Hannon to clear murky NZ Cup waters

By Jonny Turner

A G’s White Socks will be out to buck a growing trend when he steps out in the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru on Sunday.

Mystery sounds several of the top contenders for the New Zealand Cup and it hit fever pitch this week when stablemates Self Assured and Spankem were withdrawn from the 2600m standing start.

Though trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have reported both horses’ setbacks - relating to hoof soreness - are not major issues, their scratchings have added mystery to an already tricky New Zealand Cup puzzle.

Self Assured and Spankem join Belle Of Montana, Mach Shard, U May Cullect and Nandolo, who have question marks next to the status of their New Zealand Cup campaigns.

Each of the latter quartet have made the waters surrounding New Zealand’s biggest race murkier by disappointing in their most recent lead up races.

The withdrawal this week of Another Masterpiece and Princess Tiffany has further complicated the New Zealand Cup puzzle.

A massive question mark has hung over A G’s White Socks campaign since he suffered an atrial fibrillation and was pulled up in his first start for the season in last month’s Maurice Holmes Vase.

Trainers Greg and Nina Hope then scratched then 7yr-old from the New Brighton Cup two weeks later.

The reason for that was not because the horse hit yet another obstacle on what is proving to a bumpy road to the New Zealand Cup and they hope their pacer can get his campaign back on a better footing at Oamaru tomorrow.

“After his heart problem he had some treatment and it had a 14-day withholding period, so he had to be scratched out of the New Brighton Cup,” stable representative Ben Hope said.

“He was working good enough going in to that race and we thought he would have been a pretty good chance.”

A G’s White Socks has been left as one of two proven big race performers left in the Hannon Memorial, alongside Classie Brigade, following the scratchings of Self Assured and Spankem.

Classie Brigade’s brilliant standing start manners and excellent recent form, including his last start win in the New Brighton Cup, have seen him installed the hot $2 favourite for the feature.

While A G’s White Socks can match the Robert Dunn trained pacer on class, taking his rival on effectively in a fresh state, after his first up run turned in to a non-event, sets him a big task.

Though the Hope camp could not be any happier with A G’s White Socks’ fitness levels given the horse’s recent circumstances.

“He didn’t miss much work – maybe four or five days – after his fibrillation and we have been quite happy with his work since then,” Ben Hope said.
“Obviously there are a lot of nice horses in there, but it does look like a two horse race.”

“Classie Brigade is going to be hard to beat because he steps so well.”

“It is not going to be easy for A G’s White Socks, but he should still be in the top three you would think.”

A G’s White Socks will combine with driver Ricky May in Otago for the first time since May’s recovery from a heart problem that saw him fall from the horse’s sulky in the Central Otago Cup in January after he became unconscious.

The current New Zealand Cup climate offers up and coming horses and excellent chance to boost their hopes of being a factor on the second Tuesday in November in the Hannon Memorial.

Robyns Playboy, who has started the season in excellent form and broke the Ascot Park track record in his last start, looks a serious contender.

Highly popular pacer U May Cullect also gets the chance to bolster his New Zealand Cup claims after disappointing when clearly lacking race fitness first up at Winton last week.

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