Our experts pick their IRT Harness Jewels "Race of the Day"
It's IRT Harness Jewels Day! With nine $100,000 Group Ones to pick from it’s not easy working out the “Race of the Day” at Cambridge today.
So we have enlisted the help of four racing minds to give us their thoughts.
Greg O’Connor, Form Analyst : Race 3 : 1.11pm - Dunstan Horsefeeds 3YO Diamond
While the ledger is 7-0 in favour of the standout filly of the season Bettor Twist, La Rosa got close enough in The Breeders NZ Oaks to suggest around Cambridge from a better draw she might be able to register her first point. The Mark Jones-trained daughter of Bettors Delight has had her moments this season winning five races, including the 3YO section of the NZB Harness Million, but hasn't finished in front of her arch rival yet.
''She's been racing great all season but has just come up against a champion filly,” said Jones, “I think we are capable of running 1.52 maybe even slightly quicker so if we do that we are certainly going to get our chance.”
Natalie Rasmussen will drive Bettor Twist for just the 4th time, her previous three steers all winning results, the latest two at Group One level.
“I really think it's La Rosa's race to lose,” said the straight-shooting Rasmussen, “her run in the Oaks was terrific, she has drawn to lead and is capable of running supersonic time. I'm going to be up the track for a decent part of the race and whilst I'm confident in 'Twisters' ability I'm also realistic that at Cambridge even for her that will be a big ask.”
It's rare for the ultra-talented Rasmussen to even comment on the opposition in such a glowing way so factoring that in makes the Dunstan Horsefeeds 3YO Diamond one of the races of the day.
Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk : Race 5 : 2.05pm - Mitre 10 3YO Ruby
There is a sense of intrigue surrounding most races but with a penchant for square-gaiters, the Group One Mitre 10 3YO Ruby (1609m) looks to be particularly exciting.
Five Wise Men has dominated the three-year-old trotting scene this season, winning eight of his 10 starts. The son of Muscle Hill has amassed nearly $180,000 in prizemoney and will duly carry the yellow leader’s silks where he will continue his burgeoning rivalry with a number of his foes in a quality crop of three-year-olds.
Time Up The Hill heads the list, with the exciting filly having finished runner-up behind her adversary in their two Group One encounters – New Zealand Trotting Derby and Northern Trotting Derby – with the daughter of Muscle Hill running Five Wise Men to within a nose in the latter.
She subsequently went on to dominate her own sex in the Group Three Northern Trotting Oaks (2200m) before setting a new New Zealand age group record when winning over the same distance and track a fortnight ago.
She looks to be one of the value bets of the day, with TAB bookmakers installing her as a $9 fifth-favourite behind Five Wise Men at $1.75.
Five Wise Men’s picket fence formline also includes stakes victories over the Phil Williamson-trained Leaf Stride in the Hambletonian Classic and Trotters Championship.
Leaf Stride subsequently finished third behind race rivals Outamyway and Regal Attire in the NZB Standardbred Harness Million 1 – 3YO Trotters Final (1980m) at Addington Raceway last month.
The TAB have installed Outamyway and Regal Attire $6.50 and $7 second and third favourites respectively, with Leaf Stride on the fourth line of betting at $8.
As with all trotting races, manners will once again be key and add yet another variable to what is looking like an intriguing race
Jonny Turner, Racing Journalist : Race 9 : 4.21pm - Civtec 4YO Emerald
I don’t think there is a more even race, in which the draws have set up a more intriguing contest, than the last event on IRT Harness Jewels day, the Civtec 4YO Emerald.
Copy That is an absolute jet and just millimetres away from being rated the best horse in the country. But can he overcome drawing the outside of the second line?
Given the situation on the front line I think there is a decent enough chance he can. I expect Kango to lead early and Bad To The Bone to work to the parked position soon after. That leaves South Coast Arden to come around to try to take one of those positions. What happens next should decide the race.
Bad To The Bone’s brave recent efforts in the Taylor Mile and Messenger Championship mean driver Zachary Butcher is unlikely to hand up the parked position or the lead if he gets there. David Butcher on Kango may not want to hand up either, though I do think it’s quite likely he could.
Where that leaves Natalie Rasmussen and South Coast Arden, who has been stunning at Addington recently could dictate the chances of Copy That.
If there is enough pressure between these runners Copy That could get the tempo he needs to storm home. And that still relies on him getting into the best possible spot on the three-wide train. He doesn’t lack any speed, he is as fast as any horse in the race or in the country. But sectionally, he can’t win without a decent amount of mid-race pressure.
That pressure also brings the other talented horses in the race into contention. Among them is Pembrook Playboy who is undoubtedly good enough to win this race. Driver Nathan Williamson is looking at a best case scenario of three back on the inner if Kango holds the lead. If he gets any luck, somewhere or somehow, he will hit the line hard because he has the acceleration to match any horse in the country.
Christianshavtime is also very fast, but even more so than Copy That, he needs a very strong tempo to get into contention from the outside of the front line. If it does eventuate, then expect Laver to be the surprise package of this race. It is easy to forget he is one of the fastest mile winners in New Zealand’s history.
Of course these calculations could prove to be completely off the mark. Tommy Lincoln might lead or Bad To The Bone might across without any pressure. That’s the nature of the Jewels, not one really knows what’s going to happen. But when it unfolds it's simply amazing to watch.
And for the record, my picks are South Coast Arden – Copy That – Bad To The Bone – Pembrook Playboy.
Michael Guerin, Racing Journalist : Race 9 : 4.21pm - Civtec 4YO Emerald
There is no more glorious Group One harness race than a high class field when you have no idea what to expect. And that in essence is the Civtec 4YO Emerald.
Finding the leader in the star-studded feature pace is hard enough — it could be Kango, Tommy Lincoln, Bad To The Bone, or South Coast Arden. And then the question on everybody’s lips will be where does Copy That end up?
A mini open class Miracle Mile it should be the perfect race to warm us all up as the sun goes down on a special day.