Is sub 2:55 on the cards for Ashburton Flying Stakes?
By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk
Given the calibre of the field could the New Zealand record for a 2400 metre stand be under threat in Monday’s Ashburton Flying Stakes?
The tradition New Zealand Cup lead-up race on Labour Day features “the big three” clashing for the first time - it’s Self Assured vs Spankem vs Copy That.
The two All Stars stable-mates Self Assured and Methven Cup winner Spankem have been in dominant form of late and Copy That has been the stand-out northerner with five wins in his last 6 starts. The only blemish was a second to Mach Shard on Sept 25 at Auckland.
After his recent dramas Self Assured will again start off the unruly, this race being a big test of his standing start manners three weeks out from the New Zealand Cup.
Mach Shard will also front up on Monday for the Purdon/Phelan barn . As well as Copy That having his first race in the south this season, the Flying Stakes will also see the return of another classy Purdon-Rasmussen runner in Ashley Locaz. The son of Bettor’s Delight returns after two recent wins in Australia, while the field also includes Thefixer, Tango Tara, Vintage Cheddar, and Dadndave.
As of now the national 2400 metre standing start record was set in this race in 2018 when Eamon Maguire (Natalie Rasmussen) led early, took the trail behind stable-mate Dream About Me and then cruised up the passing lane to win in 2:54.2.
The previous record was Lazarus’ 2:54.3, set in Kaikoura in 2017.
In last year’s Ashburton Flying Stakes Spankem beat Thefixer and Self Assured home in 2:57.7, while Lazarus’ winning times in 2016 and 2017 were 2:57.4 and 2:56.2.
The only other horse besides Eamon Maguire to break 2:55 in the race was none other than three-time New Zealand Cup winner Terror to Love in 2013 (2:54.9).
The All Stars have dominated the race since 2014, with Spankem, Eamon Maguire, Lazarus (twice), Smolda and Adore Me. Whoever wins on Monday will join some of the country’s all-time greats, including Christian Cullen (1998), Roydon Glen (1985), Noodlum (1975), Lordship (1962) and False Step (1960).
The quality of the field suggests the race record (and the NZ record) could be lowered, but the forecast is not encouraging. While little wind is predicted weather forecasters are expecting some rain and just 16 degrees.
Despite that the race, and especially the north vs south rivalry, is keenly anticipated, and a tasty appetizer for what lies ahead in three weeks.