By Adam Hamilton
THE Kiwi dominance of the Ballarat Cup lives on.
A brilliant front-running Greg Sugars drive won last night’s Group 1 Cup for Greg and Nina Hope’s rejuvenated AG’s White Socks. He’s the eighth Kiwi-trained winner of the Cup in the past eight years.
It was a deserved, fitting and somewhat emotional win, but it must be said most were talking about Self Assured’s monstrous second in the moments straight after the race.
AG’s White Socks dashed home in 54.7 and 27.5sec, while Self Assured came from a mile back, was checked, shoved wide, hung badly and still roared home to be beaten just 1.3m.
Self Assured was privately clocked to run a 53.4sec last half despite covering so much extra ground and everything else that went wrong.
It was a phenomenal run.
But how can you take anything away from AG’s White Socks, who worked to find the front from Tam Major and mile-rated a slick 1min56.1sec.
It was deserved and overdue “major” win for Greg and Nina Hope’s six-year-old, who won two heats of the Auckland Inter Dominion before leading and running fifth in the final.
“We’ve always felt he was up with the best horses, but the standing starts haven’t suited him. He’s like a galloper, he gets to fired-up and doesn’t like the standing starts,” Greg Hope said.
“It was only a week or so before the Inter Dominion he turned the corner and got right back to his best.
“We sent him up to Barry (Purdon) and Barry agreed he was right up with the best.
“It’s fantastic to get this win and hopefully he can go right on with it now.”
Of course AG’s White Socks was the pacer Ricky May was driving at Omakau on January 2 and Hope was quick to mention May after the win.
“Ricky’s back on (driving) this horse next year or as soon as he wants to. He’ll be back, I’m sure,” he said.
Sugars, who started his relationship with the Hopes through their trotter Quite A Moment a few years back, was already looking ahead to the Hunter Cup (February 1) after last night.
“I’m very pleased for everyone involved,” he said. “We used the draw to full advantage. Moving forward to the big race in a couple of week’s time, we’re in with a good chance I think.”
Chase Auckland was another eye-catcher, flashing home late with Self Assured, but off a softer run, to finish a close third.
With Self Assured backing-up in next week’s Group 1 4YO Bonanza at Melton and missing the Hunter Cup, Chase Auckland and AG’s White Socks share Hunter Cup favouritism at $3.50 on the Aussie TAB.