Nutcracker ready to apply pressure

By Jonny Turner

After making a huge impression in her first race day outing, Nutcracker is back in action at Ascot Park on Friday.

Trainer-driver Craig Ferguson will line the two-year-old up for just her second start following her debut win in the Group 3 Southland Fillies Classic on the same track in March.

Ferguson has taken a patient approach with the filly since then, opting to spell her rather than take on any further black-type races last season.

“She wasn’t paid up for anything and after her win her work just went off a bit, she was always going to need a bit more time, so we decided to spell her.”

Nutcracker has shown she is recharged and ready for a new campaign with two strong workout performances ahead of her return over 1700m in race 6.

“I have been really happy with her since she has come back in.”

“She has gone good in both of her workouts and her work has been pretty good, too.”

Nutcracker lines up from barrier 2, with a crucial advantage over her main rival Wattlebank Lass, who starts from barrier 4.

Ferguson also has Carrera Belle in race 6 and she starts from barrier 5 for driver Mark Hurrell.

The mare was a big winner on debut at Gore last season but struggled to hold that form in five more starts.

Ferguson hopes a new training regime can bring out the best in the four-year-old.

“Her workouts have been good, too.”

“She is a funny mare, there were times last year when she was working super and then she would let us down at the races.”

“I have changed her training around, so hopefully that will help.”

Ferguson takes four outside drives at Sunday’s meeting including two for the trainers of his New Zealand Cup drive, Robyns Playboy, in Ross and Chris Wilson.

Hayley Robyn looks a big winning threat in race 4 for the combination after her gritty fourth on debut at Ascot Park last month.

“Getting left parked last time didn’t help, but I was really happy with her, she wasn’t far away.”

“Hopefully she can get a bit more luck this time and she will be a good chance.”

The Wilson-Ferguson combination also start Robyns Shadow in race 9.

The pacer was checked on the home bend in his last outing on Tuapeka Cup Day after running second at Winton prior.

“He is a horse that needs the right run, if he gets a bit of luck he will be finishing it off nice.”

Ferguson also drives Rockmyster who brings solid trial form to race 3 for trainer Steve Baucke.

“His workouts have been good, he still has a bit to learn yet but he should be a pretty good chance.”

The reinsman also drives Jessie Kelly for trainer Shannon Armour in race 7.

“She ran on pretty well last time, it’s not an ideal draw (7) but she’s definitely not the worst chance.”

Ferguson’s focus after the Ascot Park will switch to the New Zealand Cup and Robyns Playboy.

The pacer was one of the victims of a controversial start to last year’s event and the team behind him will be hoping he can show what he is capable of from behind the tapes this year.

If the horse known as ‘The Beast From The East’ can make a flyer like he has done on occasions in the past he would give himself his best shot at a podium finish.

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