They score up behind the mobile for the start of the Race 1 First 4 rort at the Creek on Saturday nigh, and as they approach release point this is how it looks like playing.
Ale Ale Kai hasn’t led in a a race since it drew the 1 marble back in September against walkers, and being weak-gutted needs a soft sit, so it is expected to ease back off the gate and look for the 3 pegs spot, which former BOTRA man and big time owner Jerone Niuwenberg reckons is a plum spot, but my stats say is definitely not.
Paul Diebert on Ale Ale Kai does exactly as predicted.
Innocent Crocker has more gate speed than Ale Ale Kai and the speed maps show it as certain to cross from gate 2, but it has lead just once in the past year – when it was drawn in the pea – and it pulled its head off that day and collapsed in a hole in the straight, so it’s certain to take a sit once it hits the fence.
That is exactly what it does too.
So far, so good.
Drawn in 3 is Slippery Jade, driven by Nikki Chalk, who has learned how to read a form guide from her Dad, who prepared a horse to win an Inter-Dominion and two New Zealand Cups.
Most punters have skimmed the despised outsiders form, and simply assumed that being a plodder it will be outgunned early and slot back midfield or worse, but Nikki Chalk has her old man’s work ethic and she does the replays too. So armed, she knows that the two drawn inside her will her hand up, and also knows that the 150-1 shot she’s driving is a grinder whose best recent performances have been from the front, but that it’s not the type of pacer who can sit and sprint from the lane off a slow pace.
So Chalk has figured that her only hope of winning is to get to the lead, and if she can do so and then stack them up, she might just be a sneaky chance, and she’s right.
That’s exactly what she does after Ale Ake Kai eases out at the get go, and Innocent Crocker crosses and its driver Chantal Turpin immediately puts on the brakes.
Sweet As in the 4 is a weak-gutted walker, and no driver has ever let it lead in a race, just in case the wind blows it over and it cries, so its a certainty to go back from the middle draw, and does.
Just Rokin in gate 4 isn’t a leader either, not ever.
While of course it is nowhere near the same class as these champs in ability, it is still cut from the same cloth as the Gammalites and Pure Steels of the pacing world, which means that it’s a bit of a crazy brave weirdo who always runs its best races when cutting the breeze without cover in the death.
Form analysis and reasonable logic therefore suggests that if Chalk can get her roughie to the front, Noddy (Pete McMullen) on Just Rokin will only pressure her for long enough to keep any hope and hitters drawn wider out and force them back, and then he will ease and try to control the race from outside her, and she can try to put on the brakes and hope that Slippery Jade might whack home hard enough to beat him.
What Nikki Chalk has hasn’t counted on though, is the McMullen clan’s plan to gang up on her and the Dixons, for reasons well beyond her knowledge or control. Her old man Bunger might be mates with some of the older members of the Mac/Dawson crew, but blood is always thicker than water, and loose lips sink First 4 ships, and this is business and there is 100k plus in the pool.
Chalk drives hard to get Slippery Jade to the lead and succeeds.
Noddy comes out hard on the fave Just Rokin too, and when he gets to the chair he takes hold.
Grant Dixon’s horse Goddess Jujon is drawn the 10, so was never going to be a contender for the lead and as was always inevitable, it goes back.
(Whoever it was that reckoned Clip Clop Kev had a bit of start with the barrier draws is kidding themselves; just take a look at the draws for race 1 over the past 12 months)
LG life’s good, and the world order is as it should be according to the speed maps of blokes like me, and drivers like Bunger’s girl who do them.
The lead time is only average at best at 37.2.
Chalk drops anchor, and so does McMullen outside her.
Ho ho ho thinks Archie, who has had a batch of First 4’s with Just Rokin on top, with Slippery Jade as a rover to run 1 to 4, so at this stage I’m going the early crow and shouting out to Maggie asking how many carats she wants in the diamond ring I’m going to buy her in the morning, but she’s not listening cos she’s distracted by some Zombie attacking her and her cartoon friend Lydia on the Skyrim game that she’s playing intently on the X-Box.
Meanwhile, having done her speed maps right and getting the early job done by keeping Just Roking out and Dixon back, Nikki Chalk drops starts to stroll through the first quarter to save petrol and give Slippery Jade a slippery chance to slip home, but before she has even gone halfway through the first two, to the surprise of everyone except the few in the know, Noddy puts the pedal down on Just Rokin and surges hard at her.
Nikki Chalk clicks up Slippery Jade and tries to hold him out, but as I said earlier poor old Slippery is a grinder not a sprinter, and has about as much speed off a standing start as a latter day Lyle Plumb, so it can’t match Just Rokin’s crazy mid-race sprint and Noddy crosses to the fence in front of her.
“WTF is going on here?” I’m thinking, watching the race from out in the rainforest, but of course I’ve been watching these boat races for years now, and I’ve twigged immediately, so it’s a rhetorical question.
I rip up my tickets and hurl them in the bin before they even hit the bell with one to go.
Maggie and Lydia stop for a wee break, and as they’re walking by the old girl asks over her shoulder “What were you saying about carrots?”
“I will show after the last” I reply, wanting to cut the conversation dead so I can keep my eyes on the action.
Maggie grins broadly. So she should too, she discovers to her delight after the trot.
Back to the non-vegetable action, and having gone to the lead against all odds and in defiance of Just Rokin’s usual racing pattern, Noddy takes them througfh the first quarter of the last mile in a ridiculously fast 28.6 seconds.
Then he puts the brakes on and goes through the second split in a moderate 31.6, and for a moment you fantasise that he might be trying after all, but he’s not, he’s just sucking Moses into coming wide from the back so his sister can pop her horse out in front of him from the 1-1 at the 800 mark and run a shepherd, which is exactly what happens.
The second Dixon goes and Narissa Noddy blocks him, Noddy slams down the accelerator and urges Just Rokin to go so fast that it runs a suicidal 27.3 for the third quarter, even though its under no pressure at all from Demeter driven by his mate and former stable employee Reece Maguire, who is in the death.
By about now I reckon that Nikki Chalk must have worked out what was going on too, and if the young lady has a grasp of the ‘Strayan language even half of that held by her Dad, I reckon the back straight would have been a cacophony of blue.
They approach the turn, and of course the fave collapses. This ain’t his way of racing at all.
He takes Chalk back with him, which is totally unfair given all the effort that she’s put into to work out the race and plot her tactics, but oh well, this is the trots and she was carrying the huge extra weight of Archie’s First 4 tickets, so such is life.
Demeter hung on to win from the death after Noddy dropped the rest of the pack with his crazy third quarter scorch, and Maguire went with him as the wingman.
Noddy’s sister Narissa ran 2nd.
Moses Dixon’s 2nd favourite, which the Supermacs well and truly screwed, ran 3rd.
Ale Ale Kai did what horses who sit three back the fence and get a lucky run do and raN 4th.
The desperately unlucky Nikki Chalk and Slippery Jade ran 5th.
My saver as it as a rover with the field for 10 percent was gone too.
Just Rokin battled away into sixth going faster backwards than it did forwards, Noddy’s wife Chantal Turpin’s horse Innocent Crocker ran 7th after being dragged back when Noddy collapsed onto Chalk, Sweet As finished in its usual spot in second last, and the Dixon stable second stringer St Kilda Beach, who Paul Diebert knocked arse over tit in the straight and caused to gallop, ran last.
The First 4 paid 800 plus bucks and there were 120 tickets on it, and a whole lot more with the corporate bookies too, although not quite enough to trigger the in-built alarm bells in their computerised betting algorithms. It’s always good to have an inside man, or three.
The Stewards demonstrated how much they really haven’t got a clue about harness racing by putting poor Nikki Chalk through the griller, when they should have given her a gold star and a form student of the week award.
To show a bit of balance they asked Noddy about his drive too.
He told them he attacked the leader senselessly at the 1400 because he was worried Just Rokin was gunna choke down, and then had to work harder than expected in the third quarter due to the challenges on his outside.
Not a single stipe thought to ask him which horse exactly was pressuring him, given that there none, or why he regarded a 31.6 second quarter as working hard, when most trot folk regard sections like that as a smoko.
Noddy took it a bit too far by telling the integrity clowns that Just Rokin races best when forward, and has a tendency to drip the bit when passed, but no-one thought to ask him whether it actually races best when in the death and racing a leader one on one to the line, so we will never know his opinion on the matter.]
I guess we’ll just have to wait a week or two until he sits in the breeze again and wins.
The Stewards claimed to have considered the mare’s previous performances and racing pattern, and were satisfied with Noddy’s explanation.
I will take tens on from anyone silly enough to lay it to me that they never even picked the form guide up at all, let alone look at a replay.
Hurry up and get back here Terry Bailey.
This joint is going to the dogs.