Fitness only query in star clash

By Jonny Turner

Logic says Muscle Mountain has an edge over Sundees Son in the champ’s return to racing at Addington on Friday night.

But most punters know all too well that logic doesn’t apply to champions.

New Zealand’s horse of the year returns to racing under handicap conditions and will immediately square off with an arch rival Muscle Mountain over 2600m.

Sundee’s Son returns for the Robert and Jenna Dunn camp with one trial under his belt while the Greg and Nina Hope trained Muscle Mountain has had the benefit of both a race and a trial.

Tactics won’t be as straightforward as in their usual clashes with both horses starting from the 30m back mark with the rest of the field in front of them.

Earlier this month, Muscle Mountain produced a slick first-up win over Mataderos who went on to win last week’s D G Jones Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup.

His driver Ben Hope knows Sundees Son’s class will take him a long way despite his lack of recent racing.

But if the number 1 seed shows any signs of vulnerability Hope and his horse will be ready to pounce.

“The horse seems really good, he has definitely come on from his first run.”

“It is going to be interesting with us and Sundees Son both off 30m.”

“I think Sundees Son will need the run a wee bit, so I wouldn’t expect him to be driven really aggressively.”

“If we step away good we will be heading forward and if we are able to settle in front of Sundees Son we will definitely be trying to stay in front of him.”

“With fitness on our side, I would like to think Muscle Mountain would go close to winning.”

Muscle Mountain is part of a strong three-pronged attack the Hope stable have on Friday night’s feature trot.

Both Enghien (10m) and Midnight Dash (20m) look genuine top four threats.

Another star is in a similar position to Sundees Son heading into the Group Two Canterbury Classic at Addington.

Self Assured doesn’t have the race fitness some of his rivals bring to the New Zealand Cup qualifier, but there is no doubting his class.

While co-trainer Mark Purdon knows his horse will improve with his fresh-up outing, he is also certain that Self Assured is forward enough to be a big winning threat.

“You would have to say he would be one of the horses to beat,” Purdon said.

“Starting off level marks and drawing the front line, I’d like to think he would go a very good race.”

“He has had two trials and I have been pleased with them both and his work has been very good, too.”

B D Joe looks the hardest horse to beat among Self Assured’s rivals who have already stepped out this season.

The Steve and Amanda Telfer trained pacer comes into the Canterbury Classic on the back of a slashing second in the New Brighton Cup.


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