Pembrook Playboy thriving ahead of Easter Cup

By Jonny Turner

If anyone else trained Pembrook Playboy more people may have been left wondering just what he doing at the Winton trials just days out from the Easter Cup.

But given the way Nathan Williamson has developed the pacer into one of the best four-year-olds in the country and guided him to a recent hat-trick of group-race wins, few would dare question him.

And the astute trainer said there was method behind what he calls his “madness”.

“There is method to my madness, the horse is just that well I had to get another run into him,” Williamson said.

“He has had plenty of racing and he has had a great preparation but he is just that full of himself it made sense to take him for another runaround.”

“The other thing is you don’t want to be going to Addington for a Group One race over two miles short (of fitness).”

The fit and in form Pembrook Playboy comes into the Easter Cup having galloped away in his last start at Winton.

Williamson is hopeful the pacer can step away much more cleanly on Saturday night despite drawing the often tricky barrier 1.

“I think he will be OK, he will be much better having a horse beside him.”

“At Winton he was on his own and it didn’t help.”

While Pembrook Playboy comes into the Easter Cup rated a standing start flier who made a rare mistake in his last start, the favourite Self Assured is in the opposite position.

The five-year-old comes into the race known as a risky standing start exponent who made a rare good beginning in his last attempt the much talked about New Zealand Cup start.

While he was not a trialist this week it could be argued Self Assured’s last public appearance was also not typical of a leading Easter Cup contender.

The New Zealand Cup winner did not attack the line in his last outing over 1980m behind his stablemates and Amazing Dream and Spankem at Addington last week.

Held up for much of the run home, Self Assured could not take any ground off his fellow 20m backmarkers in the run home.

But that has not caused any concern between trainer Hayden Cullen and driver Mark Purdon.

“Mark was very happy with him, it was just one of those races,” Cullen said.

“With the time they ran, Mark was pretty happy with the way he stuck on, he wasn’t disappointed with him at all.”

Self Assured goes into the Easter Cup having had just that one 1980m start in the eight weeks leading into the 3200m test.

But Cullen has absolutely no doubts about him being fit enough and ready to win.

“He is pretty well conditioned, he only had two weeks off over summer, he hasn’t really missed any work,” Cullen said.

“I think if he steps away, then on his New Zealand Cup form then he is probably the one to beat.”

Spankem has had even less racing in that time, having started for the first time since early January last week.

The six-year-old has improved with his fresh up outing and Cullen sees Saturday night’s small field as a big help.

“He sprinted a fair way from home last week, he blew out a bit but he stuck on pretty well,” Cullen said.

“He had a good puff afterwards and he has improved off it.”

“It is just a small field and he is a good sit sprinter so if they go a genuine clip he is always going to get home.”

Like Spankem, Amazing Dream has thrived since last week’s race.

She looked back to the version of herself seen winning the Auckland Cup with her impressive win over her two stablemates.

“She has really thrived, she is probably a little bit better this week than she was last week,” Cullen said.

Latest fixed odds prices: Self Assured $2.50, Amazing Dream $3.60, Pembrook Playboy $5, Spankem $5.50.

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