Start key for U May Cullect

By Jonny Turner

All eyes will be on the ping of the standing start tapes as Southland stars U May Cullect and Pembrook Playboy go head to head in Saturday’s Northern Southland Cup.

Though the Group 3 Ascot Park feature is far from a two-horse race, it does set up as an exciting rematch between the two pacers after they ran scintillating sectionals in their one-two finish at Winton last week.

Early speed helped U May Cullect crucially settle in front of his younger rival last time, before he reeled off a 25.8sec last 400m – a faster final split than King Of Swing ran in the Miracle Mile two days later.

Before the Northern Southland Cup was on the injury-plagued Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis trained pacer’s agenda he had to pull up well.

And thankfully for his camp and harness racing fans, U May Cullect will line up on Saturday in brilliant order.

“I am really happy with his condition, he has pulled up sound,” Barclay said.

“Everything looks good.”

“He was pretty well after that mile last week, he is not far off [his peak].”

U May Cullect has a major challenge on his hands if he is to settle in front of Pembrook Playboy on Saturday.

The seven-year-old struggled in his standing starts last campaign before stepping nicely in his fresh up win in the Riverton Cup.

Barclay has moved U May Cullect to the unruly in the hope he can keep improving his standing start manners.

“In the small field, it is all going to come down to whether I can get him away a bit quicker.”

“He steps away, but he can get a bit headstrong and he starts jumping around.”

“But he has been stepping away a wee bit slow, so I have put him out to the unruly to sort of have him on the move and have him switched on a wee bit more, hopefully.”

Like U May Cullect, Pembrook Playboy has thrived since their mile clash at Winton last week.

And Nathan Williamson could not be happier with his pacer leading into their rematch.

“It was a bit of a walk and a sprint at Winton and we couldn’t catch the winner,” Williamson said.

“I was thrilled to bits with him, really.”

“He was finding the line great and he has come through the run great, so there should be no excuses on Saturday.”

Pembrook Playboy enters slightly new territory when starting from the 20m alongside U May Cullect on Saturday.

That hardly has Williamson concerned.

“He obviously had to do a little bit in the middle stages of the Invercargill Cup but he was off a far more generous handicap.”

“It is going to be a little bit different, but he tends to step well and he is pretty adaptable so “I am really looking forward to Saturday.”

Saturday’s feature is far from a two-horse race.

Vintage Cheddar (20m) was sound in third behind U May Cullect at Winton last week when parking out.

The Alister Black trained pacer should relish stepping up to 2700m.

Robyns Playboy (20m) hit the line nicely behind him in fourth at Winton.

That Alexander Guy and Deus Ex also look capable of running handy race from the front line.

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