Confidence Akuta will be much improved at Addington tonight
By Michael Guerin
Champion trainer Mark Purdon is confident Akuta can bounce back from being a failure to the punter’s pin up in the $100,000 Airpark Canterbury 3YO Flying Stakes at Addington tonight.
Purdon has his usual dominant hand in the age group features on one of the biggest nights of the harness racing season, albeit with his male juveniles facing a serious northern raider in the unbeaten Merlin in the $200,000 NZB Standardbred Harness Million.
But for all the talent on show tonight, including superstar trotters Muscle Mountain and Sundees Son in the XCM Sport Canterbury Park Trotting Cup, Akuta will attract the most eyeballs.
A Jewels and Derby winner he is rated the heir apparent to the NZ pacing throne but that quest suffered a blow when he was a well-beaten fourth in three-year-old company last start and he meets a similar field tonight.
Purdon says a stricter diet and less paddock time will see Akuta strip fitter and more potent.
“I just don’t think he was fit enough last start and I think with all the spring grass coming through he had got away on us and gotten too fat inside,” said Purdon.
“So he has less time in the paddock now so he can’t eat as much grass and he is getting less in his feed bin at night.
“While I think this run will also bring him on further I am confident he will go better.”
Akuta will need to win tonight to still be considered a serious chance in the IRT NZ Cup and Purdon says he will head forward from his wide draw to put horses between himself and last-start conqueror Republican Party.
He won’t have that option with Don’t Stop Dreaming, his unbeaten juvenile and best hope in the NZB Standardbred Harness Million, as he has drawn the outside of the second line.
“It is going to be a tough race because I can see Merlin getting across the ones inside him on the front line easily enough,” said Purdon.
“So my horse might have to come sit parked outside him and while he might be able to win doing that it would be easy. It will be a good race.”
Another unbeaten juvenile in Millwood Nike will be unbackable to win her NZB Standardbred Harness Million for the fillies but Purdon says stablemate Luvstruck seems happier back home than she was during her recent Auckland campaign and she could get close to the glamour filly tonight.
Away from the age group racing the Harness Racing Unhinged Handicap Pace is a beauty with far more New Zealand Cup relevance than probably expected.
It boasts in-form depth from stablemates B D Joe and Allamericanlover and Heza Sport while there are question marks over Kango and Krug after their last start failures so there could be some market or even NZ Cup rankings shuffling after tonight.