Handicaps prove a headache for Black
By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
Southland trainer Alister Black’s two runners at Orari Racecourse on Sunday will have to overcome their back marks if they want the lion’s share of the purse in their respective races.
Six-year-old gelding Vintage Cheddar will be the sole horse behind the 10m tape in the Gr.3 Lazarus At Alabar Methven Cup (2850m), while in-form trotter Get Lucky will start from the 40m mark in the Tara Family Trust Handicap Trot (2500m).
While not ideal, Black isn’t too perturbed by Vintage Cheddar’s handicap.
“10m is really only like being on the unruly on the frontline, so I am not too worried about that at all,” he said.
“He has raced down here in Southland off 40m, but to be fair he hasn’t been facing the same quality of horse as what he is up there.”
Vintage Cheddar has had two runs this campaign for a fifth placing in the Gr.3 Hannon Memorial (2600m) first-up before finishing ninth in the Gr.2 Canterbury Classic (2600m) last week after over-racing in the middle stages.
“He has come through it (last week) pretty well, he is staying up there (Ashburton) with Brent White and he is sending through daily reports on how he is and how he is progressing,” Black said.
“Those horses are that good that you can’t sit parked and expect to run on. He has only finished six lengths away from the winner last week, so it probably wasn’t the worst run.
“I was happy enough with his run in the Hannon. He did hit the line great, so if he can recapture that form for Sunday, he shouldn’t be a mile away.”
With Gr.1 New Zealand Trotting Cup (3200m) aspirations, Black said Vintage Cheddar will head to Ashburton next start to test his credentials.
“We will wait and see but it will more than likely be the Ashburton Flying Stakes (his next start),” Black said.
“I am trying to follow the same plan as last year because he has got to keep fronting up to see if he is worthy of getting a start in the New Zealand Cup.”
While Black isn’t too fazed by Vintage Cheddar’s 10m handicap, he holds greater fears for Get Lucky’s 40m impost.
“He has been severely hammered again in the handicaps, but he has earnt that mark,” Black said.
“It is a big field so it isn’t going to be easy for him to get around all of them.”
A city test could be in the offing for the Lucky Chucky gelding if he performs well this weekend.
“With the Kaikoura meeting being at Addington, he might go there for that. He generally races best when you space his races a little bit,” Black said.