Auckland New Year's Eve Preview

by Michael Guerin

There may be only one question punters need to ask themselves before betting in tonight’s $150,000 Dunstan Sires Stakes Final at Alexandra Park.
Could any of True Fantasy’s rivals have done what she did last start?

The answer to that is almost certainly: no.

True Fantasy didn’t even win her latest outing at Addington, finishing a brave second to Laver but that was in a field of tough older pacers, headlined by the winner who has been a brute in major open class race this season and even savaged South Coast Arden in the New Zealand Free-For-All.

It is odd and probably not fair True Fantasy even had to race Laver while she is still only officially a two-year-old, although like all NZ harness horses her birthdate has officially been out back until tomorrow when the new season starts, so her actual age has been in a state of limbo during the transition.

Paperwork aside, the reality is True Fantasy was enormous last start and deserves her hot favouritism tonight.

“Not many fillies would have done what she did last start, when you consider Laver went on to win the Ashburton Cup at his next start,” says True Fantasy’s trainer-driver Mark Purdon.

“She is a very good filly and she has trained on well up there where Brent Mangos is looking after her for us.

“So I have no doubts she is the one to beat but she will still need the right run. She has gate speed though so she can go forward.”

If True Fantasy is able to lead the race should be as good as over and sitting close to the speed getting a comfortable she should also win but she was beaten here sitting parked in May when Dance Till Dawn led and wouldn’t hand up and the passing lane horse grabbed a brave True Fantasy late.

That type of run would seem her biggest threat again, with Dance Till Dawn drawn inside the favourite at 3 and if she leads it could potentially give True Fantasy backers some nervous moments.

Add in Remember Me, who would love an early war up front and the very tough and talented pair of First Rose and Lady Of The Light and it is a superb centrepiece for the restructured New Year’s Eve meeting.

While it isn’t the richest race of the night the $50,000 Lincoln Farms Franklin Cup is the most intriguing, having the feel of a good old fashioned handicap where the attitude of the drivers on the front line could determine the chances of superstars like Krug and Bettor Twist off the 20m mark.

Krug is the best performed horse in the race but has been iffy at best in standing starts and comes in her very fresh, having not raced for seven weeks.

Even at his peak he could face sitting back for at least the first half of the race and then driver Blair Orange will have to make a decision whether to take off knowing the lead will almost certainly not be there or swoop late, which has never been his style and rarely works in major Alexandra Park pacing races.

Purdon realises Bettor Twist faces the same problem and even as the last-start winner of the Queen Of Hearts she faces a brutal task against the older horses tonight.

“We all know how good she is and even before she went to Australia in November she was trialling well against the good open class horses,” says Purdon.

“But it does look a tricky race and a lot might depend on the tempo.”

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