Catch me if you can
By Jonny Turner
The New Zealand Messenger Championship could be another case of catch me if you can for the rivals of the seemingly uncatchable Spankem.
No horse in Australasia has been able to run down the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained four-year-old when he has led this season.
That has seen Spankem collect the Kaikoura Cup, Miracle Mile and Taylor Mile trophies.
Drawing barrier 3 in the Messenger Championship means Rasmussen and Spankem should have first option on the lead.
That firstly depends on driver Brent Mangos being happy to hand it over in barrier 1 on $51 chance, Mach Shard.
That scenario sets up a possible repeat of last week’s Taylor Mile, where Spankem beat his stablemate Turn It Up, who had had to do more work when sitting parked.
Purdon said there was so little between Turn It Up and Spankem, who again dominate race betting, that last week’s result was simply a case of the horse that got the better run beating the other.
And he is expecting exactly the same this week.
“I think it will come down to the run and I think that was what it did probably did come down to the run,” the trainer-driver said.
“They are both class horses.”
“They have come through last week’s run really well, I trained them [on Tuesday] morning and they both trained really well.”
Last week, Spankem (barrier 2) had a barrier draw advantage over Turn It Up (barrier 5) and they are in the same scenario again for the Messenger Championship.
Purdon can only see that natural advantage Spankem has being upset by mid-race pressure that could tip the race in Turn It Up’s favour.
“Things swing in Spankem’s favour again from the draw.”
“I think this week we would need to see Spankem to do some mid race work or some early work to turn things in Turn It Up’s favour.”
“But, I think if he gets things his own way, he will take a lot of pegging back.”
Spankem has led in four races this season and the tactic has seen him bank more than $700,000 in Australasian earnings.
The reason he is so effective in the lead is simple according to Purdon.
Spankem simply sticks his neck out and tries as hard as he can.
“He is a very good trying horse and he is very hard to get past when he is in front.”
TAB bookmakers did not seem to see the race playing out similarly to last week’s Taylor Mile when opening the Messenger Championship markets.
They opened Turn It Up a $1.70 chance to avenge his defeat, while Spankem was at $3.60.
Strong support for a Spankem double up saw him move in to $2.70 odds, yesterday.
Rival drivers may wish to test exactly how tough Spankem’s front running-resolve is in Friday night’s feature.
Hail Christian, Chase Auckland and Turn It Up all have the gate speed to challenge for the early lead.
All Stars pacer, Chase Auckland, showed he was a genuine threat to his more fancied stablemates with one of the runs of the race in the Taylor Mile.
The four-year-old powered home, after being hopelessly positioned in last pacing on the home turn, to take fourth.
Hail Christian ran last in last week’s feature when fading on his three-wide bid in the home straight.
He and On The Cards, who failed to capitalise on a perfect run in the one-one, last week, look outside hopes this week.
Though he looks little chance of being a factor at the start of the race, last week’s seventh placegetter, Henry Hubert, could add some mid race pressure
Trainer Robert Dunn said that driver John Dunn would be highly likely to do put Henry Hubert up on the speed in the middle stages.