Can Copy That go back to back?
By Michael Guerin
Punters look set to jump aboard the Copy That rollercoaster in the IRT New Zealand Trotting Cup at Addington today but the ride may not be too scary for a very simple reason: the race is in New Zealand.
The defending champion will start favourite in the $600,000 iconic race even though today’s race is much deeper and more layered than the Cup he led and won last season.
In Australian stars Rock N Roll Doo and Majestic Cruiser there are two outstanding proven Group 1 raiders, arch rival Self Assured is back and there are newcomers in Akuta, Old Town Road and B D Joe who have fast feet and fancy formlines.
But for all the depth of the great race, Copy That has the most ways to win it and the least concerns.
If the best Copy That turns up, that is.
Since he won the Cup last year Copy That has been to Australia twice, kicked a rail and broken a bone in his leg, started in just nine races and won four of them but finished unplaced four times as well.
When he is good he can be great, but he has suffered three abject defeats in 12 months, with signs of blood in his airways after one such failure at Melton in September suggesting that could be one reason behind the rollercoaster dips.
Dig a little deeper though and a more telling fact emerges: of his nine starts since winning the Cup the five in Australia have yielded just one win but back here in New Zealand, his four starts have earned three wins and a massive second to Old Town Road after giving him 20m start.
Copy That seems a far happier horse in his homeland which could be for any number of reasons from enjoying our racing style more to something as simple as less dust.
Or maybe, like many stallions, he just likes being where he feels like the boss.
Whatever the reason, the recent enormous turnaround between his battling form in Victoria last month and his two staggering long-handicap wins in the north suggest the real deal Copy That can turn up at Addington today.
The latest of those wins off 70m behind at Cambridge may seem to prove little but Copy That’s amended time obliterated the national 2700m record and will ensure he has the respect from rival drivers to give pilot Blair Orange options today.
In front and getting his own way, Copy That could unwind a sub 55-second last 800m which would have any horse further back than midfield out of play at the end of 3200m.
But that could still leave one of Rock N Roll Doo, Old Town Road, Akuta or Self Assured close to him and with the speed, or in the Aussie’s case brute strength, to claw past him.
Rock N Roll Doo looks the most likely rival to trouble Copy That, having thrashed him both times they raced recently but that was against the Aussie version, better known as Diet Copy That
A big, strong rolling stayer who will have learned plenty from his debut standing start gallop in the Ashburton Flying Stakes, Rock N Roll Doo is good coming from off the speed but even more scary sitting parked with a head of steam up.
He may have to sit parked to win today but just might be good enough to do that.
Self Assured is a curious case because he has the winning record of a champion and our best ever driver Tony Herlihy but trainer Mark Purdon suggests his spring allergies have left him below his best.
He could make a fool of all of us for letting him get out to $8.
You know what you are getting from the likes of Spankem and Pembrook Playboy and so far that hasn’t been good enough to win a Cup, but Akuta, Old Town Road and B D Joe might be, depending on luck, tempo and how their brains and hearts handle the most searching test in harness racing.