Moran looking to "good surprise" in ID final

By Adam Hamilton

David Moran is driven by disappointment to win this Inter Dominion pacing final aboard Honolua Bay.

Few have endured a past 12 months quite like Moran, starting with driving this week last year when he “won” the Inter Dominion pacing final on Expensive Ego, just to lose it on protest less than 30 minutes later.

Soon after he started a seven-month stint on the sidelines through suspension for some misdemeanours.

What kept him focused during his time out was the knowledge his mighty pacer Lochinvar Art was on the comeback trail and his return would pretty much coincide with Moran’s return from the sidelines.

But that turned to custard.

Lochinvar Art bled in a race and owner Kevin Gordon opted to send him to North America to continue his career.

Moran’s breakthrough horse, a $1.4 million-earner and Hunter and Victoria Cup winner, was gone.

Champion mare Ladies In Red came to the rescue, continuing on her winning way with Moran in the sulky.

But news broke this week the once-in-a-generation mare had sustained a hairline fracture to a hind pastern. She’ll be sidelined for at least six months, but given her value in the breeding barn, she may never race again.

Enter Honolua Bay, the potential saviour.

Almost on-cue, the five-year-old has found career best form and drawn superbly in gate two for the pacing final.

“He’s surprised me,” Moran admitted. “And I needed a good surprise for a change.

“He’s always had terrific talent and speed, but he’s gone to another level through this series.

“The versatility he’s shown, the toughness he’s shown … I wasn’t sure we would ever see it from him.

“I know they thought long and hard before even running him in the series because they thought he was more of a Miracle Mile horse.

“But a couple of wins, especially on the second night at Shepparton when I drove him terribly, have been outstanding.”

Honolua Bay was the only unbeaten pacer through the heats and is trying to match Ultimate Sniper from 2019, who clean-swept the heats and final in Auckland.

“I’m going in with plenty of confidence, especially from the draw. It (gate two) gives me so many options and I can play it by ear,” Moran said.

“I don’t think you can have a set plan going into a race like this, especially with so much speed on the front row.

“He’s a great leader, but it’s 2760m and that’s a long way. He’s terrific from off the speed and the draw puts him in the running line without doing any work, if I look at it that way.

“I wouldn’t swap him for any other drive.”

Honolua Bay ($2.90) has replaced stablemate Act Now ($3) as a slight favourite, but the big firmers since Monday’s barrier draw have been Expensive Ego ($11 into $6.50) and outsider Bundoran ($71 into $17).

In the trotting final, former Kiwi mare Queen Elida remains a firm $2.10 favourite from Just Believe ($4.60), who was unbeaten through the heats but has an outside back row draw (gate 12) to overcome in the final.

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