draw for Lazarus
It appears Lazarus can not only walk the walk but talk the talk. The Kiwi pacing hero faces one of the toughest challenges of his North American career when he starts from a daunting wide draw in the US$250,000 Dan Rooney Pace (one mile) at Yonkers, New York tomorrow morning (10am NZ time).
On the tight Yonkers track Lazarus needs to get handy or more ideally lead inside the first 600m to give himself the best chance of a revenge victory over arch rival McWicked, who beat him in the second fastest race mile in history in Kentucky last week.
As was the case when he was trained in New Zealand, Lazarus have thrived on hard racing and is showing no signs of lightening off in condition, looking muscled and with a stunning summer sheen on his coat at trainer Jimmy Takter’s New Jersey property this week.
“I think the hard racing has really brought him on,” says Takter. “He felt very good in his work on Wednesday and he will be hard to beat this Saturday even though he has a tough draw.”
But Lazarus’s work on Takter’s straight sand track track on Wednesday wasn’t the only reason the Hall Of Fame trainer was smiling afterward.
He was shaking his head in amazement at a story from Kentucky last Saturday relayed to him by fellow top trainer Ross Croghan.
Croghan is the trainer of Lazarus’s former stablemate Heaven Rocks and the pair raced each other for the first time in the United States last Saturday.
“Ross told me the most amazing story,” says Takter. “He said when Lazarus walked into the barn last week he stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Heaven Rocks, who apparently he used to travel with Down Under, and started yelling out to him.
“It wasn’t a stallion thing because the other horse is a gelding but Lazarus started yelling at Heaven Rocks like he was an old friend and Heaven Rocks starts calling back to him.
“It was like too old friends seeing each other and Ross said it was incredible to see and there was no doubt they were happy to see each other.
“When I heard that story it made the hairs on my arms stand up. I know this horse is smart but they really are incredible animals.”
Coming from a small-time trainer who spends all his time with the one horse that might sounds cooky, hearing it was Takter and Croghan is a magical equine moment.
But Takter isn’t finished.
“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised because one of the first things I loved about this horse was he is always talking to the other horses.
“When you are out there working him he is making noises at them, again not as a stallion but just cause he likes his job. The top horses always have charisma, he has a lot of it.”
t is the same at Takter’s stables where Lazarus has become protective of the juvenile trotting filly he is stabled next too, not in an amorous way but as the big brother.
“Any time we do anything with her he comes over to make sure she is all right and he gets really annoyed when we take her away. He misses her,” said Lazarus’s main handler Helen Engblom.
It seems regardless of what happens at Yonkers tomorrow Lazarus is making a big impression in North America, on and off the track.