By Jonny Turner
All Stars pacer Ultimate Sniper sits on the verge of harness racing history after delivering one of the most incredible open class victories witnessed in New Zealand in recent history to remain unbeaten in three heats of this year’s Interdominion Pacing Championship.
The 4yr-old is set to start a red hot favourite for next Saturday’s final after producing a tough staying effort that left harness racing fans both speechless and searching for superlatives, when lifting himself off the canvas to win at Alexandra Park on Friday night.
A solo three-wide bid from the 1200m looked to have put the horse in trouble before the turn, before Ultimate Sniper called on his incredible staying motor to will himself up the straight for a jaw-dropping victory.
An ice cool drive from Natalie Rasmussen, that included a vital move to seek cover momentarily before the turn, was not only brilliant, it added to the theatre around Ultimate Sniper’s victory.
“I just think they were going too hard down the back, I wasn’t getting involved down in that.” Rasmussen said.
“Then, when I asked him in the straight he really came home good for me.”
Rasmussen’s no-panic tactics meant the Australian trio of Colt Thirty One, Our Uncle Sam and San Carlo had their shot to win on the home turn.
It was short lived as the All Stars horse power kicked in in the home straight with Chase Auckland sprinting hard on the passing lane to make his stablemate fight for his win.
Just a head separated the pair on the line, with Colt Thirty One three quarters of a length away in third.
While Ultimate Sniper again had to call on his seemingly never ending stamina reserves for the third time in the series, he had to produce speed to match.
The race’s final 800m was paced in 54.9sec with Ultimate Sniper going faster than that by being well of the leaders at the 800m mark and having to run wide to the winning post.
“He is such a good horse, people don’t realise how quick he is as well – he is tough and he is quick,” Rasmussen said.
Owners Phil and Glenys Kennard, Phil and Margaret Creighton, Kevin Riseley and Gavin Douglas now have a nervous eight day wait to see if Ultimate Sniper can live up to what many expect him to do – win the Interdominion Final easily.
The wait should prove easier to handle than the roller-coaster like ups and down Ultimate Sniper’s stunning win put them through on Friday.
Phil Creighton admitted he did not have high hopes for his horse in the middle stages of his win.
“It wasn’t until the last 300m when I though gee you are going to get up.”
“This would have to be the best horse I have owned, of all the good ones we have had.”
Colt Thirty One was followed across the line by Ashley Locaz, On The Cards and Mach Shard, who each produced good runs to qualify for next Saturday’s final.