McGrath pair eye NZ Cup


Canterbury trainer Nigel McGrath is pleased with Classie Brigade (11 wins) and Ears Burning (seven) as they eye the Rangiora workouts next week in their build-up to the $800,000 New Zealand Cup on November 14.

Invercargill Cup winner Classie Brigade has not trialled or raced since May 19, bypassing the Harness Jewels, and the five-year-old son of Bettor’s Delight has come back in great order.

“He looks good. He’s quite a big boy and has come back in great order and has no issues,’’ said McGrath.

“We’ll sort out some lead-up runs before the cup and then we might look at some suitable races in Australia.

“Probably not the (Perth) Inter-Dominions … it’s a good time to go to Australia when the better ones are in Perth.

“He’s a genuine cup horse but realistically the Purdon pair (early cup favourites Lazarus and Heaven Rocks) are hard to beat. But he deserves his place in the cup and there is a long way to go … if you’re not in you can’t win.

“He’s got the second fastest time over two miles in history. He is a stayer so it’s an ideal race for him.’’

Classie Brigade, who will be driven by Blair Orange in the NZ Cup, clocked 3:53.5 when winning the Invercargill Cup (3200m) from 30 metres behind in late January, sizzling over his last 800m in 55.3sec.

Only defending NZ Cup champion Lazarus has gone faster over the ultimate staying trip, recording 3:53.1 last November when taking out the Addington classic.

McGrath’s last NZ Cup runner was Chilli (12th) in 2008, but five-year-old Grinfromeartoear entire Ears Burning, who he will drive, could give him two runners this year.

 “He’s coming up good and does seem a bit stronger this time in. He won the Northern Southland Cup (2700m) which is a long way from the NZ Cup, but he’s done a good job for me. It would be nice to have two runners in there.’’

McGrath said maiden mare Turkish Trousers, the equal-favourite on fixed odds, was late scratched at Rangiora on Sunday due to illness, but would probably line up at Methven on Sunday.