Ferguson driver to follow at Ascot Park
By Jonny Turner
New Zealand Cup contender Robyns Playboy’s standing start manners will be key to his chances of winning the ‘Battle Of The Playboys’ at Ascot Park on Saturday.
The Hannon Memorial runner-up will clash with Pembrook Playboy as the pair take another step towards the second Tuesday in November in the Northern Southland Trotting Club’s 2700m feature handicap pace.
Robyns Playboy must give his main rival a 10m headstart, with Pembrook Playboy starting in front of him on the 20m mark.
The way the 5yr-old has been beginning in his recent starts has driver Craig Ferguson hopeful Robyns Playboy can negate his 30m mark early in Saturday’s race.
“He has been beginning super his last couple, if he can get away pretty quick and tack on the back of them he is probably going to have to make a midrace move at some stage,” the reinsman said.
“But as long as he begins good he shouldn’t be too far off them.”
Robyns Playboy appears to have a race fitness edge, with tomorrow’s event being the fifth run of his campaign.
Pembrook Playboy has just had one start back from a spell, missing a clash with Robyns Playboy when scratched from the Hannon Memorial.
While his rival was sidelined, Robyns Playboy gave his New Zealand Cup hopes a massive boost with an excellent second placing behind Classie Brigade.
“I was real happy with him up there,” Ferguson said.
“It was just sort of a walk and a sprint home, but he stuck to the task pretty well.”
“Hopefully that has brought him on a wee bit – that first run against those good ones.”
Pembrook Playboy was withdrawn after being slightly off his game in his training leading up to the group 3 feature.
Trainer-driver Nathan Williamson has been happy with his 4yr-old since then and thinks Pembrook Playboy is fit enough to be highly competitive on Saturday.
“I am really happy with where he is at,” Williamson said.
“He is forward, he is every bit as forward as he was when he won at Winton and he has probably had the benefit of that run.”
The two ‘Playboys’ take on six other runners, including fellow New Zealand Cup aspirant, Vintage Cheddar, who starts from the 40m back mark.
How R K Finn handles the tight turns of the Ascot Park track will be key to his chances from barrier 7 in Saturday’s graduation final.
The 4yr-old switches to the smaller circuit after impressively winning his first and only start from Ferguson’s stable at Winton last month.
“I really like him, he seems to be quite a nice horse and he seems to have come on well since his first up win,” Ferguson said.
“With the preferential barrier draw he is drawn wide and it is his first time around the tight track, that is going to be his only concern, I would say.”
Ferguson also starts Sherwood Maggie from his stable in race 6.
Robyns Playboy is one of four horses Ferguson drives for trainers Ross and Chris Wilson at tomorrow’s meeting.
Ferguson also pairs with Annie Fitz (race 2), Von Art (race 3) and Robyns Shadow (race 5).