Alex Park Preview with Guerin
Best bet: Naholo (R7, No.2): Has been racing in far stronger southern fields and should win fresh up for Steven Reid.
This time: Like A Wildfire (R4, No.4); Finally gets a good draw and should try for all the way win.
Newcomer: M’Lord Mackendon (R9, No.6): Southern race winner up against mainly maidens and from country’s leading trotting stable.
By Michael Guerin
Classie Brigade can bounce back from his shock last start defeat at Alexandra Park tonight but he will have to do it without one of his best mates.
Because regular reinsman Blair Orange will stay in the South Island to drive at Addington tonight to galvanise his lead in the national driver’s premiership which, while still healthy, was cut back by a rampant Dexter Dunn last week.
In Orange’s absence Nathan Purdon, who now works for his uncle Barry will partner Classic Brigade, with Barry having looked after the open class pacer for much of the last month.
Nathan was on Classie Brigade when he returned from a 15 month layoff to win two starts ago but Orange was reunited with him in the $40,000 Uncut Gem last start when he dropped out to run fourth behind race rival tonight in Billy Badger.
“Initially I was very disappointed but when you analyse it they went 2:38 (for 2200m) on a winter night and he was only second up without any hard racing,” says trainer Nigel McGrath.
“So I think he just wasn’t ready for that sort of time, especially in a race where he had to work.“Barry has been looking after him since and you couldn’t ask for a better man for the job so I am sure he will be fitter.”
McGrath said Orange offered to come north to drive Classie Brigade even though it would have meant passing up several winning chances at Addington.
“But I told him to stay down there and keep getting winners for the premiership. I’m sure Nathan will do a great job.”
The race may not come down to Purdon’s skills as much as what unfolds in front of him.
If Billy Badger can step well from his 15m handicap and work around to the lead, leaving Classic Brigade to do all his own work, then it becomes a huge challenge.
But if natural front runners like Juice Brogden or Seaswift Joy get the lead and their drivers are keen to stay there then Classie Brigade could get the perfect drag on Billy Badger’s back and be the horse to beat.
Billy Badger’s trainer Robert Dunn holds a key hand in tonight’s main trot too with Woodstone and Sundees Son both in winning form and with the speed to threaten open class rival One Over Da Moon.
The latter has been favourite for similar races recently but not well suited by handicaps and while the best version of him would win back to the 1700m mobile tonight, Woodstone in particular looks to be racing at least as well if not better.