Akuta back with easy trial win

By Michael Guerin

The mega clash of the three-year-olds next season is still very much on and came more sharply into focus when Akuta returned to the trials on Tuesday.

The Harness Jewels hero was given an easy time by co-trainer Mark Purdon against older horses in a trial at Ashburton on Tuesday but pleased the boss with how he ran home.

“I let him settle early but they were going a bit slow so I took him to the front and he won quite well,” said Purdon.

“It was only an easy first outing and he will return to the trials next Tuesday and then we will look for a race for him.

“We are hoping to get one against his own age and ideally would like to have two or even three races before his first big aim at Alexandra Park on February 12.”

That is the Harness Million on what will now be one of Alexandra Park’s highlights of the new season, especially as it could pit Akuta against his Sires’ Stakes winning stablemate Franco Indie.

Purdon confirmed the pair are on target for the race and Derby clashes afterwards and that could start a great rivalry considering the quality of their group one wins so far.

Franco Indie was incredibly brave winning the Sires’ Stakes sitting parked and while neither have raced at Alexandra Park yet Purdon doesn’t expect that to be an issue.

“They are both very good horses, maybe Akuta has more all round strengths but that can change with young horses and they are both very exciting,” he offers.

Purdon and his All Stars team have a better idea now of where their stars will head and it is looking less and less likely Self Assured will be seen in Australia early in the New Year.

“He is spending three weeks on the water walker and then he will be aimed at racing in the north so Australia is looking unlikely.

“We will probably stay home and concentrate on the races leading into the Auckland Cup and maybe the new Cambridge (slot) race.”

Oscar Bonavena will head to the Trotters Mile at Methven next week and is also likely to bypass Australia while Shan Noble is one being labelled for a possible northern campaign that could include the Franklin Cup on New Year’s Eve.

Already in the north and being aimed at the Queen Of Hearts is Bettor Twist, back from a brave Breeders Crown carnival.

“She is staying with Mango until we get up there and that is the logical target for her.”

Mark says the All Stars will have less Australian raiders than usual for Victoria and New South Wales, with Cup week double winner Its All About Faith one who could earn a shot at the Chariots Of Fire if he maintains his rejuvenated form.

“We may not have big teams there but we could take horses like Self Assured to Queensland in the winter.”

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