Ray Green tops 400 with day to remember at Ashburton
By Barry Lichter (Lincoln Farms website)https://www.lincolnfarms.co.nz/
“If he gets to the front in the cup and they leave him alone they won’t beat him.”
Lincoln Farms’ trainer Ray Green was in unusually bullish mode after Copy That put up some unworldly sectionals in slaying the two New Zealand Cup favourites Self Assured and Spankem in the Ashburton Flying Stakes.
“As soon as I saw him lead I said to the bloke beside me they won’t beat him now.
“He’s deadly on the front end. He’s never been run down once he’s led.
“He’s a spectacular little bugger and he’s definitely better left handed - he liked the big sweeping corners today.”
Green, who earlier landed anther big blow when American Dealer downed It’s All About Faith and Krug in the final Sires’ Stakes heat, was proud when he heard the fantastic times his little horse recorded.
It wasn’t surprising Self Assured and Spankem couldn’t catch Copy That when you consider he ran one of the fastest last 400s on the track, if not the fastest.
The little horse was low flying in front over the last 800 metres, reeling off 53.4, faster than the previous four winners of the race in Spankem (54.4), Eamon Maguire (54.2), Lazarus (53.7) and Lazarus (55.2). Only 2015 winner Smolda went faster, recording 53.1.
But not one of the All Stars’ winners went anywhere near as fast as Copy That over their last 400. Copy That recorded a sizzling 25.2, whereas none of the others broke 26.
Admittedly, the first half of the race was run at pedestrian pace, the overall time of 2:57.5 for the 2400 metres only a mile rate of 1:59.
Green said he gained great satisfaction from Copy That’s triumph which saw the horse elevated sharply from $6.50 to $2.80 equal favourite with Self Assured for the $540,000 IRT New Zealand Trotting Cup on November 10.
“A lot of people were saying the All Stars’ pair would be too good for him. But I think the form in Auckland is just as good as it is in the south, maybe better.
“That was the only question mark before but now he’s raced the very best - and beaten them.
“The All Stars’ Mercedes got rolled comprehensively - they were never going to catch him. If the race had gone another 800 metres they wouldn’t have beaten him.”
Green said he was amazed at how many people, many he didn’t even know, who were excited at the prospect of Copy That winning the cup, dominated in five of the last six years by the All Stars’ Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen.
Ironically, the only horse to have interrupted their winning streak was Arden Rooney in 2015, raced by Copy That’s owners Merv and Meg Butterworth who were on the phone to Green as the horse crossed the line.
“Obviously there’s a little bit of improvement left in him but I don’t think he has to improve much more to win the cup.
“He’s got most of them by the throat and I don’t think it matters where he draws so long as he gets away safely.
“He just needs a little bit of luck and we might pull it off.”
Green said the cup was shaping up as a four-horse race.
“There’s Mark’s pair, who both cost themselves with slow beginnings today, plus Classie Brigade. The others will just get in the way.”
Green praised the initiative of driver Blair Orange in pressing forward to the lead, knowing Self Assured and Spankem were behind him in the early rush.
“That’s why Blair is on board. He’s the leading driver and he showed it today.”
Green also credited his success with American Dealer to the man in the cart, David Butcher.
It was a masterly performance, Butcher wisely not spending any more petrol than necessary to secure the early trail behind It’s All About Faith.
And Butcher waited until well into the home stretch, drafting on the leader’s back for as long as he could, before ducking into the passing lane.
And, head down in typical determined fashion, little American Dealer sped alongside his much bigger rival before poking his head in front to score by a neck.
American Dealer clocked a slick 1:53.3 for the mile, rattling off closing sectionals of 54.9 and 26.5. It was Green's 400th training success in a career dating back to the late 1980s. He had 80 wins in partnership with Robert Mitchell (2004-2008) and now has 321 (with Copy That's victory) on his own account (1989-2000 and 2009-2021).
Krug was game in holding third only a length away, after having to sit parked all the way.
“David said he waited and waited and when he did let him go, the horse did it himself and swished through the gap.
“Mark’s one didn’t put up much fight and the little fella worried him out of it - he’s a warrior.”
Green said the run again showed Krug had an Achilles heel.
“He’s a lovely horse but he’s not unbeatable.
“He’s great with two hole trips but he hasn’t been able to sit parked so far and do the damage. I don’t think he’s that tough.
“We’ve beaten him twice now but the draw will be crucial for the final. There’s nothing much between the top few and it will come down to who gets the best run.”
The win was greeted with great glee by American Dealer’s Miami owners Gordon Banks and Marc Hanover.
Since they bought the American Ideal colt three months ago from Lincoln Farms he has raced nine times for three wins, four placings and earned them $98,930.
The $150,000 Woodlands Stud Sires’ Stakes Final at Addington on November 10 carries a winner’s purse of about $75,000.