A tricky introduction
By Michael Guerin
Hype pacer U May Cullect faces a tricky introduction to the big time of New Zealand pacing.
Because the Southland star has drawn the ace for Sunday’s Hannon Memorial at Oamaru and while that sounds good, it almost certainly isn’t.
The winner of seven of his eight starts, U May Cullect is one of the more exciting pacer to emerge away from the usual age group channels to open class in recent seasons.
Even his last start third off a 50m handicap when resuming saw him pace sectionals that suggest he won’t be out of place in open class and he adds a fresh dynamic to a sometimes stale elite pacing scene.
Sunday is his chance to prove he can run with the big boys, up against proven superstars like Miracle Mile winner Spankem but while the ace draw may sound ideal in a mobile start, it could be niggly in what is U May Cullect’s first full standing start.
He has had two standing starts before and both have been off handicaps, where most horses tend to step well with plenty of room to move. But on Sunday he will have to come into line first and stand the longest with a full front line outside him.
That can be annoying for even the most experienced horses and he is going to need to be very professional to hold his field position against many of the best pacers in the country.
Driver Kirsten Barclay told Trackside TV yesterday the six-year-old pacer had come through his resumption well but admitted the standing start under full front line conditions concerns her.
Spankem looks set to start a dominant favourite on Sunday after a huge second when resuming at Addington last Friday night but the Hannon has drawn the best field of the season so far, with Chase Auckland, Ultimate Stride and A G’s White Socks also entered.
The latter’s trainer Greg Hope has decided to give both his open class trotters Monbet and Enghien this weekend off but has not given up on getting Monbet back to winning form.
The former champion trotter has looked a shadow on himself in two starts this campaign, finishing 23m behind Sundees Son in the Ordeal Cup last Friday night.
“He just isn’t fit enough and I think he might be looking after himself when he is getting back in the field,” admits Hope.
“But he is sound so we are going to press on with him and up his work.
“It is hard for him because he had almost three years away and it is like a rugby player not playing for three years and then coming back at All Black level, rather than playing at club then provincial level first.
“So I’d like to see him get more handicapping relief so we can race him back into form.
“If he runs a few more races like that retirement might loom but for now we are heading toward Addington next week.”