Spirit Of St Louis sensational at Ascot Park
By Jonny Turner
Star Otago three-year-old Spirit Of St Louis saved punters from heartache when producing a scintillating burst of speed to score one of the most stunning wins at Ascot Park in recent seasons on Saturday.
Those that backed the Graeme Anderson trained pacer in to a $1.90 win price looked set for despair before the home turn when their horse was badly held up behind a tiring runner and giving the leaders a seemingly impossible head start.
Anguish turned to euphoria for Spirit Of St Louis’ backers when he produced an electric last 200m to overhaul runner-up, Amore Lancome, in the shadows of the posts for a victory that had to be seen to be believed.
Punters were not the only ones worried about the favourites chances before the home turn.
Driver Matthew Williamson admitted the race went terribly pear shaped when he was held up while behind the tiring Maidonthebeach.
“Things were going pretty well until we got held up and Brett Gray’s two [runners] got around the outside of me.”
“Then I thought we were really in trouble.”
When Spirit Of Louis got in to the clear at the 300m point his task to chase down Gray’s pairing of Born To Boogie and Nota Bene Denario and the leader, Amore Lancome, looked huge.
But, Williamson still thought there was hope of a miraculous win.
“I was worried, but once we got in to the straight I thought he could was a chance if he really sprinted.”
“He is such a fast horse, he can really let down.”
“It was a great effort to get there.”
Spirit Of St Louis’ withering sprint denied Amore Lancome a well-deserved win by just a nose on the line.
Driver Kirstin Barclay set up a strong speed in front with Amore Lancome, which kept St Louis well back throughout Saturday’s 2700m handicap.
Though that strong tempo did not change Williamson’s tactics.
“I was always going to save him for one run because he is such a fast horse.”
Saturday’s victory was Spirit Of St Louis’ seventh in just his 11th race start.
According to Williamson, the rate at which the pacer keeps improving throughout his career has been the key to the horse’s success.
“He just keeps improving – if he got a good draw in a big race he could be in it.”
Graeme Anderson had Spirit Of St Louis primed for his exciting victory in his first start since winning at Winton in March.
The trainer gave his three-year-old one Oamaru trial earlier this month ahead of his resumption.
Williamson’s brother, Brad, was in completely the opposite position to Matthew when driving Cracker Hill to victory in race 7.
The star three-year-old trotter never got close to having traffic problems when breaking the 2200m mobile trotting track record at Ascot Park when bolting in by six lengths.
Cracker Hill took 0.6sec off the mark Tailored Elegance set in much warmer conditions in March.