Start key to South Coast Arden tonight

By Michael Guerin

Brent Mangos isn’t touting the usual early campaign warning that often accompanies pacing stars when South Coast Arden returns to Alexandra Park tonight.

Because the Pukekohe horseman says the standing start will be the greatest determinant of the favourite's chances off a 20m handicap in the $30,000 IRT Summer Cup.

South Coast Arden has actually already raced once this campaign but then missed Harness Million night with a skin infection, so second up after a month away from the track tonight feels like a restart for a huge autumn campaign ahead.

That is made significantly trickier by his 20m handicap over 2200m which depending on the start could see him chasing for a long way.

“How fast he can begin will be crucial,” says Mangos.

“I see two scenarios. If he is slow away then I will have to drive him for luck but if he begins well and is up handy with them I can drive him more how he is best suited.”

That means working around the field and outstaying his rivals, which is how South Coast Arden has made his charge through the grades in the last 12 months.

He is a big, brutal rolling stayer but often the problem with those horses is when they are not really fit their preferred racing style can undo them. Mango doubts that will be the case tonight.

“He is fit enough to win,” he says.

“I know he missed a race because of the skin infection but he bounced back from that quickly and he was very strong the last 100m at the workouts last weekend in a fast time.

“The other proven open class horses, like Kango, are off 10m so he is only giving them 10m and if he begins well he can actually make a flyer so I am not too worried about the handicap.

“So it may all come down to the start.”

South Coast Arden, and a few others in tonight’s main pace, could have a mammoth autumn after the radical changes to the harness racing calendar with the $900,000 The Race at Cambridge on April 14 and the $400,000 Auckland Cup on May 27 main targets but with plenty of $50,000 to $100,000 target in between.

He is as good as guaranteed his spot in The Race as his connections have purchased a slot so his return tonight will be watched by connections of other possible The Race contenders on both sides of the Tasman.

If South Coast Arden doesn’t hit his hopples quickly then Hot And Treacherous and Kango, both of whom could also reach new heights this autumn, look the logical dangers tonight, with southern mare Gold Chain the clear top pick in tonight’s main trot.

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