Self Assured big shortener for tonight's Messenger

By Michael Guerin

Self Assured looks set to take his road less travelled to a place he knows very well in the $100,000 Dawson Harford Messenger at Alexandra Park tonight.

The glamour pacer has been backed off the board to win tonight’s Group 1 and cap a remarkable month in which he has already won the inaugural running of The Race at Cambridge then finished a booming third to stablemate Spankem in the Taylor Mile last Friday.

In both those races he started from barrier 8 over the sprint trips whereas tonight he gets the perfect barrier 2 over the 2700m mobile which could well guarantee him an eventual run on the marker pegs, a position he has rarely been in his career, on his way to the winner’s circle, a place he visits often.

Self Assured has had 40 career starts for 24 wins, 15 placings and only one time out of the money, when he galloped away from a standing start.

While Self Assured has fair gate speed with so much of his racing having been in preferential draw mobiles, standing starts or simply through bad luck he has remarkably only been on the marker pegs the majority of a race seven times in his career.

The result of him getting those sort of economical trips? Six wins and a half-head second to stablemate Ultimate Sniper in 2019 in what was a fresh-up run, with the winner going on to clean sweep the Inter Dominions a few months later.

In modern-day harness racing, with peak speeds held for so much longer, being on the marker pegs covering less ground is a huge advantage so for Self Assured to have carved out his record having raced in the running line in 33 of his 40 starts is incredible.

When he has been on the marker pegs in the major races he wins big Cups. Namely the New Zealand, Auckland and Easter Cups, all races he won when able to lead or trail.

Aiding his chances of securing a similar trip tonight is not only barrier two and being catch driven by our greatest ever reinsman in Tony Herlihy but the likelihood many of those capable of beating him off the gate would almost certainly be happy to take a trail.

Two of the fastest beginners in the Messenger are his stablemates Mach Dan and Spankem and they would definitely take a trail on Self Assured should that opportunity present itself.

Kango (barrier 3) may beat them all to the front but it would surprise if he tried to lead all the way in a field of this quality, especially after he won last start at Addington after taking a trail.

A G’s White Socks didn’t show enough gate speed last week to suggest he would wrest control tonight and when he last tried to park Self Assured out at Addington this time last year it didn’t end well for him.

That brings us to Self Assured’s arch rival South Coast Arden, who cops his third wide draw in 15 says as his autumn horribilis continues and his trainer-driver Brent Mangos is realistic about his options.

“I don’t see us going forward and getting the lead because there are at least three inside us as quick off the gate as my horse,” says Mangos.

“So I will be patient early and get into the race later and I can see them sorting themselves out early and then Tony (Herlihy, driving Self Assured) working to the front.”

That all adds up to the punters who have already backed Self Assured in from $1.70 to $1.45 feeling good about their investment going into the Messenger but with many now reluctant to touch the smaller odds, the question remains how to make money out of the race?

If you ever think the winner is going to lead in a pacing race the best other betting options are those likely to trail or, over staying trips, be on the markers so logic suggests Spankem, Kango and even Mach Dan appeal as place or top four bets, with the latter luckless in the Taylor Mile last Friday.

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