Sniper draws five
By Michael Guerin
Driver Natalie Rasmussen says she can’t see hot favourite Ultimate Sniper getting to his favourite position in Saturday’s $500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Final at Alexandra Park.
So she will take the next best option: being in front.
The four-year-old has been unbeaten in the three rounds of heats and is $1.45 to win the final after drawing barrier five.
His draw is made even better by his key rivals, many of them stablemates, drawing worse, with A G’s White Socks at barrier seven and Chase Auckland (9), Cruz Bromac (11) and Thefixer (13) all on the second line.
After being trapped three wide in every heat of the series and still being too strong, Ultimate Sniper will be expected to stroll to the front after the early shuffling of positions and win.
But Rasmussen, who also co-trains Ultimate Sniper, says he would probably be better sitting parked.
“I know that sounds strange but sometimes he doesn’t concentrate quite so well in front,” says Rasmussen.
“He is still good there but he really loves staring horse down from parked, as we have seen when he has been wide during this series.” So why not just sit parked with the hot favourite, as crazy as that sounds with Rasmussen and everybody else expecting the lead to be there?
“I don’t know any of the other drivers in the front line are going to want him outside them staring them down,” she says matter-of-factly.
A reluctant outside leading when they would rather have Ultimate Sniper’s back could mean a slower mid-race tempo which would bring the outsiders into the race and allow the likes of Cruz Bromac and Thefixer to creep closer three wide.
So with one stablemate in Ashley Locaz and three outsiders rated $51 or longer drawn inside her, Rasmussen should only have to hold A G’s White Socks to her outside at the start and she probably ends up in front, with On The Cards and My Kiwi Mate the most likely followers.
Rasmussen says all five of the All Stars pacing finalists have come through their busy week of heats in great order as well as trotting final favourite Winterfell.
“We couldn’t be happier with how they have handled it and if anything they look like the series has brought them on,” she said.
“They are likely to have their final fast work on Wednesday.” With Rasmussen on Ultimate Sniper and Mark Purdon sticking with Cruz Bromac, Blair Orange has picked up the drive on Thefixer, Tim Williams stays on Chase Auckland but no driver has been confirmed yet for Ashley Locaz.
The stable has two odds-on final favourites with Winterfell $1.90 to win the trotting final after drawing perfectly at barrier two.
He looked far more settled and happier winning his heat in national record time on Friday and while he is still not foolproof, Rasmussen says the big trotter has thrilled Purdon with his improvement in this series.
It may not be a case of Winterfell simply strolling to the lead and on to the winner’s circle though, with Majestic Man drawn barrier four and with superior gate speed and therefore the likely early leader is driver Brad Williamson desires.
But with Paramount King, Tough Monarch, Massive Metro and Marcoola all drawn to settle back the trotting final looks certain to contain plenty of movement.
PACING FINAL, $500,000, 2700m mobile
1: My Kiwi Mate
3: Ashley Locaz
4: On The Cards
5: Ultimate Sniper
6: Mach Shard
7: A G’s White Socks
8: Triple Eight
9: Chase Auckland (2nd line)
10: San Carlo
11: Cruz Bromac
12: Classie Brigade (em)
TROTTING FINAL $150,000, 2700m mobile
1: Big Jack Hammer
3: Destiny Jones
4: Majestic Man
5: Monty Python (em)
7: Bonnie Highlander
9: Temporale (2nd line)
10: Habibi Inta
11: Tough Monarch
12: Paramount King
13: Massive Metro