Canterbury Classic not certain for Self Assured and Akuta

By Michael Guerin

Two of the hotshots of New Zealand pacing are facing a race against time to be ready for their first assignments of their new campaigns, the Canterbury Classic in exactly a month.

And that could leave both Self Assured and Akuta potentially heading to grass track racing to begin their road to the New Zealand Cup.

Co-trainer Mark Purdon has had a bigger role to play in his partnership with son Nathan over the last week as Nathan spends a few weeks campaigning horses in Victoria. That started successfully when High Energy won the Shepparton Trotting Oaks as a $1.28 favourite last Friday night.

While Nathan has been running the stable day to day for the last few months before heading across the Tasman, Mark is now in charge and he has welcomed back both Akuta and Self Assured, as well as unbeaten filly Millwood Nike, from their time on the water walker in the north.

“They all look great and I think Millwood Nike has strengthened up, she has a bigger hind quarter on her now,” he suggests.

“I wouldn’t say the two boys look much different because they both went out in good shape so they have come back to us looking great too.”

While they are back doing hoppled work Mark says both Akuta and Self Assured could be at least two or even three weeks away from the trials and that raises doubts about what was being suggested as their campaign debuts, the $60,000 Canterbury Classic at Addington on September 29.

“I am not certain they will make it there,” says Purdon.

“They might still but it could be a hard race to kick off in with just one trial so we will see how the next few weeks go. But it is not guaranteed.”

If Akuta and/or Self Assured were to miss the Canterbury Classic the only other open class target they would have in the following two weeks in the South Island would be the Methven Cup on October 8.

That would not be something totally radical for Self Assured as he has started in the Methven Cup twice before, for a second to Spankem in 2020 and third to Smiffy’s Terror last year. Akuta has never raced on grass.

If they miss the Canterbury Classic and head to Methven the pair would have a seemingly ideal 15 days before their next logical assignment, the Ashburton Flying Stakes.

While heading to Methven fresh up would mean kicking off their season over 3000m on the grass, which sounds daunting, the Canterbury Classic is still 2600m against possibly better opposition and Akuta did win fresh-up over 2600m in the Hannon last September when still a three-year-old.

But there will be plenty of trainers, both heading to the Canterbury Classic and/or Methven, who will be following with great interest the All Stars first steps of the season with the glamour pair.

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