Day At The Track

Star must earn his US stripes

09:14 AM 09 Aug 2018 NZST
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Lazarus N qualifier,Harness link
Lazarus N and driver Yannick Gingras winning qualifier with a last half in 53 last quarter in 25.3
Adam Strom Photo

The man who will take the reins behind Kiwi pacing hero Lazarus in his United States debut on Saturday (NZ time) is warning his fans to temper their expectations.

Although leading reinsman Yannick Gingras says Lazarus can become the best aged pacer in North America that doesn't mean he will win the US$325,000 Dan Patch in Indiana this weekend.

Lazarus has drawn the outside of the gate at barrier nine in the mile against some of the best free-for-allers in the US and while early markets have him as favourite the reality is he faces a massive task.

Not only will he have to give proven 1:48 milers a start but he is taking the locals on at their own game — flat out mile racing.

"Everybody in racing over here is excited to see him and I am excited to drive him in his first US race," says Gingras, who won the Hambletonian Oaks for the fifth-straight time last Saturday.

"But I think it might be good for people to dampen down their expectations because this is only his first race over here and he has only had one qualifying run.

"I think later in his campaign he can become the best free-for-all up here because while they are all good horses there is no superstar in this crop like an Always B Miki.

"And in three or so starts I might be able to drive him how I like and win, whereas this week it might not be like that."

Lazarus set tongues wagging with his 1:48.6 qualifying effort at The Meadowlands two weeks ago and Gingras, who finished third driving another horse in the major free-for-all on Hambletonian Day last Saturday, says had Lazarus been in that race he could have won.

"I have no doubts had he raced last Saturday he could have gone 1:47.5 and I think he will be able to get down to 1:47 [for a mile] here this summer. Speed won't be a problem for this horse, he is plenty fast enough but he still has to get used to the racing up here."

Lazarus oddly finds himself in the same position on Saturday as his last start in Australasia, drawn the outside gate over a mile. That was the Miracle Mile at Menangle in February and, affected by a virus, he never looked comfortable recording the worst performance of his career.

He was sold to his US-based owners for a record price soon after and while new trainer Jimmy Takter has clearly honed Lazarus for mile racing he has always been at his best when racing on the speed to utilise his stamina, not asked to come from the back.

While Hoosier Park has a long straight with outstanding and race fit free-for-allers like McWicked drawn inside him, Lazarus may need to be clearly better than him to beat win, an extraordinarily big ask in his first US start.

So while Kiwi punters may want to support Lazarus in the race to be shown live on Trackside around 1.30pm on Saturday, it might make more sense to do so with the heart rather than the wallet this weekend considering he could start odds-on.

Michael Guerin chats to Lazarus driver Yannick Gingras before his first race in the US.

Michael Guerin

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