NZ Cup dress rehearsal at Ashburton
By Michael Guerin
An abandoned race has promoted next week’s Flying Stakes from a major New Zealand Cup lead-up to a virtual dress rehearsal.
And it does raise the potential for a tricky question after the $50,000 group two at Ashbuton on Monday.
The Flying Stakes is usually the most important trial for the NZ Cup, which is now less than three weeks away, but Monday’s 2400m standing start event got a lot more juicy when the final field was declared last night.
The Ashburton club got only four entries for their intermediate grade pace so were forced to abandon it and move those four horses across to the Flying Stakes.
And among the moved quartet were last-start open class winner Ultimate Sniper and maybe the most exciting pacer in the country in Self Assured.
So now the Flying Stakes contains almost every horse given any chance of winning the Cup including Spankem and Thefixer as well as Aussie raiders Cruz Bromac and Our Uncle Sam.
The only market big gun not there is Victorian pacer San Carlo, who doesn’t arrive in Christchurch to November 5.
The Flying Stakes will now have a crucial effect on the Cup market but also raises a possibility which has until now been ruled out.
If, and it is only an if, Self Assured comes out from barrier two and beats all the New Zealand Cup favourites on Monday, there must surely be a temptation to pay the $20,000 late entry fee for the Cup, that pathway available to his connections until November 6.
While trainer Mark Purdon has always indicated that is unlikely and did let a four-year-old Spankem miss the Cup last season after winning the Kaikoura Cup, an emphatic victory on Monday would be hard to ignore and the Purdon-Rasmussen stable have sprung radical changes of plan before.
With that in mind punters should steer clear of the NZ Cup market until after Monday’s race.
Another key factor in the Flying Stakes is Chase Auckland moving to the unruly, which is likely to seriously dent his chances in the New Zealand Cup, with that almost as bad as a handicap.
Two of the likely Cup starters missing from the Flying Stakes are Henry Hubert and Classie Brigade, with the Dunn-trained pair both suffering from minor lung infections and bypassing the race to head to Kaikoura a week later.
The Dunn stable’s wonderful trotter Sundees Son is in Mondya’s Trotting Mile as he looks to redeem himself after a last start gallop but missing from that race are Enghien and Monbet.
Enghien has already been ruled out of the Cup carnival after trotting poorly recently but after some vastly-improved recent trials Monbet’s absence from Monday hardly looks ideal with Cup week so close.
The field for the Ashburton Flying Stakes on Monday is.— $50,000, 2400m, 4.33pm.— A G’s White Socks (1), Self Assured (2), Ultimate Sniper (3), Cruz Bromac (4), Gran Chico (5), Another Masterpiece (6), Thefixer (7), Smokin By (8), Spankem (9), Our Uncle Sam (10), Chase Auckland (ur).