Intriguing battle in prospect for the Hannon Memorial

By Jonny Turner

Fitness levels will collide when this year’s New Zealand Cup hopefuls clash in the Group 3 Hannon Memorial at Oamaru today.

The ever-evolving nature of the build-up to the New Zealand Cup will again see a big contingent of emerging horses clash with more seasoned open class performers.

Up-and-comers Aardie's Express and Anything Goes head the market for the Hannon Memorial and both bring crucial race fitness to the event.

Aardie's Express will step back into the open class fold after demolishing a lower-grade field in her last start at Wyndham.

Driver Tim Williams hopes that victory will prove to be the confidence booster his mare needed ahead of the much more intense environment of the Hannon. ‘

“I think it was good for horse and driver, it has been a while since she has tasted success,” Williams said.

“It was good for her confidence, it was good to get her around in one piece, and good for this week.”

Anything Goes is in a similar position to Aardie's Express, coming into the Hannon with three runs under his belt this time in.

Co-trainer and driver Mark Purdon, who dominated last year’s Hannon meeting, hopes his horse’s race fitness edge could be a telling factor on Sunday.

“I think so,” Purdon said.

“He has run a couple of good thirds, with those runs under his belt – and hopefully he gets the stand a little bit better – and I think he will be right in it.”

The start of New Zealand Cup lead-up races is always crucial and the recent editions of the Hannon show how vital it is to be on the speed.

Akuta won the race after sitting parked last year, while Henry Hubert, Classie Brigade and Spankem each led to win the prior three editions.

Republican Party and Franco Norton’s early manners are set to have a big impact on the race.

Republican Party broke in his first standing start at Addington last week, but co-trainer Cran Dalgety has said he is confident his horse can step away well this time.

Franco Norton has shown himself to be a horse that can either make a flying beginning or make a mistake.

The pacer comes off the unruly on Sunday and while he hasn’t stepped away in two starts in the draw, those races were some time ago.

Hidden Talent gets the chance to give her Dominion ranking a massive boost with victory in the Group 3 Jasmyn’s Gift Stakes at Oamaru.

The Nathan Williamson trained trotter looks to have the class to push on towards the New Zealand Cup Carnival, but she needs to lift her ranking to make the time-honoured Dominion.

Sunday’s feature looks the perfect opportunity to do that.

“I am pretty happy with how she has come through that last run,” Williamson said.

“We definitely think she is up to the class of this race, fingers crossed.”

“Hopefully she can settle somewhere there, if she is not too far from them I think she will be right there at the finish.”

Williamson looks to have a realistic chance of taking both Group Three races at Oamaru with Pembrook Playboy a live chance in the Hannon Memorial.


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