Nicholas Cage successful in audition for $1m The Race by Grins 

By Michael Guerin

New Zealand’s richest harness race will have some local flavour after the rapid rise of Cambridge pacer Nicholas Cage.

The four-year-old has earned a slot in the $1million Race by Grins at Cambridge on April 14 courtesy of his all-the-way win at Alexandra Park on Friday in which he upset multiple group 1 winners Akuta and Copy That.

The win was enough to convince the Waikato-based Barrett Homes syndicate to sign Nicholas Cage up, with Barrett Homes owner Grant Eynon also sharing in the ownership of Nicholas Cage.

Nicholas Cage has only had 11 starts for six wins but clearly has an open class motor judging by his two and a quarter length win over Akuta in the Founders Cup at Alexandra Park, rating 1:53.6 for the 1700m, his last 800m in 55 seconds with no signs of him getting tired at the line.

“He is very exciting and while he isn’t the finished product we think he deserves a crack,” says co-trainer Andrew Neal.

Neal and his wife Lyn had been reluctant to consider The Race by Grins when Eynon first mentioned it a month ago but a trip to the NZ Derby at Addington in December has been the making of the son of Art Major.

“He has the speed of a really good horse and we thought he could beat those two top horses last Friday, even though you don’t go around saying that sort of thing,” says Neal.

“He might need a good draw to show his best in The Race but it is exciting to be part of, especially here on our home track.”

That last part could be crucial for Nicholas Cage because he is a mixture of immature and stubborn, putting on a show before his race at Alexandra Park last Friday and trying to dive back to the stabling area rather than go on the track.

“He can be like that, apparently his dam Helena Jet was too but she could also run.”

Nicholas Cage now has the opportunity to go one better than his talented mum, who finished second to champion mare Adore Me in the four-year-old mares’ Jewels at Cambridge in 2014.

Not only will Nicholas Cage’s slot owners and trainers add some local interest to The Race by Grins but he will also be driven by a local favourite in Matthew White, who is in career-best form and has already won a major at Cambridge with Safin at the Jewels in 2008.

Nicholas Cage’s surprise elevation into The Race by Grins leaves three slots to be filled, with Krug looking the most likely next big name to be picked up while Alta Wiseguy would seem another who could get taken.

That could leave the likes of another Cambridge local in Kango, who resumes at Alexandra Park this Friday, or even Triple Eight, who is returning from Australia for the autumn northern carnivals, as others in play for the final slots.

Akura remains the favourite for The Race at $3.50 with the TAB even after his defeat last Friday, with trainer Mark Purdon having warned punters the dual Derby winner may be only “85-90 per cent ready.”

He paraded looking big and round so will improve, with both he and Copy That to contest the $45,000 City Of Auckland Free-For-All at Alexandra Park on Friday week in which Self Assured will make his return.

The defending Race by Grins champ missed last Friday’s race after a small setback cost him three days work and now will only have two lead up races at the most before the $1million thriller.



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