For Australians, each year we have that Fabulous November Tuesday, when, for a just a few minutes in the middle of the afternoon, a nation pauses from their everyday lives, to not only watch, but be part of a horse race.
With so many thoroughbreds having crossed the ditch to win our greatest race, New Zealanders too tune in for the Melbourne Cup, but their big day arrives a week later.
Each year, on the second Tuesday in November, the nation’s eyes become transfixed on Christchurch for the running of their two mile classic - the New Zealand Trotting Cup at Addington.
The New Zealand Trotting Cup is set to jump at 3:15pm (AEDT). Tune into Sky Racing for comprehensive coverage!
First run in 1904, the time-honoured event has become not only a harness highlight, but a feature of the entire racing year. And with the prestigious Dominion Trot and New Zealand Free For All run the following Friday, “Cup Week” on the South Island is a worthy rival of Cup Week in Melbourne.
The race has been won by some iconic harness racing names – Cardigan Bay, Lord Module, False Step, Master Mood, Luxury Liner, Blossom Lady, Il Vicolo, Christian Cullen, Chokin and, for the past three years, superstar Kiwi Terror To Love.
At 3.15pm (AEDT) on Tuesday, 15 pacers will stand to attention behind the strands, as connections, supporters and punters hold their collective breath, for the field to be released from the standing start in the $700,000 feature. Among them, a pair of Australians looking to end a lengthy drought.
You need to search back into the dusty history pages of the event to find the last time an Australian-trained pacer won the big race. It was way back, 27 years ago, when Jim O’Sullivan’s (My) Lightning Blue completed the Inter Dominion- New Zealand Cup double at Addington.
Before that there was Norm Lang’s tough pacer Steel Jaw bringing the Cup back to Australia 1983, and then you need to go back almost 60 years to 1924 when Sheik won the Cup for the visitors.
Some say four Australians have actually won the Cup, with Flashing Red (winner in 2006 and 2007) being an Australian horse, although trained in New Zealand.
Australia will be represented on Tuesday by Inter Dominion placegetters Seel N Print, and For A Reason, the pair both drawing well in the one and the two respectively. The big query is how both will get away from the stand, with For A Reason to make his stand debut in Christchurch.
On the back of a big win in the Queensland Pacing Championship last start, the Luke McCarthy driven For A Reason is on the third line of betting with TAB.com.au Fixed Odds at $8.50. Luke’s brother Todd’s pacer, Seel N Print, may be quoted at $16, but is good value at that quote.
Both Mark Purdon and his partner Natalie Rasmussen would be well known to Australian punters through the deeds of many champions the pair have been associated with, and both have a sound chance in the Cup.
Rasmussen will drive Hands Christian ($8.50) while Purdon partners brilliant mare Adore Me ($10). The pair – drawn four and 13 respectively in the Cup - fought out a lead-up at Ashburton two weeks ago, Adore Me prevailing over her stablemate.
Two of the beaten brigade that day were Christen Me and Terror To Love, and with both running home strongly, each would have delighted their trainers as they took another step on the path to the Cup.
Cran Dalegty’s star has had four runs back since being spelled after his brilliant win in the Hunter Cup last February in Melbourne, and it’s hard to fault his form.
Many believe that after a pair of wins and a couple of thirds in those four starts, and a nice front line draw in seven, the six-year-old now is primed for a massive assault on the Cup, and, after an unlucky third a year ago, he is quoted at $3.60 with tab.com.au Fixed Odds to improve a couple of placings in 2014.
Check the full TAB.com.au market for the NZ Trotting Cup here.
But there is one major obstacle … and that of a potential history maker.
In the 110-year history of the New Zealand Cup, three horses have won the feature on three occasions - Indianapolis (1934-36), False Step (1958-1960) and Terror To Love (2011-2013).
While may already acclaim him as the greatest Kiwi pacer of all time, there would surely be few who would argue if Terror To Love was to claim a fourth Cup on Tuesday.
And the bookies and punters alike believe he will, with the seven-year-old a $2.40 favourite to add the major prize money to his $2.2 million in career earnings.
Like his main rival, Terror has come back from his break revitalised. Smart wins at Addington firstly in the New Brighton Cup, then again against quality opposition in the Canterbury Classic, were followed by a last start, far from disappointing, sixth to Adore Me at Ashburton where he hit the line strongly under his own steam.
His trainers, Graham and Paul Court, have Terror going as well as ever, and anyone who witnessed his amazing performance 12 months ago, when he galloped away, lost 15-20 lengths, but still somehow went on to win, would know there is very little this superstar cannot do.
I’m tipping history, and a fourth Cup for Terror To Love. Christen Me is the natural danger, while I think both McCarthy boys could get their horses into a place provided they step away cleanly.
Another classic awaits on the second Tuesday in November, and Gareth Hall will be trackside in New Zealand, and will have all the action in a special In The Gig episode from Addington on Tuesday night at 6pm on Sky Racing 2.
G3 - The Majordomo Hospitality Handicap Steeple Chase
G2 - Prix Raoul Balliere
G2 - Prix Ariste Hemard
G3 - Victress Stakes
G2 - Premier Trophy