By Michael Guerin

Franco Ledger has gone from New Zealand Cup outcast to third favourite in nine days.

And that leaves the Southland pacer as one of the worst under the odds chances in the history of the Addington classic.

The five-year-old produced almost a carbon copy of his win at Addington 10 days ago when he came from back on the markers to storm home over the top of Franco Emirate in the $25,000 Hannon Memorial at Oamaru yesterday. He all but blew his finishing burst, throwing in an awkward step at the 100m mark but gathered himself in and grabbed Franco Emirate on the line after the latter had established what should have been a winning break at the top of the straight.

“That is the first time he has ever thrown in a rough stride like that,” said Hunter.

“But he corrected himself really quickly and I put it down to the speed he was travelling at.”

That speed was a sub 55 second last 800m, which capped a 3:13.6 time for the 2600m standing start, the territory of good horses only.

Franco Ledger is  now rated an $8 chance to win the New Zealand Cup with the TAB, partly because of his form and also because of a $5000 fixed odds Cup bet on him last week.
Just two weeks ago he looked a a forlorn chance of even making the Cup field, so low was he on the initial rankings. Clearly the stocky pacer has improved since last season and trainer-driver Hamish Hunter has done a superb job to get him ready so easy in the season, especially with few rivals of his class in Southland to trial against.

But he has still yet to beat the real Cup chances - Auckland Reactor, Terror To Love, Sir Lincoln, Gold Ace, Caribbean Blaster and Sushi Sushi - so Franco Ledger being the $8 third favourite is ridiculous. Unless he comes out and wins the Ashburton Flying Stakes in six weeks he will be paying $12-$15, maybe $20 on Cup day. So why take $8 so far out? The answer is, quite simply, don’t.

His form does suggest though that a Cup win of some sort is not beyond him this season and that Southland has one of its better open class prospects in recent seasons, with Franco Ledger undoubtedly having manners, speed and a serious will to win, as well as a very capable guiding hand in Hunter.

As good as the winner was yesterday, Franco Emirate, who is $9 in the Cup market, was slightly disappointing and really should have won if he is going to be a serious Cup threat.
The jury is still out on his stamina rating and his will to win a brutal battle when he has to do any work. Mah Sish, who tracked the runner-up throughout after another messy standing start, was a solid third, while Major Mark was adequate but isn’t a Cup winning type pacer just yet. And his well-supported stablemate Sleepy Tripp galloped and lost all chance at the start.

Later in the meeting former northern trotter Murcielargo produced a stunning southern debut for new trainer Phil Williamson, winning after losing 100m at the start.