Does Copy That lead and win the Auckland Cup?
By Michael Guerin
Copy That may be one of the great leaders in New Zealand harness racing history but trainer Ray Green is certain he doesn’t have to be in front to win Friday night’s $180,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup.
The $2million earner clashes with arch rival Self Assured in the wonderful race and usually, not all the time but usually, when Copy That gets in front of Self Assured he beats him.
Both his New Zealand Cup wins came under those circumstances when Copy That started from barrier 8, stayed out of trouble wide early and worked his way to the front, unable to be run down.
He has also led to win a Race By Grins and this season’s Ballarat Cup and many of his earlier career Group 1s came when he led so his record in front is imposing.
Ironically when he last raced in the Messenger on April 28 he led early but driver Blair Orange chose to relent to Self Assured when he challenged at the 1800m after Copy That had endured some hard runs in previous weeks and as it turned out, once Self Assured got in front of him there was no stopping him either.
There is so little between the pair if either lead this Cup they would become the horse to beat but there were fighting words from rival trainer Arna Donnelly, whose says last Friday’s Roy Purdon Memorial winner Kango may he asked to stay in front if he finds the lead.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened either,” admits Green.
“Kango is at the top of his game and I could see David staying in front but that wouldn’t worry me.
“I think our horse will be just as potent coming from off the speed and the only place I don’t want to see him parked.”
All of that may come down to standing start manners early and that early scramble has lots of possibilities, with Kango, Heza Sport and Copy That all fast beginners, while Self Assured has improved in that aspect but it would surprise to see him lead from barrier 1.
Copy That hasn’t been seen in public since that second to Self Assured in the Messenger last start, with Green having the six-year-old’s joints given their routine maintenance since but that meant he was unable to race or even trial.
“He is really well and worked good this week so I am not worried about his fitness.
“He seems as good as he was heading into The Race by Grins but whether he is as sharp as he was for the New Zealand Cup last year is hard to say.”
If Copy That is to be driven off the speed it is a new string he has added to his bow late last year with three huge wins in the off handicaps as long as 70m and he has shown a real willingness to sprint hard off cover.
Green of course has a surprise addition to his Cup assault in The Big Lebowski, who created a mammoth impression winning his Alexandra Park debut by 11 lengths last Friday.
“He is a really good horse but I’ll admit the way he won last week surprised me,” says Green.
“He has improved since, he worked really well this week and his heart rate came straight down below 70 again so he is a very fit horse so it will be interesting to see how he goes.”