Don't Stop Dreaming ready for the big time
by Michael Guerin
Champion trainer Mark Purdon is adamant Don’t Stop Dreaming is ready to step up to the big time at Alexandra Park tonight but whether than means beating stablemate Akuta is another matter.
Don’t Stop Dreaming races in open class for the first time in tonight’s $60,000 Lincoln Farms Franklin Cup, the highlight of a New Year’s Eve meeting far smaller than it used to be at The Park.
One of our two star three-year-olds this season (alongside Merlin), Don’t Stop Dreaming clearly has the motor for open class and will eventually be a serious force in that grade but Purdon says it often takes even the best young pacers time to adjust.
“He will make a good open class horse because he is such a great stayer,” says Purdon.
“And he will go well this week, he could even win because while it is his first standing start I think he will handle it well as he is a very sensible horse.
“But Akuta is still the better of our two chances. He has been there, done that.”
Akuta hasn’t raced since surprisingly being beaten by Self Assured in the NZ Free-For-All at Addington on November 17, just days after a brave second to Swayzee in the New Zealand Cup.
Before that he had dominated the New Zealand spring including two huge wins at Ashburton and Kaikoura which could mirror tonight’s 2700m standing start.
On both those occasions he was allowed to find his feet early before launching mid-race and was still too strong for better fields than he meets tonight and he will again have to come from last from his 30m handicap tonight.
Purdon thinks he can do it even though he hasn’t raced for six weeks.
“He was tired after Cup week so we gave him five days off but he had that residual fitness when he came back into work,” he explains.
“So it is not like back in the spring when he needed racing to get fit.
“He has had one trial and a couple of good workouts and I think he is ready and the field doesn’t have the depth of the races he was winning in the spring.
“I think he has that edge over Don’t Stop Dreaming but I do think John Dickie’s horse (Old Town Road) will be hard to beat now he is back home.”
Akuta opened $2.10 with the TAB which looked generous as he could start around $1.60 or $1.70 tonight.
Safely through tonight’s race both Akuta and Don’t Stop Dreaming head to Australia where Akuta will target the Hunter Cup at Melton on February 3.
“I am looking forward to getting back over there, we haven’t done it much since Covid and I have built up a lot of contacts over there over the years,” says Purdon.
Tonight’s other Cup for the trotters has lost one of its key chances with the scratching of Dream Of You so Resolve is now the $1.80 favourite.
She was beaten fair and square by Dream Of You last start but trainer John Dickie believes she will be better tonight and with her last-start conqueror out and only a small field her 20m handicap doesn’t look that daunting.
LAST BETS OF 2023
Best: Akuta (R7, No.8): His $2 fixed odds quote is very fair for the best pacer in the country.
Each way: Kiss And Run (R6, No.14): Took on the open class trotters last start so drops a long away tonight and consistent filly.
Fresh: Christopher Dance (R5, No.6): Stable rate him the fastest of their hot juvenile team and if he can get cover could beat them for speed.