Guerin - "The Race by Grins is even and balanced"

By Michael Guerin

More than speed, stamina, manners or luck tonight’s $1million Race by Grins could come down to decisions.

You might think all races come down to decisions, or the tactics employed by the drivers, but in reality, some just don’t.

Truly dominant horses can make their own luck, which is why harness racing has had the great winning streak of heroes like Lyell Creek, Courage Under Fire, Lazarus and plenty of others. Look no further than unbeaten three-year-old filly Millwood Nike.

But Australasian pacing lacks a dominant open class pacer right now which can be bad for box office but great for racing and it leaves tonight’s $1million slot race at Cambridge even and balanced.

Four big names stand out in Copy That, Self Assured, Old Town Road and Akuta but there is enough in the career peaks of B D Joe and Australian raiders Better Eclipse and even Triple Eight to suggest under the right circumstances, however unlikely they may be, any of them could win.

They fall into two groups: Old Town Road (barrier 2), Copy That (3) and B D Joe (5) all with gate speed and the draws to use and the rest of the major winning chances likely to have to wait to see what unfolds in front of them.

The decisions that could win tonight’s 2200m mobile may even start in the prelims, with just how ready and therefore fired up drivers like Zachary Butcher on Old Town Road, Blair Orange on Copy That and Tim Williams (B D Joe) are willing to get their charges.

Butcher has the best draw and Old Town Road the gate speed to use and if he decides he wants to hold the front he probably can. But that would mean burning early and opening himself up to mid-race pressure, the kryptonite of any pure speed horse.

Butcher’s other decision is to lead then trail, most likely Copy That, hoping the leader absorbs that mid-race pressure but safe in the knowledge he has the passing lane coming and if he can’t peg back Copy That he is very likely to run second.

There is nothing surer than Orange will want the lead with Copy That, who has been nearly unbeatable in front and has the high cruising speed to probably win if he gets there.

But if Orange feels early that either inside him or out he is going to lose the early war, when does he recalibrate and change to Plan B? Or is there only a Plan A with a bit of latitude about how it takes to implement?

B D Joe’s connections want him fired off the gate and Williams will obey but if he is not at least half a length in front of the favourites inside him after 100m is there any point dying on your shield?

Whatever happens early the champion drivers on Self Assured, Akuta and Better Eclipse then have their decisions to make, after all they can’t all sit back and wait, Cambridge isn’t that track and not matter what order the leaders are in they are still going to take pegging back.

If you are the first to move on a Self Assured or Akuta do you stay parked and control the race or take the one-one and allow traffic and luck to come into play?

In a field where none of the open class stars having won more than two of their last five starts, those tiny calculations, the feel through the reins, or just pure instinct could decide tonight’s Race by Grins. Decisions, decisions.

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