He dominated the competition in Australia and impressively won his American debut. Now, Lazarus looks to add the $615,000 Canadian Pacing Derby to his stellar racing resume.
The New Zealand-bred stallion races Aug. 25 in the Pacing Derby eliminations at Woodbine Mohawk Park. The final is scheduled for Sept. 1.
"He's a sweet horse, very well mannered and really smart," said driver Yannick Gingras of Sorel, Que. "Those are what make great horses.
"Many horses have speed and can go fast but only so many have the whole package. There's no doubt he's the total package."
Lazarus showed that Friday night, winning the US$325,000 Dan Patch Stakes at Hoosier Park in Anderson, Ind. Standing fourth after starting from the No. 9 spot, Gingras took the 1/2 favourite to the lead after the quarter-mile mark.
The brilliant six-year-old never looked back, covering the final quarter mile in 26 seconds to finish in one minute 48.4 seconds, a length ahead of Split The House. McWicked was third.
"We got to show how good he is without having to put him under any strain," Gingras said. "He hadn't raced since February, he come from the other side of the world and only had one qualifier going into it.
"That was his first run so he's going to get stronger."
Lazarus's win was huge news. It was the lead sports story on one of New Zealand's nightly television newscasts and trended on social media across Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.
Greg Hayes, an Australian broadcaster, was in Indiana covering the race.
Lazarus is the richest standardbred ever Down Under, having earned over US$2.6 million after winning 35-of-45 starts. He was named top pacer as a three- and four-year-old and holds seven track records over multiple distances.
But shifting to North America isn't solely about adding to Lazarus's racing bankroll. Impressive showings here will only further enhance his breeding stock.
Taylor Made Sales and Stallions, a thoroughbred breeding and sales operation in Nicholasville, Ky., purchased Lazarus in May and brought him to North America. Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter was hired to not only train Lazarus to win big races but also chase the mile world record of 1:46.
That standard was set two years ago by Always B Miki, another Takter-trained horse.
"Always B Miki's record is something that might come and it might not," Takter said. "He (Lazarus) was a world champion Down Under and it looks like he has the potential to become a world champion in our country.
"He looks like a horse we can have a lot of fun with this year."
Gingras feels Lazarus has a world-record mile in him.
"Absolutely," he said. "He just got here like 60 days ago . . . he still needs to adapt.
"It's winter Down Under so he had to shed his winter coat and a few things. I think he's adapted really well so far and hopefully stays healthy."
Gingras feels keeping Lazarus healthy is the biggest challenge facing the horse's handlers.
"The horse has talent, obviously everybody saw that," he said. "But many horses from Down Under get sick when they get here.
"Now, knock on wood and I hope I'm not jinxing him, but usually good horses have good immune systems and they adapt much easier than other horses. I feel as long as he stays healthy _ I'm not saying he's going to go undefeated _ I definitely think he's going to prove to be a very very talented horse."
Gingras, a longtime regular driver for Takter, said Lazarus gives him many options in a race. The horse has the burst needed to take the lead early as well as a strong kick to surge ahead down the stretch.
"Before I sat behind him I watched replays of his races and it's not like he couldn't go fast," Gingras said. "He showed bursts of speed Down Under, it's just the driver rarely decided to use it because that's not how they race.
"He's a smart guy and knew what to do so for me that wasn't a worry at all. I figured when it was time to call on him the speed would be there."
Gingras admits he feels some pressure to continue Lazarus's winning ways in North America ,but says it's nothing compared to the weight of expectation on Takter's shoulders.
"If he's good he's going to be good and if he's not there's not much else I can do about it," Gingras said. "I've always thought the horse does the talking way more than the driver.
"Jimmy has to keep him healthy and happy and definitely has more work to do regarding how the horse is going to be, in my opinion."
Gingras won the '12 Pacing Derby with Foiled Again and has no doubt Lazarus is a strong contender for this year's title.
"The best horse in the division leading up to last weekend was McWicked and that horse was in the race and we beat him," Gingras said. "That's not to say he won't turn the table on us, that's horse racing and who knows what can happen, but he beat a very strong field . . . yeah, I definitely think he has a shot."
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press