CHAMPAGNE FINALE BURST BUBBLE FOR HOT FAVOURITE
Champagne Finale notches up fifth win
Hot favourite Sure Will Do was beaten on Saturday, but one person who believed he could be rolled this time round was his nemesis Champagne Finale’s winning jockey, Ryan Munger.
The South African rider, who will be at his farewell meeting next Saturday, had done his homework, and concluded that Sure Will Do, though unbeaten in two starts, might be vulnerable in the $50,000 Class 4 Division 1 race over 1200m.
Sure Will Do’s skinny odds of $8, however, suggested Munger still belonged to a small minority, not to mention his own mount Champagne Finale’s $185 quote would have even fewer sharing his optimism.
Champagne Finale (Ryan Munger) springs a surprise in Race 7.
Obviously, Munger held that silent hope close to his chest heading into the race, and his calculations proved to be spot-on.
The race panned out as he had anticipated. Sure Will Do elected for his customary leading tactics, but unlike at his first two wins, he had to burn a bit more petrol from his wider alley (nine) to replicate that pattern.
On the other hand, Munger was able to settle Champagne Finale, who drew better in four, into a nice trail in the box-seat right on the hammer of the hotpot.
Into the straight, on a track all cut up from the rain, Sure Will Do spun out to be the first to greet the judge, but was soon paddling and certainly not travelling like an odds-on favourite should.
Munger for one didn’t waste a second the moment he picked up the signals of distress. He quickly angled Champagne Finale out for his run, and 250m out, the charmed run was already over for Sure Will Do, who capitulated rather quickly to run third.
Carrying only 51kgs and four kilos less than Sure Will Do, Champagne Finale pulled clear to go and score by three-quarter length from Pattaya (Vlad Duric), who also finished in advance of Sure Will Do, with half-a-length the beaten margin. The winning time was 1min 10.82secs for the 1200m on the Short Course.
“To be honest, I thought the favourite would face his toughest race today,” said Munger.
“He was giving my horse weight and the last time he won, the second horse was Day Approach who was disappointing at his next race. So, the last formline was not so strong.
“I also knew he would have to come from around me to lead this time. I was able to track him up and it’s worked out beautifully for us.
“When I saw Pattaya out three wide, the two horses I had to worry about were in my sights. When the field split open, I had the gaps to go through and he was too good.”
Winning trainer Donna Logan said she was actually worried when the rain came pelting down as the five-year-old son of All Too Hard prefers to race on top of the ground.
“I was concerned when the rain came, but because it was the first race that would have a wet track, we got away with it,” said the Kiwi handler.
“At his last race, he went well and it’s good to see he’s gone well again, but as his odds would tell you, we weren’t exactly confident of a win today.”
Champagne Finale has now scored four times from 23 starts for stakes earnings that have hit around the $95,000 mark for the Eden Park Racing Stable.
Though a little downcast after the race, trainer Stephen Gray had already put a line through Sure Will Do’s run.
“He didn’t handle the track. He’ll go for a break and he’ll bounce back,” he said.
Unfortunately, it was not a memorable day for Gray after he saddled another favourite Heavenly Dancer (Duric) who also got beaten, albeit by a narrower margin, in the last race, the $50,000 Class 4 Division 2 race over 1200m.
The Echoes Of Heaven four-year-old plotted a wide course to enter the straight in search of the better part of the track, but Silent Partner (Hakim Kamaruddin) snuck up on his inside to deny him by half-a-length.