A gift for Spankem
By Michael Guerin
A dream week with barrier draws has gifted Spankem an unlikely shot at harness racing’s Horse of the Year title.
Because he might now start favourite in Friday’s $100,000 Messenger at Alexandra Park and victory there would embellish his claims for a title which looks more open than usual.
Spankem bolted away with last Friday’s Taylor Mile after being able to lead favoured stablemate Turn It Up and has the best draw (three) of the favourites again this Friday.
While the Messenger is 2700m compared with last week’s Mile, Spankem still looks the likely leader and then controls his own destiny, whereas stablemates Chase Auckland (barrier four) and Turn It Up (five) will need some luck to get to the marker pegs and in front of Spankem.
Last week’s declaration from trainer Mark Purdon that Spankem would lead the Taylor Mile and not hand up to Turn It Up saw the market flipped on its head and Purdon’s pre-race comments this week will again have a crucial impact.
But there is more than just the first place prize up for grabs on Friday as Spankem is making a late, unlikely bid for the Horse of the Year title.
Thefixer would have been the early favourite for that after he won the New Zealand Cup, always the most important race for voters, but while he has won a Ballarat Cup and Miracle Mile prelude since he has been beaten plenty of times.
Turn It Up has the Auckland and Easter Cups next to his name so a win this Friday and in the Jewels in June 1 would put him in the HOTY box seat.
But if he wins on Friday then Spankem’s credentials get a further boost.
He has already won the Miracle Mile in 1:47.7, the prelude a week earlier, the Kaikoura Cup, two Inter Dominion heats and last Friday’s Taylor Mile. Add the Messenger this week and his claims become hard to deny.
Just 30 minutes earlier the Trotter of the Year title looks certain to be decided in the $150,000 Rowe Cup which hosts the horses who have won all the previous group one trots held in New Zealand this season.
Speeding Spur, who has drawn the second line on Friday, is the only trotter to have won two group ones this term and is joined by Marcoola (Dominion), Massive Metro (National Trot) and Sundees Son, who won last Friday’s Anzac Cup.
Another group one victory for any of that quartet could seal them the trotter’s title, with Sundees Son the only one with a further group one opportunity this season in the four-year-old Jewels at Addington on June 1.
Earlier in the night Sweet On Me will be red-hot to bounce back from her first defeat last Friday in the Sires’ Stakes Championship while the battle between Enhance Your Calm and Lotamuscle highlights the $100,000 Trotting Derby.