Central Otago Cup shaping up to be a battle of tactics

by Jonny Turner

Tim Williams hopes he can be on the right side of the battle of tactics set to play out in the Group Three Central Otago Cup at Omakau on Tuesday.

The reinsman knows he will need to be on his game in the first Group race of 2024 when he combines with the talented Ohoka Connor.

Ohoka Connor is precariously placed in the small but select field for Omakau’s big annual feature, having drawn outside a last start Group One winner in American Me despite being a rookie in the open class area.

While Williams would rather it was the other way round, he is well up for the challenge in front of him.

“It is definitely going to be a really tactical race,” the reinsman said.

“We have drawn outside a horse that has won a group one and just run fourth in the New Zealand Cup.”

“It will be interesting to see how it pans out; I am sure there will be a few pushing forward early.”

“The best thing about my horse is that he is versatile; he has worked in his races and gone well, and he is also very fast.”

“So if he is close enough to them, I am sure they will know he is there.”

While he has full confidence in Ohoka Connor’s ability, it is the horse’s lack of experience in free-for-all company, which is Williams’ only slight concern going into the Central Otago Cup.

“He has only had ten starts and he is pretty new to this kind of race.”

“He hasn’t had much experience against these older horses that have had a lot of racing.”

“While he has the ability, it is a different kind of race for him taking on these hardened older horses.”

American Me will be out to add to his brilliant spring and summer form following his recent win in the Group One Invercargill Cup.

The pacer relished the 3200m of his last start but faces a much different test in Tuesday’s 2000m mobile.

Going in the opposite direction looks the key to Smokin Bandar’s chances in the feature trot at the big Omakau meeting.

The grey trotter worked hard to find the lead before fading late when taking on New Zealand’s best trotter in Oscar Bonavena in the recent David Moss Stakes over 2700m.

Reverting back to a 2000m mobile and landing a workable draw would be a much better scenario for the Craig Ferguson trained Smokin Bandar on Tuesday if he was on his game.

And Ferguson thinks the horse is right up to the mark.

“He feels as good to me as he ever has; he is trotting really well,” the trainer-driver said.

“Last start I had to drive him hard over that longer trip and I knew it probably wasn’t ideal.”

“But back to the shorter distance, it suits him a lot better, he can do that work and still run it out strongly.”

Smokin Bandar again clashes with Majestic Man, who ran a strong third in the David Moss Stakes after sitting parked.

Drawing inside Majestic Man (8) in barrier 5 looks a key tactical advantage for Ferguson and Smokin Bandar on Tuesday.

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