Harness racing's five things not to miss

Journalist Michael Guerin casts his eye over a busy few days for harness racing, including Oamaru's mega day on Sunday, and finds five things not to miss. 

1: Placemakers Hannon Memorial, Oamaru on Sunday: Story lines aplenty because Akuta could win and tightened further in IRT NZ Cup market or he could be unplaced (highly unlikely) and his Cup dream falter. But we also see the return of the pride of the south in Pembrook Playboy and Krug, who has had the rugged introductory season most pacers needs in open class but now has to stand up to be counted. And then there is Alta Wiseguy, who has manners, speed and race fitness so might beat them all.
The whole support cast all get an opportunity to see where they rank.

2: Diamond Creek Farm Oamaru Juvenile Stakes, Sunday: A new race as we all get used to the new juvenile season but things are going to get serious awfully quickly in the week ahead so performances at starting to really matter. Brings disparate formlines with those in form lately like Charlie Brown (Canterbury) and the southern pair of Spirit Of Arion and Rakamurph up against Final Collect, who raced what may have been the best juveniles in the autumn before the season went into hibernation. Luck will be crucial as trainer Mark Purdon was keen on Final Collect until he saw his inside second line draw.

3: Gammalite Free-For-All, Melton on Saturday night: How will Copy That bounce back after a below-par showing on his return to Victoria last week? He was able to lead last week but will have to play the stalker this time from one on the second line over 2240m mobile. That means chasing down Lochinvar Art, who is facing his own form crisis and needs to return to his best quick smart to continue on his path to the NZ Cup, with the Victoria Cup on the way. And drawn the outside of the front line is the extremely talented Bondi Lockdown, winner of the Bonanza here and a massive second in the Chariots of Fire.Should be a lot of fun.

4: Magness Sound Pace, Alex Park on Thursday night: First of all, hats off to Arna Donnelly for having five in the race.That is a hell of an effort albeit a pain in the butt logistically. Kango has his first start since his Auckland Cup third on May 27 but faces a 35m handicap over 2200m. That is a mammoth ask fresh up. For all the quality of Raven Banner and Taipo the x-factor pacer in the race is Hey Bartender, who has won three of four for James Stormont. He finds himself very much in the deep end but has run some slippery sectionals and won by some big margins so opened very short.If he can win this Stormont may have his best horse in quite some time.

5: Woodlands Stud Harness 7000, Addington on Friday: Always an important race for what it represents, horses by stallions at the lower end of the service fee market. And you could easily argue we should have more of these, racing apples against apples as the case may be. But even more relevant this Friday because it contains a very good filly in Aardie’s Express who gave True Fantasy the big “don’t argue” last week. If she keeps improving and her gait cleans up, as it often does when horses mature, Aardie’s Express could be a very good mare next season.

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