Akuta 80/20 to miss NZ Cup
By Michael Guerin
Champion trainer Mark Purdon has given the best tip yet his star three-year-old Akuta will miss the IRT New Zealand Cup by allowing him to bypass next week’s Ashburton Flying Stakes.
That Flying Stakes was supposed to be Akuta’s acid test on the way to the Cup at Addington on November 8 but he will now miss next Monday and head to the Kaikoura Cup a week later.
Purdon says while that doesn’t definitively end his NZ Cup campaign he is now 80-20 not to start in the iconic race.
“I had a good think about it over the weekend and he is much more likely not to be there than starting in the Cup,” said Purdon.
“The Cup is now shaping up stronger than it looked likely to be two months ago and the two best Australians now look like they are going to be here.
“So that adds another layer of depth to the race and we also have some of the emerging open class horses like B D Joe stepping up so the temptation to go to the Cup is not as strong.
“We will have Spankem and Self Assured in against Rock N Roll Doo at Ashburton next Monday and I think that will give all of us a good indication of where we stand.
“But it could be a very hard race in itself and he (Akuta) doesn’t probably need that just yet.
“So we think the Kaikoura Cup the following Monday will be an easier option and if he comes out and goes enormous there and things don’t pan out for some of the favourites after Ashburton, we can always change our minds and go to the Cup.
“But as of now the Cup is not his main aim and that will only change if a lot of things fall into place in the next two weeks.”
While Akuta got into second favouritism for the Cup a month ago Purdon was always adamant a decision wouldn’t be made until after he raced at Ashburton. Now the fact he isn’t racing at Ashburton is the greatest pointer.
The Flying Stakes will still be the definitive lead-up to the Cup with Self Assured, Spankem, South Coast Arden, huge mover B D Joe, Alta Wiseguy and exciting northerner Old Town Road set to defend the local honour against Victoria Cup hero Rock N Roll Doo.
The latter arrived in Canterbury over the weekend and looks set to be joined in the NZ Cup by fellow Aussie Group 1 star Majestic Cruiser, who resumes at Menangle this Saturday night.
“He could have one or two lead-up races over here (Sydney) first but we are really excited to get him back to New Zealand,” says driver Cameron Hart.
Hart and trainer Jason Grimson brought Majestic Cruiser to New Zealand in April where he was a close second to Self Assured in The Race by Grins before they beat him in the Messenger at Alexandra Park.
“I think he is going better now than he was back when he was in New Zealand, I think he is stronger.”
Akuta is now out to $15 for the Cup, with Self Assured and Rock N Roll Doo the $3.40 equal favourites, a huge change for the Australian who was $26 just three weeks ago.
B D Joe, who was brilliant at Addington last Friday, is the $9 equal third favourite with defending champion Copy That.
While Ashburton will be the focus of the harness racing weekend there will still be major Cup week players on show at Alexandra Park where there is an open class pace and Dominion Trot favourite Bolt For Brilliance will have his second start of this campaign.