National Service's big return

ALMOST three years ago, pacing horse National Service came down with the mosquito-borne Ross River virus.

Owner Justin Lane said it was a matter of life and death.

“He got really sick, we didn’t know if he was going to live,” he said.

Yet on Sunday afternoon, the eight-year old gelding showed plenty of life, tearing past his competitors to win the $25,000 2014 Matthews Petroleum Hamilton Pacing Cup.

National Service, trained and driven by Grant Campbell at Great Western, produced a lightning finish to account for Keayang Cullen and Metro Mike in the 2660-metre event.

Keayang Cullen, trained and driven by this year’s Horsham Pacing Cup winning duo Margaret Lee and Glen Craven, finished 2.3 metres behind the Wimmera horse, with Metro Mike trailing by a further 1.3 metres.

Mr Lane, who is also Horsham and District Racing Club’s president, said National Service, who finished fifth in the Horsham cup race on January 5, had been unlucky in previous contests, and that he was happy with the win.

“The last few runs he hasn’t had much luck,” he said.

“He sat three back on the fence and was sort of boxed in for quite a while.

“He managed to extricate himself out, about eight or nine metres behind the leader, then sprouted wings and sprinted past them.

“It wasn’t quite as strong as the Horsham race but it’s a country cup, which is very hard to win, so we’re pleased with it.”

National Service has now won two races from seven starts this season, including a second and a third placing.

“As an eight-year-old, he seems to have hit his peak,” Mr Lane said.

“It was a terrific drive and it was the first time he’d been in a standing start.”

The $16,875 winner’s prizemoney takes National Service’s career winnings beyond $100,000.

“It’s most rewarding when you breed them and see them go on to win a race,” Mr Lane said.

“It’s just amazing to win a race like that.”

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