Greg Sugars on the $1m The Race by Grins - "we are going to need things to go our way"
By Michael Guerin
Better Eclipse may bring one of the fastest Australian mile times ever to tomorrow’s $1million Race by Grins but he is lacking in that most Australian of qualities: hype.
The five-year-old pacer and his stablemate Triple Eight are the two Aussie representatives in tomorrow’s harness slot race at Cambridge, both trained by husband and wife team Greg Sugars and Jess Tubbs.
Sugars is one of the most respected harness horsemen in Australia and Triple Eight will be driven by Australia’s most successful ever reinsmen in Chris Alford, who is approaching 8000 career wins, more than twice that is New Zealand’s winningest ever in Tony Herlihy.
Better Eclipse is not only the winner of a Chariots Of Fire and Sunshine Sprint but was also third in last year’s Miracle Mile when he looked on target to become Australian pacing’s next big thing.
He has had his ups and downs since but when he won the Chariots he paced 1:47.6, making him one of the fastest race winners ever outside North America.
Yet when Better Eclipse scores up behind the mobile for tomorrow’s 2200m he won’t carry the burden of hype and is almost certain to not be an early speed factor in the race, which is often one of the Australian pacing weapons Kiwi drivers fear most.
“He is not really a flyer off the gate and often better when we let him balance up,” says Sugars.
“I am not saying he won’t be going forward but I wouldn’t see him charging off trying to get the front.
“The same applies to Triple Eight, he is best getting a helmet to follow early and hoping for a hot speed and a drag into the race.”
While Better Eclipse’s barrier 6 is one of the reasons for $41 price another is some fancy early steps that started to play havoc with his form during the Inter Dominion in December.
He went into that series one of the favourites and won his first heat but galloped away his last heat and did the same three starts ago in a Miracle Mile prelude at Menangle.
“We didn’t really know what to make of those indiscretions but we have given him a thorough going over and worked on a few small things we have found and he was really good winning last start,” says Sugars.
Sugars knows only too well the talents of Copy That, Self Assured and Old Town Road, the latter part-owned by his good friend Joshua Dickie, who is now living in Victoria.
“These are good horses and that was on show last week in the Flying Mile at Cambridge so we are going to need things to go our way to beat them.
“But we are stoked to be here with both horses and whatever happens this week they have some other really good races coming up here.”
While Sugars has rarely crossed the Tasman in his career he is going to get a lot more used to travelling for work as he and Tubbs are taking their Inter Dominion-winning trotter Just Believe to Sweden next month for the famous Elitloppet.