Krug and Akuta add star power to today's trials

By Michael Guerin

The road to the IRT New Zealand Cup begins for two Derby winners at the Rangiora trials on Wednesday but only one of them is certain to still have the great race on his radar in a couple of week's time.

Three-time Derby winner Krug and this season’s Northern Derby winner Akuta resume in a 2600m standing start trial against the latter’s stablemate Franco Indie and Alta Wiseguy, with the heat scheduled for around 2pm.

Both Krug and Akuta are using the trial to prepare for the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru on September 18, their first race on the way to the NZ Cup.

But while Krug is an established open class presence and almost certain to run in the Cup, trainer Mark Purdon says there is nothing certain about Akuta’s Cup campaign.

Which could create some nervous lead-up races for the punters who have piled into Akuta, shortening him to $4.50 second favouritism behind Self Assured at $2.60.

“He has come up really well and I couldn’t be happier with him,” says Purdon.

“He and Franco Indie both had 10 weeks out and it has helped them develop and I am really pleased with how they came back and what they have done since.

“The Cup is definitely one aim for Akuta but it is still not my preferred one while I won’t even nominate Franco Indie for the Cup.”

Purdon says the New Zealand Derby remains the main and most realistic target for Akuta and any Cup campaign will ultimately be decided by the horse’s performances.

“He will start in the Hannon and then at his next start he might be up against Self Assured and Spankem at Addington.

“So a couple of starts against them will tell us where we stand. He has developed so much I am sure he will be an open class horse this campaign but I wouldn’t be that keen on a New Zealand Cup start unless I thought he could run top three at least.

“But we will find out and if he is racing well enough it is a realistic option but if we don’t think it is the best thing for him we can change plan.”

What is increasingly unlikely to be part of those plans is the Breeders Crown in Victoria, with Purdon saying its proximity to the NZ Cup meeting and NZ Derby are now making it an unlikely target.

While Akuta and Krug are set to clash at Oamaru on September 18, Franco Indie’s lower rating means Purdon has picked out a race for him at Addington two nights earlier.

The open class proven heroes in Self Assured and Spankem are also pleasing the boss in their work and will have two trials before resuming in $50,000 Canterbury Classic at Addington on September 30.

“They both came back from the water walker up north in great shape and resuming on the 30th means they can probably have three races before the Cup.”

Purdon says he and owner Jean Feiss are no closer to deciding whether Self Assured will then head to the Inter Dominions in Victoria, a decision that may not ultimately be made until after the NZ Cup.

Also back at Wednesday’s trials is outstanding trotting talent Muscle Mountain, who will start off a 40m handicap in his 2600m trial straight after the open class pacers have done their thing.

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