Top Aussie stable now in The Race
By Michael Guerin
Australia’s leading stable is the surprise bonus addition to harness racing’s $900,000 slot race at Cambridge next month.
It will be a long overdue homecoming for now 10-year-old Alta Orlando when he contests The Race at Cambridge in April 14, the first major equine slot race ever held in New Zealand.
His connections have secured one of the last of the 10 slots in the 2200m mobile which looks to have only have two vacancies left, but they are also likely to spoken for.
South Coast Arden, who was a huge second to Self Assured at Alexandra Park on Friday night, looks certain to get the slot run by his co-owners Phil and Glenys Kennard while the Hydroflow slot will go to Spankem if the former Miracle Mile winner can shake a respiratory problem.
Hydroflow boss and major harness racing owner Ken Breckon says while his outstanding mare Bettor Twist was back in winning form at Addington on Friday night the intention is to keep seeking confidence-boosting wins in the south with her before maybe targeting the Auckland Cup on May 27.
So Spankem, who Breckon has a share in, will be the Hydroflow slot holder if he can return to racing in something like his best form at Alexandra Park on Friday week.
He is likely to clash that night with Self Assured, South Coast Arden and Aussie invitee Mach Dan and with final declaration of slots the following Wednesday, April 6 it could decide the final slot.
If Spankem doesn’t race up to the form needed his slot could go to Bettor Twist or even another horse.
But if all goes to plan with Spankem and some minor contractual issues being discussed on Monday are ironed out the field for The Race will be as good as finalised.
It will contain, in TAB market order: Self Assured, Mach Dan, South Coast Arden, Spankem, Hot And Treacherous, Pembrook Playboy, Alta Orlando, Krug, Spellbound and Stylish Memphis.
Alta Orlando’s inclusion is out of left field and comes after a horse being touted for his slot, One Change, was a well-beaten last at Addington on Saturday.
Alta Orlando started his career trained by the All Stars eight years ago, winning the Sales Series Pace at Addington as a two-year-old but has spent the last three years in Sydney with the husband and wife stable of Belinda and Luke McCarthy, where he has been remarkably consistent at the absolute highest level.
He scored two dazzling wins at the recent Miracle Mile carnival and young gun driver Jack Callaghan will travel across to drive him, sneaking in by one day after the Government last week changed the border restrictions to allow Australians into New Zealand without quarantine from April 13.
The timing couldn’t have been better for Callaghan as The Race is on a day later. The open borders also provides the connections of key runners Self Assured and Mach Dan the chance also attend the race.
“It is pretty exciting to have an opportunity like this is it all falls together like it looks like it will,” said Callaghan.
“The horse is flying and I will just have to do some form research on some of the other runners but with ones like Mach Dan, who I have driven, Stylish Memphis and Spellbound all racing over here I know a fair few of them already.”
Alta Orlando joins Mach Dan in bringing searing gate speed to The Race and providing the locals with a few headaches on how to approach the new event which is creating enormous interest.