Jewels update with Michael Guerin
By Michael Guerin
Two key withdrawals and three Australian additions saw Harness Jewels markets go on a rollercoaster ride as the key contenders for the glamour meeting are starting to take final shape.
The Jewels move to Addington for the first time on June 1 and while horses have until May 19 to earn enough money to qualify most of the serious players are already locked in.
The market most still in flux is the three-year-old trotters where Enhance Your Calm the favourite could be vulnerable to either Australian star Alpha Male or the forgotten Oscar Bonavena if they make it to Addington.
Alpha Male would secure the Australian invite if he wins the NSW Trotting Derby this Saturday and then the question for punters will be whether trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin want to bring him to New Zealand, where they have rarely campaigned horses before.
Oscar Bonavena only sits 20th in the order of entry after a season interrupted by soreness and will need to win at Addington either this Friday or next to be guaranteed a Jewels spot.
And while Enhance Your Calm has hardly looked bulletproof when galloping in both his recent starts, trainer Mark Purdon puts that down to Alexandra Park being right-handed and says the leggy trotter will definitely be at the Jewels unless something goes amiss beforehand.
But Purdon confirmed two high profile withdrawals and one major yes for the Jewels yesterday with Spankem, as expected, pulled out of the four-year-old male pace and joined soon after by Chase Auckland.
“Spankem has done enough for the season and he will have a break now while Chase Auckland is too far down the rankings so he can have a spell now too instead of chasing a spot.”
But just as importantly for punters Purdon confirmed Auckland Cup winner Turn It Up, all going well, will be at the Jewels.
“He hasn’t had a busy second half to the season so he will press on,” says Purdon.
Turn It Up could easily have missed the Jewels and gone for an early spell as he is one of the favourites for the NZ and Auckland Cups as well as the Inter Dominions all run between November and December 31 this year.
So Purdon’s confirmation the Jewels are still his season-ending target as well as the withdrawal of his stablemates has seen Turn It Up move from $2.90 on Friday night to $1.95 to win his division.
Purdon says most of the stable’s other favoured runners are still targeting the Jewels with only form loss or unforseen problems likely to see them withdrawn.
The four-year-old male pace is often the glamour race of Jewels Day but that title could fall to the four-year-old trotters this year as it will contain Anzac and Rowe Cup winner Sundees Son, unlucky placegetter in both Majestic Man, last season’s Jewels winner Winterfell and the exciting King’s Landing.
Trainer Robert Dunn has confirmed Sundees Son will head to the Jewels and while he is unruly from a stand he is not from a mobile, meaning he will be in the draw, crucial for the 1980m mobile.
“Being in the draw is very important because he couldn’t give these horses a start in a sprint but he actually has good gate speed so we can’t wait to get him there,” says Dunn.
“John (son and driver) and I should have about 10-12 in the Jewels.”
The favoured trotting quartet will be joined by one of the latest Australian invites in Majestic Player, who won his way into the Jewels at Menangle on Saturday night.
Also invited from Australia yesterday were Pete’s Big Jim, who was a close second in the juvenile male pace last year and his stablemate Falcon Stride, who will contest the four-year-old Emerald.
That brings the number of Australian invites to five and with a three-year-old trotter likely they could field potentially the strongest Australian team in the history of the Jewels.
** A stronger than expected sale saw a huge increase in average at the NZB Standardbred all-aged sale at Karaka yesterday.
With mainly weanling, broodmares and a very small number of yearlings offered an outstanding clearance rate of 96 per cent was surprising for the 130-plus lots.
While these sort of sales can vary wildly, the average of $10,816 was an increase of over $3000 on last year.
The top price was $80,000 paid for a trotting-bred filly by Kadabra by NSW owners Emilio and Mary Rosati.