The 2018 New Zealand Trotting Cup has more twists and turns than an episode of Criminal Minds.
Reigning back-to-back Cup champion Lazarus is gone, sold to America and since retired. One-time 2017 NZ Cup favourite Heaven Rocks also now resides in the USA. Miracle Mile and Auckland Cup champ Have Faith In Me is stateside and two Australians – Soho Tribeca and Chicago Bull – both went amiss as they were aimed toward this great race.
Finally, 2017 NZ Free-For-All winner and warm favourite for this year’s Cup, Ultimate Machete, was withdrawn this week with what is considered a minor issue.
We’ll get into this year’s race momentarily but one thing worth mentioning is Cup Day itself. Christchurch erupts the week after our very own Melbourne Cup as Harness Racing takes centre stage for the $800,000 (New Zealand Dollars) event.
I was lucky enough to attend the Cup at Addington Raceway last year and it’s truly a magnificent day at the races. The fashion is as good as you’ll see at Flemington, the hospitality and off-track entertainment first-class and the racing is always competitive and exciting. Even with Lazarus jogging in as a $1.40 pop the build-up was intense and the post-race memorable thanks to the aura of the great horse.
Addington Raceway is easy to get to thanks to direct flights from Melbourne for less than it costs to get to Brisbane. It’s a day any racing and fashion fan will love!
Anyhow, time to get stuck into this magical test of stamina and star-power;
NEW ZEALAND TROTTING CUP (3200m, Group 1, $800,000)
1 THEFIXER (Natalie Rasmussen for Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen)
My top pick! He’s been looked after perfectly and raced sparingly. I saw him in person win the Junior FFA on Cup Day last year which he backed up with a tough win on the Friday. He was winding up as a logical Cup favourite before a foot issue halted his progressed and saw him drift considerably in the market.
I jumped on after his impressive win last week which he should take improvement from. He will take some serious running down in front should he lob there.
2 CRUZ BROMAC (Mark Purdon for Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen)
The surprise Len Smith Mile winner has gone from Dean Braun to Kevin Pizzuto to Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen. It’s been worthwhile, too, with him winning the 3000m Methven Cup off a 30m handicap thanks to a magical Rasmussen drive.
He’s a shade shaky from the tapes but Mark Purdon is now steering so he will get every chance. He would be very dangerous trailing hot speed either on or off the pegs.
3 EAMON MAGUIRE (Blair Orange for Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen)
It’s been a great move sending this horse to the Purdon-Rasmussen duo. He won the four-year-old Emerald at the Jewels meeting but he’s clearly fourth of the All Stars hopes. He’s speedy but did appear a shade plain at his most recent run in the Kaikoura Cup.
5 DREAM ABOUT ME (Tim Williams for Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen)
She’s the favourite with most corporate bookies but it’s interesting to know where she gets to in the run. She could lead, she could be behind the leader or she could be one-one but none seem more likely than the other. All three are good scenarios, but I’m only lukewarm on her winning chances.
13 TIGER TARA (Todd McCarthy for Kevin Pizzuto)
His run of amazing draws in big races is over. Kevin Pizzuto was openly upset when his star entire drew 13, meaning he will step behind shaky standing starter, Cruz Bromac.
Should Todd McCarthy get him away cleanly, he needs to get to the death ASAP and hope it’s a slowly run race where he can dictate then dominate from the 800m. Unlikely.
4 STAR GALLERIA (Tony Herlihy for Steven Reid)
Those who know say his owners were offered a monstrous sum for this horse which – at the time – was correctly declined and he seemed a potential NZ Cup winner.
Fast forward to Cup week and boy o boy, even his trainer Steven Reid admits he’s in a world of pain. Could he step to the front and take a trail on an All Stars gun ?
6 A G’s WHITE SOCKS (Ricky May for Greg & Nina Hope)
Was racing in ripping form but his past two have seen him finish ninth on both occasions. He’s $21 because his best is capable but his past couple will put people off.
8 JACK’S LEGEND (Zachary Butcher for Barry Purdon)
Is he a born winner ? Harsh because he owns a Group 1 Jewels victory but for such a quality animal, he only possesses six career wins and he has raced away from the All Stars for plenty of his career. Has won $332k thanks largely to that Jewels win but also to last year’s second-placing to Lazarus in the NZ Cup.
17 ALTA ORLANDO (Not Notified for Robert Dunn)
Has run third behind TheFixer, Dream About Me and Eamon Maguire at his past three starts. Better horse than his 70/1 odds suggest but overcoming starting from 17 would be something.
FORGET ABOUT IT
7 BILLY BADGER (Not Notified for Robert Dunn)
Many of the big guns have won more in one race win than this guy has won in fifty race starts. TAB have him at $151 but you can write your own ticket with my book.
9 CAPTAIN DOLMIO (Nathan Williamson for Robert Dunn)
Lightly raced seven-year-old who’s won or placed in 22 of 31 career runs. He’d need an incredible amount of luck at the start and then some more towards the end but he’s not the worst to include in the wide exotics.
10 FORGOTTEN HIGHWAY (Samantha Ottley for Mitchell Kerr)
Been racing in excellent form and does look a progressive horse. Has only saluted the judge on five occasions and earned less than 100k.
11 LOCHARBURN (Sheree Tomlinson for Kevin Chapman)
Racing fairly and has mixed it up with the big guns on many an occasion. An earner of more than $400k, he knows what it takes to run above his pay grade.
12 JAMES DEAN (Emergency 1) (Leo O’Reilly for Leo O’Reilly)
First emergency and with the way things have been going, he’s a good chance of getting a run. However, he’d be cricket score odds.
14 LETSPENDANITETOGETHA (Jim Curtin for Robert Dunn)
Another 100/1 pop who will run out the back and hope for his Steven Bradbury moment.
15 QUEEN BEE BARDON (Emergency 3 – Craig Thornley for Ben Waldron)
Third emergency. Despite the attrition rate we’ve seen, has to be unlikely to gain a start.
16 ZADAKA (Ross Houghton for John Dunn)
Lowest assessed participant in the race. Says it all. 40 starts, just six wins. Write your own ticket.
18 BAILEYS KNIGHT (Emergency 2) (Not Notified for Jack Harrington)
Second emergency. Unlikely to run. Cannot win either way.
CUP DAY SELECTIONS
R2: (7) Having The Faith from (8) / (16) / (13)
R3: (10) Winterfell
R4: (6) Sicario from 2 / 3 / 4
R5: (8) Just Dance
R6: (4) Speeding Spur from 13 / 1
R7: (4) Jesse Duke from 12 / 3 / 15
R8: (8) Turn It Up from 9 / 11 / 13
R9: (13) Bettor My Dreamz
(5) Dream About Me
(13) Tiger Tara
(2) Cruz Bromac
R11: (7) Kings Landing
R12: (4) Bettor Be Gold from 12 / 2 / 11
R2 N7 Having The Faith $2.90
R4 N6 Sicario $5.50
R12 N4 Bettor Be Gold $2.40
Addington puts on a magnificent afternoon of racing for arguably the premier day of Harness Racing anywhere in this part of the world. Last Tuesday was pretty memorable when the best handicappers in the world went at it and this Tuesday promises to produce an equally magical day.