Nicholas Cage takes centre stage for Neals
By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
Cambridge gelding Nicholas Cage will face his sternest test on Sunday when he heads to Addington Raceway to compete against the best three-year-old pacers in the land in the Group 1 Sunshine Stars New Zealand Derby (2600m).
The Art Major gelding won four of his last five races in the north before he arrived in Christchurch late last month where he finished seventh over 1980m against many of his Derby adversaries at Addington last Friday.
Trainers Andrew and Lyn Neal were happy enough with his run, and while they are fully aware of the task he faces on Sunday, they are hoping for a better result over the further distance.
“It was a nice enough run and timewise it was super,” Andrew Neal said.
“He just got back a bit in the field and I think he was as strong at the line as he was at the 600m. He didn’t weaken in his run at all and the extra distance will be a lot better for him.”
Nicholas Cage has drawn two on the second line and will follow out Beach Ball, who showed good gate speed last week.
“I am picking Beach Ball will get out really nice and he should get a good drag through from the second line,” Neal said.
“The two main ones (Akuta and Republican Party) are going to be super hard to get past, but the distance is going to be a lot more in his favour.
“It looks like Republican Party will push on out of the gate and roll to the top and it could end up being a similar race again (to last Friday).
“I am picking Mark (Purdon) will come around at some stage (with Akuta) and will be sitting up outside them. So those two are going to be up on the pace, so it is going to be hard work.”
While the Neals are looking forward to Sunday, their focus is currently on Alexandra Park on Friday night where Harder Than Diamonds will contest the Superior Cabins Franklin Country Cup (2700m), while Winners Time will line-up in the Metalcraft Roofing Handicap Trot (2700m).
“Harder Than Diamonds is coming up quite good,” Neal said.
“We ran a blood the day after her last start because we weren’t happy with her run and she had some issues which have since cleared up.
“It is a very tidy field, but there are no easy races. Her work has been good and I think she will get the stand quite nicely.
“Winners Time hasn’t quite got back to the form he was in when he went out. He will come to it, but I don’t think he is quite there yet.”