Francos Thriving in Central Otago
By Jonny Turner
The Francos have been flying in Central Otago over the past week and all signs point to that continuing at Cromwell’s annual meeting.
Spreydon Lodge trainer Steven McRae produced wins at the recent Omakau and Roxburgh meetings and will be out to keep his winning form going with Franco Norton and Swedish Franco on Thursday.
Swedish Franco looks a genuine eachway threat in the Cromwell Cup.
The mare has an outstanding record on grass tracks and comes into the 2600m handicap on the back of a second placing at Omakau which McRae described as one of her best career efforts.
The trainer admitted he didn’t expect Swedish Franco would be taking on All Stars pacer Pace N Pride in the race, but he thinks she will still be highly competitive.
“Like everyone else we probably didn’t expect to be running into a Purdon horse.”
“But she is a lovely horse, she keeps surprising me.”
“She had her first start here last year, I thought she would win a couple of races and that would be her.”
“But she won that race and every time we have stepped her up she has gone with us.”
“I thought her run at Omakau was one of her best ever runs with the time they went.”
“She did a bit of work and really stuck at it.”
“If Pace N Pride wasn’t in it I thought she would be pretty hard to beat, but she has to be a big chance anyway.”
Swedish Franco has her first standing start on Thursday and McRae is hopeful she can step away cleanly.
“She has had a couple of standing start trials in the past and we have nominated for a couple of stands which haven’t got off the ground.”
“If she did miss it, I don’t think she would miss it by much.”
“It is just that a horse like Pace N Pride, you couldn’t give him a head start.”
Franco Norton heads into race 4 on the back of a smart win at Omakau and he looks a huge chance of completing a Central Otago double.
“He is a pretty good horse, he has just got a lot of niggles.”
“I don’t know how far we will get with him, but he seems good.”
“I like bringing the ones like that down to Cromwell, it seems to help them working on the track down here.”
“He loves it down here and he seems in a pretty good space.
Franco Norton debuts on grass on Thursday which shouldn’t be a problem considering he has been training on the Cromwell track recently.
“We have been down here for a week now and he has had a few runs on the track.”
“He is a pretty good pacer, as a rule, it is probably tempting fate by saying it, but I don’t think the grass will be a problem for him.”
Craig Thornley takes the reins behind Franco Norton and Swedish Franco.