News & Events

Jarcullembra chasing NZ Cup spot

By Michael Guerin

 Jarcullembra is chasing far more than the lowly winning stake in the feature race at Alexandra Park tonight.

He is chasing his spot in the greatest race of them all.

The Geoff Small-trained pacer is one of the big names in tonight’s handicap pace, which is testament to the fact that leading into a New Zealand Cup the timing of lead-up races is far more important to trainers than the actual stake money on offer.

For that reason the men behind Auckland Cup winner Sir Lincoln and big-race regular Pembrook Benny are willing to start their stars for a winning stake of less than $6000 simply to take a step closer to the peak fitness needed for the Addington classic. But those two are already guaranteed their spot in the New Zealand Cup, whereas Jarcullembra sits outside the magical top 15 in the rankings.

With few lead-up races remaining to the Cup, Jarcullembra really needs to win tonight to leapfrog his way into Cup contention, which would make the next month a lot simpler for Small.
 And he believes he is in the right form to take that step.

“I think he will be better than he was two weeks ago,” Small said of Jarcullembra.

“He was always going to improve with that race and the way he trained on Sunday was a step up from how he trained the week before his first race back.

“So I think he will go better and that should make him hard to beat.”

Jarcullembra chased Sir Lincoln home hard when second, with Pembrook Benny third, in the Spring Cup two weeks ago. On that occasion all three started off the same front line, whereas tonight Jarcullembra gets a 10m start, being off 15m behind compared with 25m for his older rivals.  That gives driver David Butcher options, including moving in front of his key rivals mid-race to get a drop on them. That, along with his natural improvement, makes him the one to beat tonight, especially with the added motivation of needing the win to secure his Cup spot.

Sir Lincoln is a class horse and the logical danger but his chances could depend on how well he steps. In the past he has been hit or miss when off backmark handicaps, sometimes making a flyer, others appearing to almost lose interest and be very slow. If he begins quickly and can get in front of the other favourites before the final lap he will be awfully hard to beat as he still has a risidual fitness advantage after racing over the winter.

Pembrook Benny will be greatly improved by his first-up outing and the small field means he should be able to sit off the speed, which is how he seems the most potent these days.
 While Small is confident Jarcullembra can win tonight, he realises stablemate Zenola Seelster faces a much tougher assignment in the Methven Cup on Sunday. He too is a New Zealand Cup entrant but is so far down the rankings he will need to do something special to make it to Addington.

“We would like to have him in the Cup but it is not the end of the world,” admits Small.

“If he can pick up one of these races then he will deserve a shot at the Cup but if he can’t then there are plenty of good support races around for him.”

Zenola Seelster blazed around Cambridge at serious race speed in a workout last Saturday and will appreciate the grass track at Methven but does meet some class opposition, including Sushi Sushi and Fly Like An Eagle on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the open class trotters take centre stage at Addington tonight when two of the big names return for their seasonal debuts. Comeback king Stig, whose career looked over again when he was scratched from the Rowe Cup last May, will meet Sovereignty in the open trot. Sovereignty has been sent south early by Cambridge trainer Sean McCaffrey and has a good record fresh, although he has generally been luckless when racing at Addington.