Akuta - "can win..but not expecting him to"

By Michael Guerin

He's a $1.90 favourite on the fixed odds but champion trainer Mark Purdon has a word of warning for punters as Akuta prepares to take the step into open class.

The sensational three-year-old pacer will take on established elite level pacers in Krug, Alta Wiseguy and Pembrook Playboy in the $30,000 Hannon Memorial at Oamaru on Sunday.

How he performs on Sunday and in his next two starts may well determine whether Akuta will be given his chance in the IRT New Zealand Cup at Addington on November 8.

That would be an extreme rarity a three-year-old starting in the Cup but Akuta is effectively four and would have been rated as such until harness racing moved to a calendar year season, meaning horse now have their official birthdays on New Year’s Day.

So while Akuta would create history if he was to win the Cup, in reality he is the same age as Lazarus when the great horse won a star-studded Cup by 10 lengths in his four-year-old season.

Nobody is suggesting Akuta is Lazarus yet or ever will be but he is uniquely-talented and would appear to have the motor to match what is not a daunting open class crop. Now it is up to him to confirm that.

Purdon thinks he will but says punters may not see the best of him on Sunday.

“He is very well and has been good in his two trials but he is older now and has really filled out and he has a lot of condition on him,” says Purdon.

“He will definitely improve with one run and probably two so I’d be happy to see him run a place as long as he goes well.”

So can the new hype horse of harness racing win?

“He can win because he is very well but I am not really expecting him to,” suggests Purdon.

One part of the road to the New Zealand Cup that doesn’t bother Purdon is Akuta having to get used to standing starts, a transition that has tripped up a number of high-profile Purdon pacers before as they emerged from all-mobile age group racing.

“Right from the first time we started giving him standing start practice at home he has handled it well and did the same in his two trials so I’d be surprised if the stand was an issue.”

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