All bad for Ultimate Sniper's opposition
By Jonny Turner
The star three-year-old’s last trip to Addington saw him gallop wildly out of contention in the Flying Stakes a month ago.
The sight of Ultimate Sniper drifting back through the field was a shock for punters and gave connections of his opponents some hope the incomparable three-year-old could be vulnerable in the $200,000 Derby.
A report from his co-trainer Mark Purdon should be enough to dash those hopes.
Purdon, who trains the colt with Natalie Rasmussen, said he would be the one that would be shocked if the same mishap occurred again tomorrow night.
“I would be shocked if he did that same thing again.”
Exactly why Ultimate Sniper went off stride has been a mystery to the All Stars camp.
Purdon said the horse is fit and well, which meant they have put the incident behind them.
“I think we will just put a line through it. It is something he has never done in the past and it is uncharacteristic for him.
“It is nothing we can really put our finger on so we are just going to turn the page.”
Tomorrow night’s race will be the second time Ultimate Sniper goes in to a classic race after going roughly in his lead up.
In a different kind of incident, the horse paced roughly on the final bend in the Northern Derby Prelude before his brave win in the Northern Derby a week later.
Ultimate Sniper has another Derby-winning factor on his side ahead of tomorrow night’s race – the Nat factor.
The three-year-old will reunite with Natalie Rasmussen, who has never tasted defeat when driving the star pacer.
Purdon said Rasmussen had been pleased with what she had seen in Ultimate Sniper’s work since his Flying Stakes mishap.
“We have been happy with his work and Nat has driven him the last couple of times and he has trained really nice.”
Jesse Duke appears to have closed the gap between himself and his stablemate as this season has progressed.
He was left in Ultimate Sniper’s wake in the Sires Stakes Final earlier this season but in the Northern Derby the pacer got to within a head of his arch-rival.
However, any thought that Jesse Duke has closed the gap on his stablemate was quickly dismissed by Purdon.
“No, not really, he is not in Sniper’s class. He is not far away, but he is not in his class.”
What Purdon was happy to confirm was he agreed with most assessments of the race – Jesse Duke appeared to be the second-best horse in the race.
An even line up of contenders outside the Purdon-Rasmussen duo will seek Derby glory tomorrow night.
A key part of assessing which one of those pacers could be best placed to challenge them could be determined by gate speed.
Ultimate Sniper’s lack of high gate speed could see drivers on the front line rush across to secure the lead with the hope of handing up to Ultimate Sniper when he comes around.
Supreme Dominator has the first option on leading from barrier 1, but has not shown large amounts of gate speed in his recent racing.
Double Rocket, Global Domination and Robyns Playboy have all shown high gate speed and could potentially rush out of the mobile.
Memphis Tennessee and Zinny Mach also possess good gate speed, though the former has drawn barrier 8 and has been restrained from wide draws in his recent starts while the latter likely won’t get a start as the race’s second emergency.
A stack of talent has drawn on the second row and like Ultimate Sniper, could be looking to work in to the race in the middle stages.
Jesse Duke starts from the back row in barrier 13, with his fellow Sires Stakes Final, Heisenberg, drawn inside him.
- Jonny Turner, NZ Harness News