Old Town Road makes eagerly anticipated return at Alexandra Park tonight

By Michael Guerin

The spring of the punter’s warnings continues at Alexandra Park tonight and this time the flashing light sits atop of speed sensation Old Town Road.

The hype horse of last spring went on to show his open class worth at the New Zealand Cup carnival and finish second on the $1million Race by Grins but hasn’t raced since finishing fifth in the Auckland Cup in May.

With many of our best pacers returning later in the year because they are now expected to race through until May they are tending to be vulnerable to fitter rivals who have been out and about earlier trying to get money before the big boys divide up the major races.

That has seen the trainers of horses like Copy That, Self Assured, Akuta, Don’t Stop Dreaming and even exceptional trotter Muscle Mountain warn punters they were vulnerable fresh-up and true to their words they have all been beaten by fitter rivals in the last month.

Trainer John Dickie expects that could happen again when Old Town Road contests the Kerry Hoggard Memorial at Alexandra Park tonight.

“He is actually worse off than most of them as he had a small issue in his paddock when spelling so has come back a bit bigger than I would have liked,” says Dickie.

“He has been good at the workouts the last two weekends but he peaked on his run last Friday there and he is going to improve a lot with this run.

“I don’t think he is ready to head off around them mid-race so he will be driven for speed, which he has plenty of, but he will need a lot of luck to win.”

The race has changed complexion enormously with the scratching of Copy That, with the two-time New Zealand Cup winner injured and out for the spring and summer, with Old Town Road now maybe the best pacer in the north.

The question will be whether he can still win when underdone or whether a freegoer like Fernleigh Cash gets too easy a time in front and/or whether Nicholas Cage can handle the standing start better and try for the same.

The race after Old Town Road returns wonderful trotter Bolt For Brilliance does the same and he might be able to overcome his 50m back mark.

Trainer-driver Tony Herlihy is confident he is ready enough to latch on to the back of key rival All Cashed Up (40m) and follow him into the race so he could break the run of outs for many of our returning stars this spring providing those on the front line don’t trot 3:30 or quicker.

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