Two pacing superstars go head to head at Alexandra Park tonight

By Michael Guerin

There are words of warning around the two pacing superstars returning at Alexandra Park tonight but such is the class of Akuta and Copy That it may not matter.

The pair return in the Lincoln Farms Founders Cup over 1700m (8.54pm) and with only six starters their dominate the market as you would expect from multiple New Zealand Cup and Derby winners.

Both Akuta and Copy That are using tonight’s race as the first step down a path toward the $1million Race by Grins at Cambridge on April 14 before rolling through the other group race features and ending their campaigns, all going well, in the Auckland Cup on May 26.

Copy That’s situation is different from Akuta in that he raced just five weeks ago but was pulled out of the Hunter Cup after choking down and was found to have had an internal bleed.

Trainer Ray Green says Copy That had a week off after that, has been treated for that bleed as he was when a lesser one happened in October and the two-time New Zealand Cup winner has responded well.

“He is fine and when we were told he has a minor bleed in October he came home and won a New Zealand Cup and set national records so we are confident we will see the best of him again,” says Green.

“So that isn’t a worry but he is fresh up and he will improve with the run and with Maurice (McKendry) driving from the wide draw I think he will go back at the start and be driven to run on.”

That is a hard way to win a fast-class 1700m mobile anywhere but particularly at Alexandra Park and the prospect of Copy That being driven conservatively makes Akuta look a certainty, until his trainer Mark Purdon suggests the same tactics could be employed.

Brent Mangos will catch drive on Akuta, who was too sharp for Copy That in their Pukekohe workout last weekend, but hasn’t raced since winning the NZ Derby at Addington on December 4.

“He is really well but probably only at 90 per cent of his peak fitness, maybe 85 per cent,” says Purdon.

“I will leave the tactics up to Mango (driver) but I’d prefer him driven to charge home than burn early, be in front and be getting tired the last 50m.”

The small field means even if the two favourites are driven cold, and that can change on a whim during the score up, one of them should still get over the top of what are not regular open class opponents.

With two Andrew and Lyn Neal-trained stablemates in Nicholas Cage and Harder Than Diamonds drawn 1 and 2 they could try for a lead-trail scenario but the best horse in the race outside the favourites may be Major Perry so he appeals as a top3 bet at $2.10.

The night’s other main feature presents former Jewels winner Double Delight (R6, No.8) with a tough challenge because while she too is the best horse in the race she faces a 30m handicap over 2200m with horses on the front line who like to step and run so their tactics and times may dictate her winning chances.

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