The Chariots Of Fire is a race restricted to 4YO pacers that was first held in 1995. Held in NSW the race was held at Harold Park from its introduction through to 2009. With Harold Park’s closure, since 2010 the race has been held at Menangle. The winner will also receive automatic qualification for New South Wales’ premier event, the Miracle Mile.
The race was an invitational event with competitors issued an invite by the NSW Harness Racing Club to compete. In 2009 the format was revised with set qualifying races introduced. The 2017 format saw automatic qualification for the winners of the Hondo Grattan and Paleface Adios Stakes at Menangle, the Gold Nugget from Gloucester Park, the Waikato Stakes in NZ and the Victorian 4YO Bonanza. The remaining positions were on finishing position in the Hondo Grattan and Paleface Adios Stakes.
Total prizemoney on offer in 2017 is $200,000 with the winner to receive $120,000. The 2016 winner was the Mark Purdon/Natalie Rasmussen trained Have Faith In Me, driven by Natalie Rasmussen. The race has been won some champion horses including the likes of Holmes D G (1999), Smooth Satin (2001), Elsu (2004), and Christen Me (2013).
A member of the all-conquering Mark Purdon/Natalie Rasmussen All Stars stable, this gelding is already a 5 time Group 1 winner and beat Smolda in the Auckland Cup who has since won the Ballarat and Hunter Cups and a close 2nd in the Victoria Cup. Winning his qualifier 2 weeks back he was strong and his closing sectionals were off the charts. He has had a huge wrap on him for some time and despite his wide barrier, the short quote appears justified.
The Shane and Lauren Tritton prepared Salty Robyn has gone to another level this preparation, winning all 10 starts in his 4YO season. In those 10 wins, he has rated sub 1.51.0 on four occasions and has rated a career best of 1.49.2. That win places the gelding in elite company, with only last year’s Chariots and Miracle Mile winner having recorded a faster time in the past 12 months. Salty Robyn booked his ticket for the Chariots with victory in the Hondo Grattan, one of the Menangle qualifying races. Young reinsman Chris Geary will take the biggest drive of his career, with the 16 time winner the only other runner under double figure odds.
Lets Chase The Dream booked his qualification with victory in the Waikato Futurity on December 24 when Mark Purdon drove the entire to victory. Luke McCarthy has been booked to drive the 13 time winner that will start from barrier 9. Since arriving in Australia to prepare for his Chariots assault, he recorded a 1.49.9 win at Menangle when working home off a solid tempo. His latest start was against the open-age pacers in the G3 Brian Hancock Cup, proving far too strong. Lets Chase The Dream is the only horse to defeat Lazarus twice, getting the upper hand of his stable-mate in the G1 Cardigan Bay Stakes at Auckland and in the NZ Sires Stakes at Addington, both wins coming in their 2YO term.
Trainer/Driver Nathan Turnbull will be looking to emulate the deeds of his father Steve who was successful in the 2001 Chariots with the Bathurst Bullet, Smooth Satin. Sams The Master earned his start in the race via a 4th in the Hondo Grattan Stakes, finishing in a group of 3 across the line behind Salty Robyn. As a 3YO his season was rounded out with a head 2nd behind Charlaval in the G1 NSW Breeders Challenge Final. This preparation he has two wins and two placings from five starts, the other start being a 4th in the Hondo Grattan. At his final lead up run he worked hard in the early stages to find the front and then set the pace of the 1.49.9 win of Lets Chase The Dream, beaten 3.5m. He draws the coveted inside alley.