The big questions after last night's racing at Addington
By Michael Guerin
Lead up meetings to the biggest carnivals can often be a very cold entree before the main course, an entree with very little meat on the bone too.
Friday night at Addington was anything but, with the longer than usual gap before IRT New Zealand Cup day meaning plenty of stars used it to get ready for Cup week and Group 1 targets beyond.
After a night when Diamond Racing (Team Dunn) started the evening with four straight training successes were we left with more questions than answers.
Here are some of them:
Race 1: Is Sunny’s Sister’s Trotting Oaks campaign back on track?
Sure looked so as she trotted squarely except for when in full flight on the home bend and that was without the half hopples on. She is getting stronger and more confident.
Race 4: Who’s Delight is a Derby contender, is Ohoka Connor?
Yes to both. Who’s Delight is very tough and just kept on running in front. He will need to go way quicker than his 3:12.3 for the 2600m to win the Derby on December 10 but the track was slushy and he bolted in, last 800m in 55.9.
Ohoha Connor lost his unbeaten record but had no luck back and wide early, then parked on hard sectionals. He will improve a lot in coming weeks so his Derby dreams aren’t over but the classic is going to have real depth.
Race 5: Could Head Em Up emerge as the best juvenile trotter?
Maybe. He was very strong beating many of the best youngsters in his second run in five days with Paul Nairn racing him hard to get his ringcraft up.
He is a son of Waterloo Sunset, who was a good horse for Nairn and the training freaks says he is leaving clean-gaited stock.
“He has only served five or so mares this year but the door is open and he is available if anybody wants to bring their mares,” says Nairn.
Lots to still happen in this crop.
Race 6: Is Chase A Dream the best male pacer?
Hard to say yes after Cold Chisel’s recent exploits but judging by the way he beat many of the next best pacing juveniles, without Cold Chisel and Vessem there, Chase A Dream is the real deal. Barrier draws could decide the two-year-old Sires’ Stakes Final on Cup Day.
Race 7: What do we make of the Dominion after the feature trot?
Put simply, Smokin Bandar might have a slightly better chance in our biggest trot while Bolt For Brilliance may have slightly less. The open trot was anything but definitive as Smokin Bandar had a 30m start, uncontested lead on a wet track that suited leaders and Bolt never really looked to be trotting that well.
Smokin Bandar was good but not in Muscle Mountain’s class at Ashburton but he will get a decent head start off him in the Dominion and his standing start manners were good on Friday, which is crucial.
Bolt For Brilliance is so good he can still win the Dominion but you have to think Muscle Mountain would have got closer last night than he did.
The question now is how much he improves and will Herlihy start him on Cup Day to tighten him up further.
Race 8: Can Mantra Blue beat Millwood Nike before the end of the year?
Yes. The northern filly was dynamic remaining unbeaten in her Addington debut, coming from well back to beat Sweet Coco and the older mares.
Her blazing speed wasn’t suited to the wet conditions and she looks something special, albeit she is now about to take on a superstar.
Mantra Blue is likely to get two Group 1 chances against Millwood Nike in the Nevele R Final on Cup Day and the NZ Oaks on December 10 and Cup Day would seem her best chance.
The draw should be more important over the 1980m of the Nevele R and Mantra Blue will have had four lead-up runs compared to Millwood Nike’s one.
It is rare to have two unbeaten fillies heading into a Nevele R Final, one thing for sure, they both can’t still be unbeaten heading into the Oaks.
Race 9: Should Beach Ball be in the IRT NZ Cup?
Yes. He has to be now after winning his last two and the ease of his all-the-way win on Friday.
He has finally got the hang of standing starts and for all the placed form in better races of some of his rivals, winning is winning and in a Cup with a long tail winning form will be hard to find.
He was very good for driver Ricky May and caretaker trainer Benny Hill, who is looking after the horse for a laid-up Kevin Chapman, so Hill has had a good week.
Macandrew Aviator was good in second, American Me the same in third and Republican Party settled too far back, hard to sit parked the last lap and simply isn’t that horse just yet. Still, nothing to scare the Cup favourites here.
Race 11: Where do Wag Star and Jolimont sit in this three-year-old crop?
Um, refer to race 4. Very similar quality of horses even though Wag Star was the most dynamic of the three-year-old boys on show on the night, punching through from the second line early to wrest the lead and hold Jolimont pretty easily at the line.
Like the other boys in Race 4 they could all be somewhere between our third or 10th best three-year-old behind Don’t Stop Dreaming and Merlin and we will just have to wait to see how it all shakes out before and during the Derby. One thing for sure, Wag Star is an open class horse of the future.