By Michael Guerin
Heavily-backed debutante pacer Alterior Motif is going to have to get used to something new at Cambridge tonight: rivals.
But he might still find himself lonely at the business end of race four.
The three-year-old pacer races for the first time tonight and is an extreme rarity in that when he qualified three weeks ago he did so completely by himself.
While that is not unheard of for a trotter or the occasional maiden qualifying in a smaller harness racing area like Manawatu, northern pacers qualifying in solo trials are not only rare but running the sort of time Alterior Matif did when he qualified is almost unheard of.
He paced his solo 2200m mobile on May 31 in 2:43.1, his last 800m in 57.8, the final 400m in 28.7.
There were five 2200m races held that day, the northern comeback to harness meeting, and Alterior Motif’s time was quicker than them all as well as four of the six 2200m races at the next Cambridge meeting.
So Alterior Motif probably won’t need to go much faster to win tonight but horses in company almost always do.
“He is a runner all right,” says co-trainer Andrew Neal, who will drive Alterior Motif tonight.
“He has a really good way of going and likes to get on with it.
“He actually hung in up the straight that day so could have gone a second quicker.”
While he qualified solo Alterior Motif actually has trialed against other horses before, winning a four-horse unqualfied trial heat as well as sticking close when not pressured behind Itsthefinalcountdown in a recent workout, with that pacer a big winning chance in the last race tonight.
“In that workout and his other trial I tried to keep him back and settled because he is such a runner,” says Neal, who trains Alterior Motif with his wife Lyn.
“But because he has a good draw this week (barrier three) I will let him run. I expect him to be in front and I’d be surprised if he was beaten.” That could start a great half hour for the Neals as they rate Ideal Agent a huge chance in race five, the first leg of Pick6.
The talented three-year-old ran the in-form Lagertha close here last start in his first race in five months and has taken the expected improvement.
“He has really come on with that run and he worked well on Tuesday morning,” says Neal.
“It is a slightly tricky race but I think we have the best horse there.”
The Neals had their open class trotting star Credit Master back at the workouts last weekend after his near-death experience on the eve of the Inter Dominions last November.
“He got dreadfully sick back then, some sort of virus, and we thought we were going to lose him.
“So it has been a long road back but he is looking a lot better now.
“So he can have a workout again this weekend and then we will start looking for a race.”