Self Assured steps up to big time
By Michael Guerin
The only real Achilles heal of New Zealand’s most powerful stable could prove to be the sore point for punters at Addington tonight.
Because if there has been any one weakness for the all-conquering Mark Purdon-Natalie Rasmussen stable in the last decade it has occasionally been standing start manners, more particularly the standing start manners of their age group stars when stepping up to intermediate or open class racing.
And that could be just as big a concern for Self Assured when he makes the leap into the big time tonight as trying to actually beat New Zealand Cup favourite Spankem.
Self Assured was the winter stunner of the pacing season on both sides of the Tasman, going from a maiden in late May to an unbeaten winner of six including the Queensland Derby two months later.
During that winning streak he looked so special he is the second favourite for the Inter Dominions which start at Alexandra Park on November but as good as he might be tonight’s 2600m standing start is one hell of an introduction to racing older horses.
Not only does he face Spankem (30m) but Ultimate Sniper (10m), Another Masterpiece (fr) and proven open class performers like A G’s White Socks and Classie Brigade (20m) and Henry Hurbert (10m).
So Self Assured is going to need to beat most of the top of the New Zealand Cup market at only his seventh start but at his first standing start, and that is the part that really worries Purdon.
“I think he can run with these horses, especially with the handicap start,” he explains.
“He is a very fast horse who only missed so much racing last season after a track accident otherwise he would have been right up with the best three-year-olds.
“So while Spankem is the best of ours and deserves to be favourite any time they are all off the same mark, he would struggle to give Self Assured the 30m head start.”
But he may not have to. Because Purdon admits he is worried about the first five strides for Self Assured and how the composition of the field will play against him if he does miss away.
“If he gallops, and he can be a bit nervy when the tapes goes at home, then the other horses rushing up behind you can make it hard to get them pacing again.
“So I think he will be okay but he might be slow away and that could mean losing that handicap advantage.”
If Self Assured does struggle with his first standing start he will join stable greats but occasional standing start strugglers like Auckland Reactor, Adore Me and even the greatest of them all in Lazarus, who cost himself his first open class race by bobbling away.
All of which suggests the $2 put up by the TAB bookies for Self Assured is way too short and that punters should pay more attention to history than hype.
While Spankem is the best horse here the 30m handicap will make his job tough but in the small field it could also mean he is only midfield on the outer starting the last lap so he is still the one to beat.
Oscar Bonavena should continue on his winning way in the open trot after a mammoth performance last start in a stronger field while the stable strongly favour One Change in the Sires’ Stakes heat after he drew the ace.
Best bet: One Change (Addington, R4, No.1): Should lead or trail and be too good as stable still rate him their best three-year-old.
Mobile aid: Havehorsewilltravel (Cambridge, R6, No.9): Raced in far better field last Friday and looks perfectly placed tonight.
Manners the key: Matua Tana (Addington, R9, No.17): Huge motor and if he behaves even the big field and 25m handicap won’t stop him.