Star Galleria out of the NZ Cup
By Michael Guerin
The northern challenge for the New Zealand Trotting Cup is down to one as the road to the great race gets a lot steeper.
The most important trial for the Cup at Addington three weeks today, comes up at Ashburton next Monday when many of the big names clash for the first time this season.
The Flying Stakes will pitch defending Cup champion Thefixer against this season’s favourite Spankem and Australian raiders Cruz Bromac and Our Uncle Sam, who was good enough to finish second in last season’s Inter Dominion final.
But while that will thicken the plot leading into New Zealand’s biggest harness race, one horse who won’t be there is the northerner Star Galleria.
Trainer Steven Reid has lost his on-going battle to get the speedster into the Cup and will instead stay home to concentrate on the Inter Dominions, which begin at Alexandra Park on November 29.
“I have had three or four weeks where little things have set up back,” explains Reid.
“The latest was a hoof abscess which has been cut out and while he will be back working this week, he has missed work that means he can’t race at Alexandra Park this Friday.
“So I can’t have him fit enough for the Cup so the Inters become his main aim now.”
That leaves Mach Shard as the only realistic Cup hope trained in the north. He starts in a $25,000 race at Alexandra Park this Friday before using the NZ Cup trial at Addington on November 6 as his final lead-up.
Monday’s Ashburton meeting is a shaping as a crucial Cup week prep for not only the pacers but the trotters.
The clash of the Cup favourites in the A$50,000 Flying Stakes will go a long way to determining outright favouritism because while Spankem still deserves that position he did peak after looking the winner at Addington last Friday.
That was off a 30m handicap and on a sticky track, which he has shown in the past he doesn’t enjoy, and he has the luxury of starting off level terms for not only the Cup but almost every race for the rest of the season.
While the Flying Stakes will have a huge impact on how punters view the Cup, the trotting races at Ashburton on Monday may tell a story of their own.
Because new sensation Oscar Bonavena is being allowed to miss the Flying Mile to stick to an intermediate grade trot, suggesting he could also bypass the NZ Trotting Free-For-All on NZ Cup Day and be saved for the standing start of the Dominion three days later.
Sundees Son, the other market dominator for the major trotting races during Cup week, is entered for Monday’s Flying Mile.