Oscar Bonavena "in good place" ahead of Group 1
By Michael Guerin
Nathan Purdon isn’t saying Oscar Bonavena can’t beat trotting giant Muscle Mountain at Addington tonight, he just wishes the race was two years ago.
The pair clash in tonight’s $90,000 Fred Shaw Memorial NZ Trotting Champs, the first of a series of huge trot races coming up over the next two months.
While Australian trotter Aldebaran Zeus is expected to cross the Tasman for the northern trotting races starting with Cambridge on April 14 but until he gets here Oscar looks about the only trotter racing in New Zealand who can go with Muscle Mountain.
He was brilliant coming from last to win the mobile mile at Addington last week and has co-trainer Purdon thinking he is in a good place.
“He is a hard horse to keep right because he has small niggly issues with almost all of his joints, nothing serious but just annoying,” he explains.
“But the last few weeks he has felt really good. Sometimes when things aren’t going his way he can lose weight but at the moment he seems nice and round and in a good place, which we saw last week.”
But Purdon admits the Oscar Bonavena who was wowing trotting fans two seasons ago may never return as life as one of our fastest trotters plays havoc with his small frame.
“If he was the horse he was two years ago then I’d give him a chance of beating Muscle Mountain,” says Purdon.
“But maybe we can’t this week. I think our best chance is to go off the gate and get to the marker pegs and then follow him and try and get him for speed with one run.
Oscar Bonavena will have the help of new driver Blair Orange tonight but his problem may be that once the field settles into some sort of order if Muscle Mountain is in front then there is unlikely to be any pressure and at his best the $1.20 favourite could trot a 55-56 second last 800m.
Then it wouldn’t matter what version of Oscar Bonavena turned up.
With Aardiebythehill and Midnight Dash also drawn to be handy the Group 1 is looking a very tough race for those who get back in the field.
Purdon has been doing a great job looking after the stable while father Mark spends time in the north with some of the other stars.
“It has been really satisfying for me and the staff down here to have them going so well,” he admits.
He expects that to continue with NZ Oaks winner No Matter Wat in race 3 tonight, suggesting the small break she had after her shock win in December has really helped her develop.
Purdon also tips OK Boomer in the last race as a horse to follow even if he finds his wide draw tonight too tough while the stable also have Fortify as a hot favourite in the Sires’ Stakes heat and two runners up against Krug in the pacing feature.