Never have barrier draws been more important.
Yes, we have heard it all before, how the marbles fall today for the Inter Dominion pacing and trotting finals is critical, albeit in slightly different ways for the two races.
Let’s start with the pacing final.
Going into the series many felt it was just a matter of which half-brother won the Grand Final – Leap To Fame or his older sibling, Swayzee.
While they clearly remain the top two seeds, the improvement of Better Eclipse and emergence of Nerano have added them as genuine winning hopes.
Even Speak The Truth and Spirit Of St Louis could be blowout hopes, If the marbles fall their way.
But, at its core, this is still about the two big guns.
The anticipation and suspense about 1.30pm Brisbane time today will be off the charts when we learn where Leap To Fame and Swayzee have drawn.
It’s somewhat surprising there is such disparity in their pre-drawn odds with Leap To Fame at $1.80 and Swayzee at $4.80.
Should Swayzee draw better than Leap To Fame and in a spot where he can work forward and get the lead, he will be favourite.
We’re talking about a horse who humbled NZ’s best at Addington in their greatest race just a few weeks back.
And, although Swayzee has been beaten in his past two heats of this series, he’s done nothing wrong.
It was almost impossible for him to win from as far back as he was on night two and he hit the line well.
Then, last Saturday night his race was basically over 150m after the start when he was nailed to the marker pegs, four-back along the inside. There was plenty to like about the way he rocketed home late for fourth when the race was all over.
All of that said, if Leap To Fame draws to find the front. It’s basically race over.
Grant Dixon’s young star won all three heats and, most importantly, bounced back from a really hard run on night two to look sharp and bolt in last Saturday night.
Dixon insists he’s as good as he’s ever had him.
Nerano’s finishing speed is electric and he will be dangerous with the right draw and a good run in transit, while Better Eclipse is a more mature and stronger horse than 12 months ago.
In the words of his co-trainer and driver, Greg Sugars: “He can win it if he gets the chance to sit off then and have the last crack. He can follow any speed.”
Rarely has a barrier draw had the potential to completely re-shape the betting market like this one does.
The trotting final is a lot more lopsided thanks to the sparkling dominance of globetrotting Victorian gelding Just Believe.
If he was good, winning all three heats before winning last year’s final, Just Believe has been breathtaking this time.
His win last Saturday night left Greg Sugars lost for words at times.
It was as if Just Believe watched Queen Elida return to her best 30 minutes earlier and decided to show her who’s boss.
He’s never looked so arrogant and dominant.
So, for the sake of at least a competitive final, many will hope Just Believe draws the back row.
It probably won’t make any difference the way he’s going, but it could at least create a contest.
Queen Elida has the class and speed to test him with the right run, while Plymouth Chubb and to a lesser extent Ollivici also command respect.
What’s an ideal scenario from a spectator’s stance in today’s draws?
That’s for Just Believe, Leap To Fame and Swayzee to all draw the back row.
The opinions expressed in The Forum are those of the author and may not be attributed to or represent policies of Harness Racing Victoria, which is the state authority and owner of thetrots.com.au.