There was no black type involved and the race was only worth $100,000, but the clash of group I sprinting Australian icons Takeover Target and Dance Hero over six furlongs at Royal Randwick on Saturday was as good an advertisement for horse racing as could be.
For the record, Takeover Target (Celtic Swing-Shady Stream), the Australian and Japanese group I winner, who had also been a group II winner in England and twice a group I place-getter over there, carried 136 pounds proudly and boldly and beat Dance Hero, a four times Australian group I winner, by a nose. The others were so far back you needed to train your 10 x 50s on them just to see who managed third. It was Pasikatera.
As expected, from barrier rise, Dance Hero (Danzero-Gypsy Dancer) pinged to the front and led clearly with big Takeover Target stalking him a length or so back in second until they straightened for the charge home.
Left flatfooted when Dance Hero actually and aggressively sprinted up the rise getting over two lengths clear with one and a half furlongs to travel, it was only in the final strides that Takeover Target and his exaggerated stride pattern got his head in front to register his 15th career win and advance his bankroll to $4,443,671. An excellent return on the Aus$1,250 that trainer and part-owner Joe Janiak gave for the gelded son of Celtic Swing at a William Inglis & Son Winter Thoroughbred sale at Newmarket four years ago.
You could take nothing away from the true grit and heart Dance Hero displayed, too. He was suffering from equine influenza in August while Takeover Target actually escaped contracting the bug, and he had it won everywhere bar the post. It took a champion, a world champion at that to nail him.
"Tremendous effort by them both, but he (Takeover Target) can only improve on that race," said Janiak. "It cannot get any better than that. I knew he would finish the race off, he is just a great horse." Janiak indicated that he was hopeful of returning to the Royal meeting at Ascot next June but his more immediate target is the $250,000 one mile Villiers Stakes back at Randwick in mid December. An invitation for the $1 million International Sprint at Singapore in May is also on the cards and, as Janiak says, it would break the journey to England nicely.