Chuckles ready for last laugh in Bluff Cup
By Jonny Turner
An excellent last start performance behind a Harness Jewels bound star has Chuckles in line to have his connections smiling at Ascot Park on Saturday.
The Craig Ferguson trained five-year-old comes into the Bluff Cup after giving leading Southland three-year-old Ragazzo Mach a good run for his money in their last starts at Winton.
Just how close Chuckles got to the Nathan Williamson trained three-year-old came as a pleasant surprise to Ferguson.
“He surprised me a wee bit just how close he got to Ragazzo Mach,” the trainer said.
“I think Nathan’s (Williamson) horse did need the run a wee bit and might not have quite been at his best, but I was certainly pretty happy with my guy.”
Though he meets a tidy and even line-up in Saturday’s 2700m handicap there are no Ragazzo Machs to go up against, meaning Chuckles should prove hard to beat.
Stable junior driver Mark Hurrell takes the reins behind the pacer on Saturday.
After producing both an excellent win on Diamonds Day and a strong last start performance while leading, Hurrell’s tactics look easy to predict.
“He has only had one stand for me but he stepped away pretty good,” Ferguson said.
“I don’t think there should be any trouble stepping him away.”
“Obviously there is always a wee question mark, but I think he should be right.”
“I think we will probably look to see where he settles and then if we can, certainly he is pretty hard to run down in front, so that might be the plan.”
Ferguson drives Sherwood Maggie in race 6 after she produced a tidy first-up third at Ascot Park.
The five-year-old must bring her manners if she is to back up that run from barrier 12 on Saturday.
“I probably drove her a bit upside down, I didn’t plan on leading but she wanted to run the gate a wee bit,” Ferguson said.
“She was probably a run short but she went quite well.”
“She’s always shown a little bit of ability at times and then just had things go wrong and a lot of bad luck.”
“She is not really comfortable in a field just yet, she gets herself a bit wound up and that probably shows in her formline.”
“At home in she works good and she has been good in her workouts.”
“It is just going to be how she goes from the draw and if she does things right.”
Ferguson lines up Celebrating, who galloped out of contention behind the gate in his last start, in race 5.
The trainer-driver put his last start gallop down to a combination of factors and hopes the pacer can do things right on Saturday.
“He drew the outside of the gate and he had to chase and he just got a bit scrambly in his gait.”
“It was his first run off the unruly and he can make mistakes.”
“We thought he would be better off in the draw to get a better chance of winning the race.”
“But he just caught us out a little bit, not knowing him that well.”
“On Saturday, I think we have got a bit better idea of how to get him to score up and make sure he paces.”
“It will be fingers crossed.”
An epic maiden winner at Wingatui, Celebrating has shown he has a big motor and is well capable of featuring in race 5 if he behaves.
“He has had a couple of good workouts since we have had him down here.”
“First up he was off the unruly and sat last and they only went slow but he made up good ground.”
“Last start we were reasonably confident and thought he would have been hard to beat on his work but obviously threw that away.”
“Certainly on his work and what he is showing us he is going alright.”
Celebrating stars from barrier 6 on Saturday.