Pizzuto not afraid of mighty Lazarus
KEVIN Pizzuto refuses to join in the chorus of accolades for Saturday night's $500,000 Group 1 Hunter Cup favourite Lazarus.
While many rival trainers and drivers openly rate Lazarus one of the sport's all-time greats, Pizzuto is busy plotting how to beat him with Tiger Tara.
"He's a great horse, but we've beaten him before and we've got the draw (gate one) to do it again this week," Pizzuto said. "I respect Lazarus, but I'm not afraid of him.
"We're not going there to take the easy option and handover to try and run second. We're holding the lead. We're going there to win."
Pizzuto dismissed continual references to the fact Lazarus sat outside Tiger Tara and beat him in the Perth Inter Dominion final at Gloucester Park on December 8.
"And we led and beat him 10 days before that at Bunbury," Pizzuto quipped. "The Perth final turned into too much of a sprint home, which suited Lazarus more than our horse who is an out-and-out stayer.
"I'm also sure Tiger Tara is sharper now than he was by Inter Dominion final time.
"His work (Wednesday) was better than he's ever shown is before.
"I've never had him better so we're going there to lead, make it a real staying test and if Lazarus or anything can run past us, then we're simply not good enough."
Despite Pizzuto's confidence, all the money at TAB continues to pour in for Lazarus. He was $1.70 just before Tuesday's barrier draw, $1.40 after landed an ideal gate three and has been backed-in again since the $1.30.
In contrast, Tiger Tara and local champ Lennytheshark have eased from $7.50 to $9.
Lennytheshark's driver Chris Alford was buoyed by Pizzuto's declaration Tiger Tara would be holding out Lazarus and leading.
"Of course that helps us," he said. "We're drawn right behind Tiger Tara so if he leads, we should be get a good run on his back and hopefully have the last shot at them.
"Lenny felt fantastic winning last Saturday night. It wasn't who he beat, if was how he felt and the times he ran. The official timing system didn't work, but people have clocked him from the replay and say he ran faster than Lazarus did setting the track record in the Victoria Cup a year ago.
"Lazarus is a wonderful horse and he's going to be mighty hard to beat, but Lenny will be so much fitter for his two runs back and if he gets the soft run and has the last crack at them, he'll be very hard to hold out."
In other tactical news, trainer Shane Tritton surprised somewhat by ruling-out nippy beginning Yayas Hot Spot from the early speed burn.
"He's right out in barrier six and there is too much speed inside us to take the risk from there," he said. "We tried it in Perth and learnt from it because when the gamble doesn't come off, it takes so much out of your horse. And we've still got a Miracle Mile ahead of us after this week."