Key lead-up meeting at Alexandra Park tonight

By Michael Guerin

The meeting before the even bigger meeting should always be viewed with caution by harness racing punters but tonight’s Alexandra Park meeting still presents some great opportunities.

The 11-race meeting brings together many of the stars who will chase far bigger targets next Friday, including the Northern Derby and Oaks and the two Young Guns Finals, the first juvenile features of the season.

Tonight’s meeting also hosts an open class pacing sprint which is the next round of Self Assured versus South Coast Arden and while they don’t have a richer target next week they are getting closer to the $900,000 The Race at Cambridge.

All of which is why intent is so crucial tonight as some drivers will be wanting to head forward and dominate races, whether seeking to win and or to earn respect for next week.

But there will be those looking to not have too hard a run from poor draws and give their horse a headache before the bigger targets ahead.

The $30,000 Lincoln Farms Founders is one of the key examples tonight as South Cost Arden has again drawn inside Self Assured, who sat parked outside him last start but couldn’t get past him.

Trainer-driver Brent Mangos says South Coast Arden is even fitter for that last-start win and he intends rolling forward at some stage even though, being 1700m, some of his rivals may fancy tonight at their chance to roll the dice and not hand up.

But that still puts South Coast Arden in front of Self Assured, whose driver Mark Purdon says he doesn’t want to end up parked out and doing it the hard away again so will look to drive him with a sit and swoop late.

Self Assured is still the best horse in the race but if Purdon is happy to drive for luck over 1700m punters can make a case for looking elsewhere, with South Coast Arden incredibly hard to beat if he was able to roll to the front.

Purdon is having similar thoughts with hot favourite Akuta early in tonight’s Derby Prelude.

He has had two hard runs his last two starts so could also be conservative at least in the first lap, which may make for very uncomfortable viewing for those taking his $1.35 odds.

Akuta may still be simply too good for most in tonight’s field but there is enough talent in stablemates Franco Indie and Franco Mac and the free-rolling Beach Ball that Akuta won’t want even the slightest hint of bad luck.

He might still win but Akuta leading at $1.35 makes a lot more appeal than Akuta needing luck at $1.35.

The Oaks prelude doesn’t contain True Fantasy, who is expected to be back for next Friday’s classic, so has a far more even feel to it in her absence.

That and the fact the fillies are stepping up to 2700m for the first time next Friday would suggest once the fillies sought themselves out there may be little pressure in the middle stages, which plays into the hooves of those on the speed.

For all the depth and evenness in the field the most interesting filly is Remember Me, fresh back from a luckless NSW Oaks campaign and with junior driver Carter Dalgety taking the reins.

After a diet of Menangle racing and with the blinds added to her gear tonight she could be a huge factor in the race if asked to go forward as her pre-NSW form suggested she is the most talented filly in this field.

Tonight’s two juvenile races should also be dominate by those on the speed in Kahlua Flybye (R8, No.1) and Seve (R10, No.2), with debutante Beckham coming into the latter race with a big reputation but facing a very tricky draw.

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