NZ Cup campaign in limbo for Leap To Fame

By Adam Hamilton

Champion Aussie pacer Leap To Fame’s planned New Zealand Cup raid is in limbo after a day of drama saw him withdrawn from Saturday night’s $100,000 Group 2 Redcliffe Cup.

The race had been earmarked for many weeks as the “key decider” for owners Kevin and Kay Seymour and trainer-driver Grant Dixon when planning a Christchurch trip in November.

“Yes, I don’t know where we stand on that (the NZ Cup) now,” Kevin Seymour said. “The whole idea of running him as Redcliffe was to get the closest possible standing start experience to an NZ Cup and we won’t get that now.

“We’ve got lots of thinking to do.”

Importantly, Leap To Fame did win his only standing start race impressively in the Flashing Red at Albion Park on June 8.

So, why is Leap To Fame not running in the Redcliffe Cup?

The race had been billed as the mouth-watering third clash between Australia’s two best pacers, Leap To Fame and last year’s NZ Cup winner Swayzee.

But, after a remarkable 24 hours, the rematch was off and neither were headed to Redcliffe.

The first shock came when Swayzee wasn’t even among nominations for the Cup when they closed yesterday (Monday).

Trainer Jason Grimson said he “wasn’t 100 percent happy” with Swayzee after his narrow and shock defeat by stablemate Nerano at Albion Park last Saturday night.

“I treated him for a virus after the race, so he couldn’t run this week,” Grimson said.

That dramatically changed the dynamic of the race and played a huge role in triggering the withdrawal of Leap To Fame from the Cup.

It was widely expected Leap To Fame and Swayzee would share a 20m handicap and the back-markers in the Group 2 feature.

But when Swayzee didn’t nominate and some other proven open-class performers, headed by Luke McCarthy’s Cantfindabettorman, opted to bypass the race as well, Racing Queensland’s handicappers had a re-think.

“Following the close of nominations, Racing Queensland’s handicappers assessed the field to be no stronger than the Flashing Red at Albion Park on June 8, which Leap To Fame won by 12m off a 20m handicap,” Racing Queensland’s senior harness manager David Brick said.

“Based on the quality of acceptors, Leap To Fame’s Flashing Red victory against similar opposition, and recent form which includes wins in the Miracle Mile and Hunter Cup, RQ’s handicapping panel determined a 30m handicap was appropriate.

“RQ was subsequently advised by Leap To Fame’s trainer, Grant Dixon, to withdraw the horse from the race.”

Kevin Seymour said he felt for the Redcliffe club, but he and trainer-driver Grant Dixon had to put the horse first.

“We’ve been led to believe all along he wouldn’t get more than a 20m handicap, which has been the case for the past 24 years in the Redcliffe Cup,” he said.

“When Grant heard he would get 30m, he was upset and felt it was too big an ask around a (small and tight) track like Redcliffe.

“It’s disappointing for us and disappointing for Bernie Ring and the club, too. We want to support the regional and country tracks, as we’ve shown by taking Leap To Fame to tracks like Redcliffe, Newcastle and Cranbourne over the past few months.

“But the horse will always come first and I fully support Grant’s decision to keep him home rather than start from a 30m handicap this week.”

Leap To Fame still has the $200,000 Group 1 Sunshine Sprint (July 20) and $400,000 Group 1 Blacks A Fake (July 27) as major targets during the Queensland carnival.

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