News & Events

Fly Like An Eagle needs to perform at Kaikoura

By Michael Guerin

Fly Like An Eagle’s New Zealand Cup campaign hangs in the balance at Kaikoura today. He could easily win the $50,000 Kaikoura Cup and not only seal his start in the New Zealand Cup on November 13 but even move into second favouritism. But it wouldn’t surprise anybody if he galloped away for the third standing start in a row, cost punters a fortune and trainer Mark Purdon pulled the pin on his Cup bid.

The problem for punters is deciding which one of those two scenarios is most likely to occur. Fly Like An Eagle has spent most of this year surprising punters, one way or another.

A champion juvenile, he failed to impress in his early starts back as a three-year-old but then downed freakish stablemate Smolda in the New Zealand Derby. A poor NSW campaign and disappointing Jewels followed before he turned the corner and was outstanding in the Victorian winter, dominating the Australasian Breeders Crown. Even after that he had looked more comfortable as a sprinter than a stayer until he produced a stunning performance to overcome an early gallop to win the Methven Cup on grass two starts ago.

All of a sudden he was among the NZ Cup favourites and seen as a genuine open class force. Until a week ago when he blew the start of the Ashburton Flying Stakes and learned that at the highest level such mistakes are punished.

So which Fly Like An Eagle will turn up today?

With the unique, congested nature of the Kaikoura track and its proximity to the crowd, it has always been a test for any horse whose manners are suspect. That, coupled with the fact Fly Like An Eagle is going to be jammed up in the middle of the front line at the start, suggests punters would want around $4 to be backing him for any serious amount today, even if he is the most in-form horse in the race.

Purdon has plenty of back-up though, with Highview Tommy, Sushi Sushi and Major Mark also in the 2400m stand. Highview Tommy is the ideal type for Kaikoura, with his bullet proof manners and equine tractor racing style but he has lacked spark at the end of his races this campaign.

So that could leave Sushi Sushi as Purdon’s best chance. He has been luckless for a variety of reasons this season but looks suited to Kaikoura as he likes to race handy and the pace should be on.

Choise Achiever, as a Hunter Cup winner, comes in well under today’s conditions while the big improver could be Jarcullmebra. He got too far back on the inside in the Flying Stakes but made some ground and could be the swooper at good each way odds.

There will be no decent odds about the favourite in the day’s main trot though, which sees champion I Can Doosit chasing his 15th win on end. He was allowed to miss Ashburton last Monday after being flattened by his staggering Addington win a week earlier but Purdon reports he is back to his best. That should see him down one of the Paul Nairn stablemates of Dr Hook or Stig.

The other feature today is the $50,000 Sales Series Pace for the older horses, which has become one of the gems on the harness racing calendar. It features a rare case of déjà vu for punters, as Our Boy Su, who won last year’s race but was relegated again meets the horse who was promoted past him, Statesman.