Here comes Tiger
By Adam Hamilton
The Victoria Cup has massively reshaped NZ Cup markets, but just not with the horse most expected.
WA superstar Chicago Bull was the raging hot Victoria Cup favourite and victory would have cemented him as clearly the horse to topple at Addington on November 13.
Instead he had to be content with a well beaten second to another now leading NZ Cup contender in Tiger Tara, who ran third in the great race last year.
There is no doubt the Tiger Tara who so dominantly won last night’s $200,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup is better than the one to tackled last year’s NZ Cup.
Last night’s win was simply sparkling.
Tiger Tara, who has taken time to build form this campaign, fought hard to hold the lead early, steadied through the middle stages then broke his rivals’ hearts with a staggering 26.3sec split down the back straight.
It was deliberate and inspired by young driver Toddy McCarthy, who back his horse’s stamina to carry him home after such a speed blitz from the 800-400m.
McCarthy was also fully mindful however hard he went down the back straight, Chicago Bull was working even harder in the death seat outside him.
“You never count these big races before you’ve won them, but I had a great feeling when he still felt so strong after that third quarter and the others were struggling,” McCarthy said.
Tiger Tara left Chicago Bull standing at the top of the straight and powered home in a 27.7sec last quarter (54.0sec last half) to win by a huge 12.2m.
“He felt unbelievable tonight. All credit goes to Kev (trainer Kevin Pizzuto). He’s done an amazing job to get this horse back after he was involved in a car accident only a month or so back.
“He put the writing on the wall with his huge run at Menangle last week and then when he drew so well, I knew we were right in this one.
“He just puts in so much this horse. He felt at least as good as he ever has out there tonight.
“We went around in all the big ones last season and ran some great races without winning one. To win a Victoria Cup and share it with Kev is just fantastic.”
Pizzuto confirmed NZ was a definite.
“The NZ Cup has always been his target. I’d say he’s still only 95 per cent wound-up tonight. The NZ Cup is the race we want, but winning this means a lot, too,” Pizzuto said.
“I haven’t finalized flights, but I’d say he’ll go across a week before the Cup.
“I can’t wait to give it another go. He ran a great race last year, but I’ve had a better build-up this time.”
The Aussie TAB slashed Tiger Tara’s NZ Cup odds from $21 to $11.
Chicago Bull eased from $4 to $5 and far from disgraced in second spot in the Victoria Cup, although he was beaten 12.2m.
“I’m not disappointed and people tell me it’s really hard to sit parked and win good races here, but the winner was brilliant and broke us down the back straight,” trainer Gary Hall Sr said.
“I thought we were going to run fifth at the top of the straight, but he dug in for the fight and still fought the others off for second.”
Driver Gary Hall Jr, who takes over training Chicago Bull when he leaves for Auckland on Thursday, was a little nonplussed after last night’s race.
“I didn’t think he’d get beaten that easily, but 2240m is a funny sort of distance. I think he’ll be better over further,” he said.
“He fought it right out tonight, but the winner was too good on the night. He was the horse we were most worried about if he led and ran up to his best form.”
Reigning Australian Mare of the Year, Carlas Pixel, made late ground from four pegs along the sprint lane for a terrific third.
Trainer Shane Tritton was thrilled with the runs of his fourth and fifth placegetters, Franco Nelson and My Alpha Rock.
“They both went really and are on target for the Inter Dominion,” he said. “Take a look at Franco Nelson’s run. I think it was the run of the race. Shadow Sax locked wheels with him at a crucial stage, he lost ground and momentum and got going again to just miss second.”
Tritton’s other runner, Gotta Go Ya Hu, trailed the leader and disappointed slightly in eighth spot.
The heavily-backed Shadow Sax found the task of coming three-wide without cover in such a quick last lap beyond him and wilted late for 10th.
Tiger Tara’s 1min53.4sec mile rate was just 0.9sec outside Lazarus’s race record set almost two years ago.