Premier night preview
Best: Triple Eight (R8, No.7): It can be a hard watch backing horses from the outside barrier in a sprint at The Park but he is tough enough to overcome it.
Anchor: Sweet On Me (R4, No.2): Massive when parked in national record last Friday. Should get revenge tonight.
Forgive: Massive Metro (R6, No.2): Camp are confident he will step well from stand and as the National Trot winner the 3200m should suit.
By Michael Guerin
It could be a case of the same script but a different ending in the $100,000 Messenger at Alexandra Park tonight.
The last of the four group ones at the huge premier meeting sees a return clash of seven of the eight pacers who contested last Friday’s Taylor Mile in which Spankem led and outsprinted stablemate Turn In Up (parked), with trailer Mach Shard holding on for third and Chase Auckland making good ground in the 26.1 second last 400m.
Remarkably many of the key players have similar draws tonight and while this race is over 1000m longer it looks likely to play out the same way, at least early.
Trainer Mark Purdon gave punters the biggest lead ever when he said Spankem would lead last Friday and not be attacked and from barrier three that should be the case again.
But this time Purdon stops short of suggesting he won’t challenge mid-race.
“I am sure Spankem will lead early and that probably makes him the one to beat,” says Purdon in a quote that could have been recycled from last week.
But then there starts to get a bit of a twist in the tale.
Firstly there are two rivals drawn inside Spankem, rather than one last Friday, which raises the possibility they both want the same spot behind him and therefore he has to work at least a little harder to lead. And Chase Auckland could also be a factor in any early rush for positions.
“If they went a bit harder early, while I wouldn’t think we (Purdon and Turn It Up) would be in that rush, I wouldn’t be scared to come have a look in the middle stages.”
That could be the key quote, with Purdon adamant he wasn’t going to challenge mid-race last week but suggesting he could tonight.
And he then says that Turn It Up actually worked so well on Wednesday morning he thinks the Auckland Cup winner has improved with last Friday’s race.
So while we still seem to have a script with Spankem leading tonight it is over a longer distance, against a seemingly fitter Turn It Up with an increased chance of a mid-race challenge.
Considering there was just over a length between them last Friday that could be enough to swing you toward backing Turn It Up tonight. And if he does come looking for the lead mid-race and the early pressure sees him get it, then he almost certainly wins.
The bookies market which surprisingly opened Spankem at $3.60 left enough room in the market for punters to back him and then play Turn It Up on the tote tonight because it would be a major surprise if one of the pair don’t win.
Purdon can go into the Sires’ Stakes Fillies Final equally as confident as Sweet On Me should turn the tables on Amazing Dream after their national record run last Friday but the $100,000 Breckon Farms Trotting Derby may not be so clear cut.
There is little doubt Enhance Your Calm is the best horse in the race and if he trots throughout he should probably win but he did gallop at the start last Friday after becoming unbalanced in his right-handed debut.
Purdon believes he was safer in track work on Wednesday but he still looks a horse with a few frailties — either mental or physical— and that raises at least the possibility NZ Trot Derby winner Lotamuscle can beat him either with manners or his serious sit-sprint.
“I am happy with him (Enhance Your Calm) but I have to respect Lotamuscle after the way he has raced recently and you know with Paul (Nairn) training him he will be spot on.”