Self Assured at peak for tonight's Messenger

By Michael Guerin

Champion trainer Mark Purdon is adamant Self Assured is in the best form of his career but he isn’t sure that will be enough to win tonight’s $90,000 Dawson Harford Messenger at Alexandra Park.

Self Assured has been magnificent all autumn, having a hard run in three consecutive open class features but still winning one and placed in two others, including only just being nosed out by stablemate Akuta in the Taylor Mile last Friday.

Akuta isn’t in tonight’s 2700m Messenger so you could make a strong case Self Assured is the horse to beat, especially as he beat home key rivals tonight Copy That and Better Eclipse last Friday.

“He is racing very well and feels as happy and as sound as we have ever had him,” says Purdon.

“Even after his hard run last week he trained really well on Wednesday.”

Purdon thinking Self Assured is at his peak is a big call for a horse who has won $2million via victories in a New Zealand Cup, two Auckland Cups, the Race by Grins and this season’s NZ Free-For-All.

In 31 starts behind the mobile Self Assured has won 17 and only been unplaced once, when he locked wheels and was taken out of the race four starts ago but while he looks certain to add to that record tonight if he is to win driver Natalie Rasmussen may need to create her own pressure.

It seems almost certain Copy That will roll to his favoured pacemaking role but without the early burn he needed to reach it last Friday.

It is hard to see many mid-race attackers so Self Assured may have to eyeball his arch-rival over the last 800m if he is to beat him. That is easier said than done.

“I will leave the driving up to Natalie and any early speed would help us, but I just don’t see him (Self Assured) being able to get across so she might be the one working over the last lap.,” says Purdon.

There is little between Copy That and Self Assured but with the favourite expected to be in front he has to be the one to beat.

The only other winning hope would seem to be Australian visitor Better Eclipse who has been huge in both New Zealand runs and as a potent swooper could be the beneficiary if the two favourites get into a last-lap argument.

“We have to hope for that, either pressure early and Copy That not getting the lead or the two other favourites having a crack at each other with us following them” says his driver Greg Sugars.

While the Messenger appears to have three winning chances it is hard to make a case for anything beating hot favourite Muscle Mountain in tonight’s other Group 1, the Peter Breckon Memorial National Trot.

Even if he is crossed early from the ace Muscle Mountain has such respect he should be able to bully his way to the lead and Purdon warns punters not to get too carried away with his charge Oscar Bonavena.

“He has been going well down south but he has been a bit up and down since he got up here and didn’t train as good as he can on Wednesday so I think its worth punters knowing that,” he warns.

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