Cullen not expecting to dominate
By Michael Guerin
They are harness racing’s hottest new colours but it may not be a case of them being fast-tracked to the winner’s circle at Addington tonight.
Because while the new silks for trainer Hayden Cullen have debuted this week the big guns who will wear them don’t roll out until next week.
Cullen is the young trainer who has taken over almost all of the big name horses trained by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen when they started a training sabbatical this year but one point of controversy was Cullen keeping Purdon’s colours.
That, along with the fact Purdon still occasionally drives for the stable, could have given casual harness racing punters the impression they were backing horse with the Purdon polish on them.
So after prompting from Harness Racing New Zealand, Cullen has lunched his own colours this week to be worn by superstars like Self Assured and Spankem.
The blue with white triangles and grey sleeves will become a huge part of the harness racing landscape for the foreseeable future and Cullen says they combine similar colours to Purdon’s famous silks but give the stable a clear and separate identity.
“It is our stable now and Mark usually only pops in once a week to have a drive, even though we talk a couple of times a week,” said Cullen.
“It has been a lot of hard work but it is going well and I am enjoying the challenge.”
Cullen says the really big stable names Self Assured and Spankem won’t start in the new colours until next week and he takes a solid team to Addington tonight without expecting to dominate.
Horses like Dream On Me (race two), Hattie and See Me Now (race three) and the debutante trotters Wy Fi and Ellaria Sand (race four) are all given chances without being spruiked by Cullen.
“Dream On Me is probably the best chance of them as she comes into the right race but horses like the two-year-old trotters are here because they have had enough trials and now need to show us what they are capable of on race night.”
Talented three-year-old Pace N Pride is hitting form at the right time as the New Zealand Derby is just three weeks away but he faces a tough challenge against exciting Southland pacer Ragazzo Mach in race five tonight.
Pace N Pride has always been rated highly by the stable and finally managed to get his own way in front last start and was too good but the level of opposition goes up tonight.
“He is in a good place, he looks healthy in the coat and is working well so he will be hard to beat, especially if he can lead,” says Cullen.
But that outcome of that race may depend on how aggressive trainer-driver Nathan Williamson gets with Ragazzo Mach, who looked forward at the workouts last week and as equal favourite for the Derby might have a class edge.
Later in the night the Dunn-trained pair of Henry Hubert and Steal The Show have the handicaps advantage in race six while Midnight Dash is in the right form to beatg the older trotters in race seven.