Akuta brilliant in Hannon
By Jonny Turner
Star three-year-old Akuta unleashed speed and power to take a big step towards the New Zealand Cup with victory in the Hannon Memorial on Sunday.
The pacer gave trainer-driver Mark Purdon a huge reason continue forward with his New Zealand Cup nomination with a narrow but emphatic win over his over rivals in the Oamaru feature.
Usually a winner by much bigger margins, Akuta showed fighting qualities that could come in very handy at the business end of the hard fought New Zealand Cup in his win by a nose over a game Alta Wiseguy.
“The other horse had the perfect run and he was always going to be tough to beat, but I really admire this guy’s tenacity and the way he stuck to it,” Purdon said.
Amid his brilliant victory, sitting outside older rivals before beating them, Akuta stepped away cleanly in his standing start debut.
And that only strengthens the early hopes that the three-year-old will be seen in November’s New Zealand Cup.
“I was happy with him, the main thing was that he was safe and he made a good beginning,” Purdon said.
In frightening news for owners of three-year-olds in the South Island, Purdon won’t immediately aim Akuta at another New Zealand Cup lead-up race.
The trainer instead has his eye on the Lazarus Stakes, named after his former two-time New Zealand Cup champion.
However, races like the Ashburton Flying Stakes and the Kaikoura Cup remain on the Akuta’s agenda.
“There is a three-year-old race for him coming up at the end of the month, so we will go that way if it goes ahead.”
“There are other races like Ashburton and Kaikoura that we have options on.”
Alta Wiseguy again boosted his New Zealand Cup credentials running a very creditable second to Akuta following his recent New Brighton Cup win.
The Steve and Amanda Telfer trained pacer made ground on Akuta when speeding along the inner, coming up a nose short at the line.
Pembrook Playboy, who was fresh up on the back of two soft trials, fought on for third after leading throughout.
Purdon effectively turned the Hannon Memorial meeting into a one man show, taking out three of four feature races.
He and training partner Hayden Cullen produced Queen Of Diamonds for a Nevele R Fillies Series heat win, while Purdon also drove I Dream Of Jeanie to victory in the inaugural running of the Jasmyn’s Gift Stakes for trainer Sam Smolenski
The remaining feature victory went to the Cran and Chrissie Dalgety stable with Watermelon Sugar in the Oamaru Juvenile Stakes, which returned after a 25-year hiatus.
The last winner of the race in 1997, Hilarious Heather, was prepared by the trainers’ father and father-in-law, the late Jim Dalgety.