Two expert opinions on Addington's big Friday night

The fields are out for what is shaping up as an epic night's racing at Addington on Friday.

So we asked two of our experts, Jonny Turner and Michael Guerin for their thoughts - who's fared well in the draws, and who's fared poorly?

Jonny Turner : 

The stars are likely to have to do it the hard way on a huge night of harness racing at Addington on Friday.

Second row draws have been handed to several key runners as a mass of young talent from across the country heads to Christchurch to chase Group race titles and Harness Million glory.

Though he is set to start from the second row, the term tricky draw may not apply to Merlin’s barrier 10 spot in his blockbuster clash with his arch-rival Don’t Stop Dreaming in the Group 1 Airpark Canterbury 3YO Flying Stakes.

From barrier 1 on the second row, Merlin will follow out his stablemate Sooner The Bettor who has already proven himself to be a gate flyer in top level races.

That scenario is likely to see Merlin settle handier to the pace than Don’t Stop Dreaming who has been handed barrier 14 – towards the outside of the second row.

The Mark and Nathan Purdon trained Vessem will start from barrier 13 in his quest to win the Listed NZB Standardbred Harness Million Two-Year-Old Colts and Geldings Pace.

The star two-year-old will have to overcome that tricky draw in his first start since his first racetrack defeat behind his stablemate Chase The Dream, who has to contend with the nightmare draw of barrier 15 on Friday night.

While she hasn’t been stuck on the second row, Group 1 winning filly Coastal Babe will be posted out in barrier 7 in her first South Island start.

The Steven Reid trained filly has key threats drawn inside her in the NZB Standardbred Harness Million Two-Year-Old Fillies Final in Kiss, Madrid and Waterfront.

A wait that stretches back to May of 2022 will be over when trotting stars Muscle Mountain and Bolt For Brilliance are finally reunited in the Group 3 Dancinginthedark M Canterbury Park Trotting Cup.

Bolt For Brilliance returns south fresh off a winning return from injury against lower grade opposition at Alexandra Park.

Muscle Mountain is primed for the rematch, having downed Bolt For Brilliance in their last meeting at Cambridge, following his slick win in the recent Ordeal Trotting Cup.

New Zealand’s open class stars will also be out to play in Friday night’s Austin Farrier Supplies Handicap Pace at Addington.

Akuta and Self Assured are sure to return fitter for their good first up outings a fortnight ago.

The race offers B D Joe the chance to get his campaign back on track after he ran into trouble in his last start in the Canterbury Classic.

Michael Guerin :

One plane and a heap of favourable barrier draws have combined to give northern harness racing one of its strongest Addington assaults in years this Friday night.

Not only does the night bring arch rivals Bolt For Brilliance and Muscle Mountain together for the first time in 17 months but also a rare meeting of star three-year-old pacers Merlin and Don’t Stop Dreaming in the Airpark Canterbury 3YO Flying Stakes.

Add in Self Assured vs Akuta, Krug and B D Joe in the main handicap pace, the Austin Farrier Supplies Handicap Pace,  and two more Harness Millions (Sales Series) races and the meeting is the strongest harness meeting this year.

That has undoubtedly been aided by the new Inter-Island horse flights which have started this week, with a full flight of 18 horses landing in Christchurch on Tuesday morning including 16 harness horses. 

While standardbreds tend to handle the long road transporter trip south and Inter-Island ferry better than thoroughbreds the Auckland-Christchurch flights are far less disruptive to a horse’s training so have been immediately popular.

The trainers of those northern raiders arrived to plenty of good news too with many of the northerners securing good barrier draws.

Le Major’s chances in the $200,000 NZB Standardbred Harness Million 2YO Colts and Geldings Race has been boosted by him drawing barrier 3 (after emergencies) while All Stars favourites Vessem and Chase A Dream will start from wide on the second line.

He has improved with every start this campaign and now looks a complete racehorse with the motor to match the southerners so gives trainer Arna Donnelly a shot at the richest win of her career.

Unbeaten juvenile trotter Paramount Kiwi, also from Cambridge, will start from a perfect barrier 2 in the $75,000 NZB Standardbred Harness Million 2YO Trot while Coastal Babe has drawn wide at 7 in the NZB Standardbred Harness Million 2YO Fillies Pace but with the gate speed to make her own luck and both could win without surprising.

The most intriguing draw is in the Airpark Canterbury Flying Stakes for three-year-old pacing boys in which both Merlin and Don’t Stop Dreaming start from the second line but, and it is a big but, Merlin is drawn directly behind free-running stablemate Sooner The Better who starts from barrier 1.

If Sooner The Better can hold the lead and keep running it raises the possibility of Merlin having the perfect trail throughout while Don’t Stop Dreaming could be forced to move mid-race and sit parked.

The draws are less relevant in the two open class races as they are both standing start handicaps but with Muscle Mountain and Bolt For Brilliance standing alongside each other on the 20m backmark in what quite remarkably will be their first clash since May last year.

As stunning as Bolt For Brilliance was setting a national record at Alexandra Park in his comeback race last Friday he hasn’t won a race in the South Island for two-and-half years, although the standing start conditions on Friday may suit him better than Muscle Mountain.

The combination of the draws and the convenience of the flight south will ensure northern-trained horses have realistic chances in all five black type races and the TAB bookies face a tricky task setting markets for the unusually deep races with such different formlines.

To see the fields for Friday at Addington click here

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