Leap To Fame and Just Believe star in ID Grand Finals

by Adam Hamilton

Nathan Purdon stood amongst the crowd at a packed Albion Park as local hero Leap To Fame smashed the track record for the biggest win of his career in last night’s Brisbane Inter Dominion.

With Purdon’s stable star Akuta bound for Australia in a few weeks, he got to size-up his major rival.

Leap To Fame is “very likely” to chase the Group 1 Hunter Cup at Melton in early February and that’s Akuta’s first big Aussie target.

“That was great to watch …. the crowd … the atmosphere,” Purdon said.

There were so many layers to Leap To Fame’s dominant win, headed by redemption over his older half-brother Swayzee from the only previous clash in the Group 1 Blacks A Fake at the same track and distance back on July 22.

And the fact subsequent defeats, albeit mighty runs, in the TAB Eureka and Victoria Cup has spurred some doubters around the hype on Leap To Fame.

But they were silenced as the Albion Park crowd erupted on the home bend when trainer-driver Grant Dixon “cut the ribbons” and went for home with an unassailable lead.

Leap To Fame powered to a 10.6m win over much-improved Victorian raider Better Eclipse, who was superbly driven by Greg Sugars, with Swayzee fighting on very bravely for a close-up third.

Leviathan owner Kevin Seymour, for so long the lifeblood of Queensland harness racing and such a steely individual, was completely overcome by emotion.

As he stood to speak at the presentation, he broke down as he tried to explain how it was a lifetime thrill.

“To win this race, here in front of our hometown crowd and Grant and Trista (Dixon) … I just means so much. I’m lost for words,” he said.

Later, Seymour said: “I’ve said before, this is the horse Kay and I have been in the game 50 years waited for.

“I’ve had some wonderful horses and won some big races, but this is as good as it gets for so many reasons.”

Dixon, a champion of the sport but largely in his own Queensland backyard, said an Inter Dominion win was the ultimate.

“I’ve had so much success, but have felt I’d missed out on one of those really big races on the national stage,” he said.

“To get it, especially here in front of friends, family and a hometown crowd. It doesn’t get much better.

“And to share it with Kevin and Kay, who have been such great supporters for such a long time … incredible.”

Much debate circled around what would happen at the start with Swayzee drawn three and Leap To Fame out in five.

It was Future Assured who blasted out best and just did enough to cross Swayzee, which then enabled Leap To Fame to work forward and get the lead.

It changed the race and reversed the roles from the Blacks A Fake where Swayzee led.

Dixon put the foot down with scorching splits of the last mile in 27.8, 28.7, 27.2 and 27.5sec.

The 1min53.5sec mile took 0.3sec off the track record.

Trainer Jess Tubbs said running second “felt like a win.”

“We’ve come some far in 12 months and were beaten by a champion. I’m thrilled and proud of him. And Greg drove him incredibly well,” she said.

Swayzee’s effort to burn early then sit parked in those times was enormous, especially after his busy schedule as a result of winning last month’s NZ Cup.

“It was a mighty run. I just couldn’t quite hold-out Future Assured and that was crucial,” driver Cam Hart said.

“He’s just so brave. He kept coming and coming. It was a mighty run.”

Polished Grand Circuit performer Spirit Of St Louis ran another wonderful major race for fourth.

Just Believe heading to NZ?

The odds are firming dual Inter Dominion-winning hero Just Believe will head to New Zealand instead of Sweden next year.

While co-trainer and driver Greg Sugars stopped well short of declaring a decision, he said: “the NZ slot race is certainly a very attractive option and money-wise, a smart option.”

Then it was back to savouring the moment of Just Believe creating Inter Dominion history.

The rising eight-year-old is the first trotter to clean sweep two successive Inter Dominions by winning all three heats and finals both years.

And he did it after a lengthy stint in Sweden during the year.

“To come back and go to another level is quite incredible,” Sugars said.

“He’s just the perfect racehorse and makes us look good as trainers and drivers.”

But that’s downplaying the work to get him back with just one lead-up run after his Swedish stint.

“I’m excited and a bit emotional,” Sugars said, “it’s just been such a big year for us with so much travel and this horse means so much to us.”

Sugars' wife and co-trainer, Jess Tubbs, added: “I counted up and Greg’s been away six months of the year. It’s been a crazy year, but moments like this make it all worthwhile.”

Just as he did last year, Just Believe sat parked outside the leader to win. This time it was Musafa Metro, who fought on well for second, with star Kiwi-owned Queen Elida made good ground in a slowly run race from midfield for third.

But Just Believe toyed with his rivals, ripping home in closing splits of 55.8 and 28sec flat to win without being extended.

For Sugars, it was his third successive driving win in the race after scoring on Maori Law in 2021 and now Just Believe the past two years.

Throw in finishing second in the pacing final on Better Eclipse and it was a night to remember.

O'Reilly sixth at AYDC  

Sarah O'Reilly was the best of the Kiwis as the Australiasian Young Drivers' Championship concluded on Inter Dominion night at Albion Park in Brisbane.

Last night, drving Luxury Lad, she finished down the field in the final of the ten heats to be in sixth place overall on 66 points.

She went into the heat in third equal place.

At the top there was nothing between Joshua Gallagher and Angus Garrard who were tied on 81 points, with Gallagher winning on a countback.

The heats were held at Redcliffe and Albion over the past week.

The final points were :

Joshua Gallagher 81
Angus Garrard 81
Emily Suvaljko 80
Corey Johnson 70
James Herbertson 67
Sarah O'Reilly (NZ) 66
Mitch Ford 63
Leonard Cain 54
Zev Meredith (NZ)47
Crystal Hackett (NZ)46

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