News

Favourites facing tough draws

By Michael Guerin

A series of tricky draws for the superstars in the richest races at Alexandra Park on Wednesday have stopped harness bookies in their tracks.

So much so they have delayed opening betting on the premier card until today as they try and work out how punters will react.

Auckland’s biggest day harness meeting of the year features two group ones, a group two and a $200,000 listed Sales Series race and none of them have seen the early favourite draw well.

The group ones have been the cruelest, with Stent drawn one on the second line in the $80,000 National Trot, where luck comes into play as he tries to clean sweep the December group trots in the north.

And facing an even more difficult task is exceptional pacing filly The Orange Agent, who will have to come from a second line draw in the $150,000 Alabar Sires’ Stakes Championship.

While she will still open favourite when the markets come out around noon today, bookies can’t afford to have her red hot because that would mean big name fillies like Classical Art, Linda Lovegrace, Democrat Party or Supersonic Miss start to get out to long odds.

“The draws really haven’t helped us sort things out,” admits TAB bookie Richard Wilson.

“There are now some really tough markets to line up and work out how punters will react.”

The $200,000 Sales Series Pace should still see long-time futures favourites Have Faith In Me and Hug The Wind at the head of the markets but they have lost what appeared to be an iron grip on the race.

While they have front line draws, Have Faith In Me at three and Hug The Wind at six, brilliant beginner Mighty Flying Major now holds the key to the race after drawing the ace.

He will lead for certain and then Blair Orange gets to decide whether he relents to one of the Purdon-Rasmussen runners or stays in front, potentially gifting the trail and passing lane to Express Stride, who follows him through.

It will be an interesting tactical battle in one of our richest age group races.

Ohoka Punter steps up his comeback after a huge return win at Cambridge last Wednesday when he takes on open class opponents like Franco Nelson and Pembrook Benny in the $40,000 Franklin Cup.

With Beyond The Silence and Lancewood Lizzie off the front the race won’t be easy for Ohoka Punter (10m) or Franco Nelson (20m) in a race recent open class double winner Gold Ace was allowed to miss to concentrate on mobile racing.

He will head to Cambridge for the Flying Mile on January 9, a race he won two years ago, where he is almost certain to meet Adore Me.

Meanwhile, the prognosis is looking much brighter for dual Breeders Crown winner Bit Of A Legend after a dramatic end to Friday’s Ashburton Cup.

The star pacer galloped and pulled up with a leg in the air in the race, looking to have broken down badly but he was showing no signs of soreness the next day, leaving trainer Cran Dalgety relieved but perplexed.