Favourite gets dream draw for $1m Race by Grins

By Michael Guerin

New Zealand’s richest pacing race at Cambridge on Friday has been set up for some do-or-die early drama.

Because after favourite Don’t Stop Dreaming drew seemingly perfectly at barrier 2 many of his rivals will realise unless they chance their arms early they may be handing him the $1million Race by Grins.

Don’t Stop Dreaming was a stunning third in the lead-up Flying Mile at Cambridge last Thursday and has, along with arch rival Merlin, developed into one of the two heir apparents to the throne of New Zealand pacing.

With a horse likely to be happy to take a trail in Kango drawn barrier 1, if Don’t Stop Dreaming can hold those to his outer at the start of the 2200m mobile and stroll to the front the slot race race could be over.

So somebody somewhere on the front line is likely to roll the dice early hoping they can cross him inside that crucial first 200m and change the complexion of the race, maybe flipping that advantage.

The most likely horse with the speed, gait and confidence to try could be Merlin, who is at the peak of his powers and tends to beat Don’t Stop Dreaming when he gets in front of him and doesn’t when he can’t.

Add in Old Town Road (3) and Queensland star Speak The Truth (7) and there are enough moving parts to the early stages of the race to at least put doubt in punters and drivers' minds but what is certain is that Don’t Stop Dreaming will now start a warming favourite.

With emergency Republican Party drawn 6 but unlikely to get a start the slot race looks set to haven a seven on the front line and three on the second line configuration.

The night’s other great race, the $600,000 TAB Trot also looks certain to have some early fireworks but ultimately be dominated by the Australians after they monopolized the best draws.

Kiwi-owned but Victorian-trained mare Queen Elida had to drawn the ace (because she is a mare) but alongside her she has three fellow Victorian speedsters in Arcee Phoenix (2), Just Believe (3) and Callmethebreeze (4).

There is no doubt Just Believe has been the best trotter in Australasia in the last 16 months but both Arcee Phoenix and Callmethebreeze have beaten him in recent starts so Just Believe may not be accorded the respect he would have a few months ago.

Put Arcee Phoenix or Callmethebreeze in front of Just Believe after 200m and the race will look vastly different than if Just Believe is working to the lead.

But the thick end of the stake in New Zealand’s richest ever trotting race should be heading back to Australia as the two best local hopes Muscle Mountain (8 but to start from 7) and Oscar Bonavena (1 on the second line) did not fare well at Monday night’s barrier draw reveal.

The fields for Friday night’s two huge stakes slot races at Cambridge are:

R6 7.52pm: TAB TROT, $600,000, 2200m mobile.
1: Queen Elida
2: Arcee Phoenix
3: Just Believe
4: Callmethebreeze
5: Midnight Dash
6: Mystic Max
7: Eurokash (em)
8: Muscle Mountain
9: Oscar Bonavena (1 second line)

R9 9.10pm: Race by Grins, $1million, 2200m mobile

1: Kango
2: Don’t Stop Dreaming
3: Old Town Road
4: Mach Shard
5: Merlin
6: Republican Party (em)
7: Speak The Truth
8: Better Eclipse
9: South Coast Arden (1 second line)
10: Self Assured
11: Sooner The Bettor.


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