Australian raider descends on Canterbury
By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
Australian trainer Rickie Alchin is hoping Tough Monarch can replicate last year’s first-up winning heroics in New Zealand, just without the pre-race drama.
Driver Anthony Butt gave Alchin heart palpitations the morning of the Gr.1 New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All (1980m) on New Zealand Cup day last year when he nearly missed the race through a flight delay, however, he made it in the nick of time to steer the gelding to victory.
“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen there,” Alchin said. “Anthony rang me earlier that morning and said he was touch and go of whether he was going to make it.
“I could have driven him, but I didn’t want to. As it turned out we didn’t need to go down that line because Anthony turned up. It was just one of those days, it was meant to be. There was a little bit of a hiccup but it all panned out really well.”
With COVID-19 travel restrictions in place there won’t be a repeat episode when Tough Monarch contests the Majestic Son South Bay Trotters Cup (2400m) at Kaikoura on Monday.
The son of Monarchy has been entrusted to the care of trainers Nathan Purdon and Chrissie Dalgety while in New Zealand and Alchin said he has settled in well to his Christchurch base.
“He’s travelled over really well,” Alchin said. “Unfortunately I haven’t been able to travel over with him because of the COVID-19 restrictions.
“Everyone is really happy with him. He got to Auckland on Sunday night to Josh Dickie’s place.
“Josh worked him twice and he couldn’t be happier with him. He got down to Christchurch on Thursday afternoon to Nathan Purdon and he said he is bright and has settled in really well.
“He has only travelled to New Zealand the once, but he is quite well-travelled in Australia. The trips don’t seem to worry him anymore. He is pretty cruisy when it comes to settling in.”
Tough Monarch had three lead-in races in Australia for a win and two placings, including a third-placing behind Pink Galahs in the Gr.1 Bill Collins Trotters Sprint (1720m) at Melton on October 10.
“I am really happy with him,” Alchin said. “I feel the horse is better than he was last year at the same time. He is really on his game.”
That’s an ominous warning for Tough Monarch’s rivals on Monday, a race that wasn’t originally on the cards for his New Zealand campaign.
“Kaikoura wasn’t always on the radar but we thought he needs a run, he hasn’t raced since the Group One down at Melton,” Alchin said.
“Instead of going to the Cup Day trials we thought we might as well go around for some money.”
Alchin is looking forward to tackling the quality field on Monday, which includes $1.80 Gr.1 Dominion Trot (3200m) favourite Sundees Son.
“I have been following Sundees Son quite closely and he is going as good as he has ever gone. It will be tough,” Alchin said.
“I also think a horse who is underrated is Heavyweight Hero. I think his runs have been really good and he is off the front.
“It’s an interesting race and a tough race. My guy is going really well and they will know he is there.”
All going to plan, Tough Monarch will head to Addington Raceway on Tuesday-week to try and defend his Trotting Free-For-All crown, and then back-up in the Dominion Trot on Show Day.
“He will just have the three runs in New Zealand and then come home,” Alchin said.