Spankem reliable and ready
By Jonny Turner
In a year of unknowns, Spankem is set to offer punters some certainty when he seeks redemption in the New Zealand Cup at Addington today.
With the favourites Copy That and Self Assured dominating pre-race talk, the All Stars pacer will step quietly on to harness racing’s biggest stage in his attempt to go one better than his runner-up effort behind Cruz Bromac last year.
Though there is no doubting their class, Self Assured and Copy That will have to prove they have what it takes to handle the extraordinary surrounds of a sold-out Addington Raceway when they step out in the 3200m feature for the first time.
After going down by just a neck in last year’s race, Spankem comes into the New Zealand Cup with less to prove to than his main rivals.
The hopes of the horse going one better than last year look bright especially when his champion trainer Mark Purdon says his six-year-old will return in even better shape this time around.
“I feel Spankem is a little bit stronger this year.”
“He is just a very, very good horse and a professional horse and no doubt he will go a great race.”
Spankem was back to his professional self to win the New Zealand Cup Trial after a rare skip at the start of the Ashburton Flying Stakes.
The pacer appears to have been stuck with the worst of the barrier draws among the favourites when he was handed saddlecloth 15.
But if the race’s three emergencies come out as expected, Spankem will start from barrier 2 on the second row, following out Di Caprio.
And that is a position Purdon is comfortable with for his Miracle Mile winner.
“He is in a real good spot – I have been really pleased with him right the way through.”
“And I can see him getting not a bad run through at the start.”
“He comes into a decent spot and I could see him taking up a handy enough position early in the race.”
Self Assured is set to start from barrier 8 on the front line in today’s feature.
After beginning well from the unruly position in his two most recent runs, the five-year-old was back to his old tricks when galloping away in last week’s New Zealand Cup Trial.
Purdon admitted he has exhausted nearly every option in training the Auckland Cup winner to step away.
The worst part for the master horseman is Self Assured feels like he is about to get it right just as he goes to leave the mark.
“He just feels like he has almost got the first three steps right and then he leaves his gear for no reason,” Purdon said.
“He has had enough practice now and he begins well at home.”
“It is not like you lose him every time at home, if he catches it he is very fast.”
While Purdon heads to Addington unsure of what Self Assured will deliver when the tapes fly he has no doubts about what shape the pacer is in leading into the New Zealand Cup.
“He is in really good shape.”
“But he has to do things right to win it, he can’t go giving away 10 or 15 metres at the start.”
“When he has galloped he hasn’t given them big starts, but at the same time we can’t afford to give away any ground in the Cup.”
Ashley Locaz rounds out the All Stars stable’s team that is out to win a fifth consecutive New Zealand Cup for Purdon and training partner, Natalie Rasmussen.
The six-year-old has not had any trouble stepping away in two starts since returning from Australia and is expected to begin well from barrier 9.
“First up at Ashburton he wasn’t too far away and then at Kaikoura, he was outside Classie Brigade all of the way and he fought all of the way to the line,” Purdon said.
North Island hope Copy That is clearly the horse the All Stars stable trio have to beat.
The Ashburton Flying Stakes winner is set to start favourite when he becomes 75-year-old Pukekohe trainer Ray Green’s first New Zealand Cup runner this afternoon.