News & Events

Franco Emirate's on track for NZ Cup

By Michael Guerin

Franco Emirate fans can take it as a good sign the giant pacer won’t be at Addington on Friday night. Because that was always trainer Jim Curtin’s plan if things were going well with the two-time Group One winner.

Friday night’s Canterbury Classic brings together the strongest open class field of the season so far and the only major NZ Cup chance who could have been expected to be in the field, but is not, is Franco Emirate. He has been a huge second in two of his first three outings this season so far but Curtin says the fact the big fella has stepped away safely on those occasions is why he will be allowed to miss Friday’s thriller.

“I was only going to target this week if he kept missing away and he needed more practice,” said Curtin.

“But to be honest he has been even better from the standing starts than I could have hoped for.

“So while he is doing things right and racing well I will take the opportunity to give him an easy week because we have a lot of big races coming up soon enough.”

The first of those in the Ashburton Flying Stakes on October 22, which shapes as the contest to determine the New Zealand Cup pecking order. While there will still be the Cup trial, the Kaikoura Cup and another Addington lead-up race after Ashburton, it is the race which everybody refers to most in the Cup build-up.

But Curtin says regardless of what happens at Ashburton, defending NZ Cup hero Terror To Love is the one to beat at Addington come November 13. Curtin drove Terror To Love to win the Cup last season but because of his commitments to Franco Emirate, Ricky May now steers the impressive stallion.

“He was fantastic winning the Cup last season and he has always been the horse to beat again,” admits Curtin.

“He is a very, very good horse and might have even come back a little better this season.”

While Curtin won’t be a player in the Canterbury Classic on Friday, he does rate himself a sneaky chance of upsetting Australasia’s greatest harness horse earlier in the night. Curtin  partners Dr Hook, who meets champion trotter I Can Doosit with the benefit of a 20m head start in the Canterbury Park Trotting Cup. Curtin knows just how great I Can Doosit is but after a luckless fifth in his comeback race at Motukarara, Dr Hook at least looks capable of testing the champ.

“You have to go into these races confident and put yourself in a position to beat the best horse, which is clearly I Can Doosit.

“Now Dr Hook has a run under his belt our best chance is to probably stay in front of him so that will be the plan.

“But he is very good so we all have our work cut out.”