Spankem back better than before
By Jonny Turner
The news for the connections of Spankem’s big race rivals is all bad ahead of the pacer’s season opener at Addington on Friday night.
The Miracle Mile winner will take his first race day step towards the New Zealand Cup when lining up in the New Brighton Cup.
The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained 5yr-old returns following his stunning 4yr-old term, in which he went from total obscurity to Grand Circuit star in just a matter of months.
The scary news for the connections of his New Zealand Cup and Interdominion rivals in that last season did not just establish Spankem as one of Australasia’s best open class pacers.
Mark Purdon has declared that last term’s racing, which came after the horse went off the radar for ten months with an injury, has made Spankem a better horse.
“He is thriving and I think last season made him,” Purdon said.
“He seems a little bit stronger this time around.”
Spankem returns in Friday night’s 2600m free-for-all standing start alongside his stablemates Ultimate Sniper and Chase Auckland.
The trio had the only public prep run ahead of their return when they trialled at Ashburton, last week.
Spankem dashed home to win impressively, with Ultimate Sniper running third after carting the winner around the home turn.
Chase Auckland also trialled well when putting in an eye catching finish behind the leaders.
Purdon said all three come in to tonight’s race in similar order.
Though if he had to single out one as his best winning chance, it would be Spankem.
“They are pretty much on a level playing field, but if I had to favour one it would be Spankem.”
“He is a horse that has raced well fresh, so you would probably lean towards him.”
Both Ultimate Sniper and Chase Auckland will have their first standing starts in the New Brighton Cup.
They stepped safely in last week’s trial and are expected to handle lining up behind the tapes, on Friday.
Ultimate Sniper will start for the first time since having minor knee surgery after winning the New Zealand Derby in April.
The horse has put the problem completely behind him since returning to work.
“His preparation has been faultless and he has been no setbacks through it and everything has gone smoothly,” Purdon said.
Ultimate Sniper had panels on his 3yr-old opponents, last season, and Purdon is expecting that form mean the horse will measure up in open company.
“He was probably the best of the 3yr-old of his year and the best one can generally come out and foot it with the open company horses.”
“And I think he has got everything he needs to be able to do it.”
Chase Auckland returns to racing much earlier than he did last season.
A muscle complaint and a mixed run of luck on the track and with draws when he finally made the races meant the 5yr-old did not get to realise his potential, last term.
Purdon said the pacer may need racing before he shows his best, this season.
“He is probably going to need the run a little bit.”
"But, I am sure Chase Auckland will go a good race.”
The Purdon-Rasmussen trio will clash with two of trainer Robert Dunn’s team in Classie Brigade and Henry Hubert.
Henry Hubert has had two trials be readied for his 5yr-old season’s return.
The Greg and Nina Hope trained A G’s White Socks and Paul Court’s Hail Christian also contest Friday night’s group 3 feature.