Orange to be offered drive on Copy That
By Michael Guerin
Champion driver Blair Orange is set to be offered the drive on pacing excitement machine Copy That in the New Zealand Cup.
But Victorian-based owner Merv Butterworth says that doesn’t guarantee Orange the drive behind the Cup second favourite for the remainder of the season, just when he crossed Cook Strait.
Copy That has rocketed up the markets from an opening quote of $26 to be the $4.20 second elect for the Cup to be run at Addington on November 10.
That has come courtesy of three impressive Alexandra Park wins this campaign when he has looked clearly the best of the notherners while Cup favourite Self Assured has looked just at dominant in the south.
Maurice McKendry, one of only two New Zealand reinsmen with over 3000 career wins, has driven Copy That in all three of those wins but Butterworth, who has been an enormous investor in New Zealand harness racing, says any time Copy That races in the South Island it is Orange who gets first refusal.
“My rule on this is Blair gets offered the drive in the South Island and Maurice will drive him, if he wants, in the North Island,” says Butterworth.
“So the NZ Cup drive is Blair’s if he wants it.” Orange is actually the defending NZ Cup driving champ as he won the race last season on catch drive
Cruz Bromac, who is still aiming to return from Victoria for the Cup again this year.
But Orange says he will drive Copy That all things being equal.
“He is the horse on the rise and has a big future ahead of him so I’d love to drive him,” says Orange.
“People keep telling me I will be on him but I haven’t actually heard anything official.”
Well, he has now. If Copy That makes it south Orange might not have long to get re-acquainted with him as trainer Ray Green has suggested he may keep the four-year-old in the north as long as possible pre-Cup, something made possible by solid feature-race field size numbers at Alexandra Park.
That could mean a run in the Cup trial a week before the great race may be the only time Orange and the South Auckland pacer partner up before the Cup.
Copy That would have two shots at group one glory during Cup week, the other being the NZ Free-For-All three days after the Cup and should he win either race that would surely test Butterworth’s loyalty to his different drivers for different islands policy as it would be hard to kick off your New Zealand Cup winning driver.
If he does stick to that policy though McKendry has races like the Auckland Cup, Taylor Mile, Messenger and even the Jewels, still likely to be held at Cambridge next June, to potentially look forward to in the north.
The southern Cup runners clash again at Addington this Friday with Self Assured odds on but at least with some new opposition in A G’s White Socks and southern speedster Spirit Of St Louis to add to the mix.
Inter Dominion Trotting champion Winterfell has returned south after his handicaps in the north were deemed to be too prohibitive and he will meet Majestic Man under mobile conditions on Friday.