Trotting's big rivalry is back
by Jonny Turner
After nearly eighteen months of anticipation, a long-awaited showdown of superstars will finally take place on Friday night at Addington.
Brilliant square gaiters Muscle Mountain and Bolt For Brilliance will finally renew their massive rivalry in the Group Three Canterbury Park Trotting Cup.
Bolt For Brilliance started off his season in style, triumphing over a lower-grade field before making his way south for the huge night of feature racing at Addington on Friday night.
Just a week prior, Muscle Mountain powered his way to victory in the Ordeal Trotting Cup.
Though his big-striding trotter has been in excellent form, driver Ben Hope acknowledges that there's still room for improvement in the horse's performance.
"He is definitely getting fitter with every run, but I think there is still plenty of improvement in him to come."
"He is still hanging onto his winter coat a little bit. His work has been great, and for where he is, we are very happy with him."
"It is still over a month until the Dominion, and hopefully, we can have him in top form for that."
Bolt For Brilliance's impressive fresh-up win did not go unnoticed by the Hope camp, and they are approaching the Friday night clash with the utmost respect for the northern star.
"Absolutely, we have great respect for him," Hope said.
"A few people have said to me, 'You won't be able to sleep at night taking on Bolt For Brilliance,' but I am more excited than anything."
"He's a great horse, and so is ours. It should be a great race."
Both Bolt For Brilliance and Muscle Mountain will start from the 20m back mark in the Friday night contest.
Muscle Mountain may concede a slight advantage starting from the unruly position, but this is somewhat offset by Bolt For Brilliance starting widest in the draw.
Muscle Mountain faced an initial hiccup in his first spring run but still managed to start safely.
But crucially ahead of Friday night’s clash, he made an excellent beginning in his Ordeal Trotting Cup win.
"He stepped really well last start; he seems really happy on the unruly at the moment," Hope said.
The potential open class stars of tomorrow are among the outstanding fields for NZB Standardbred’s three Harness Million Finals at Addington on Friday night.
Impressive debut winner Princess Sadie clashes with the recent northern winner Paramount Kiwi, as well as Look To Da Stars.
Princess Sadie gives away a draw advantage to both of her key rivals, but trainer-driver Matthew Williamson is still hopeful of a strong performance from his filly.
“She’s come through her first start very well; it was a tough run but she has been very well since then,” Williamson said.
“It is a classy field, and her wider draw won’t make it easy, but she has the ability to be among the finishers.”
Mark and Nathan Purdon look to have some of the best draws in the Harness Million two-year-old fillies final.
After running one-two at Addington last week, Waterfront and Madrid will start from barriers 6 and 5, respectively.
“There isn’t a lot between them at all; they have both come through their runs really well too, and their work has been good,” Mark Purdon said.
“Waterfront seems to be on the way up; she’s improving, and hopefully, she can be even better.”
“Madrid punched through from the second row last week and ran a nice race; she’s a lovely filly, too.”
All eyes will be on Le Major in the Harness Million Final for two-year-old boys.
The Arna Donnelly trained youngster heads south after a highly impressive run of three recent wins in the north."