U May Cullect faces biggest challenge yet

By Michael Guerin

Kirstin Barclay isn’t scared of the challenges that lay ahead of Southland sensation U May Cullect.

Because that way she looks at it, if taking on the best horses and trainers in the country doesn’t excite her, she is in the wrong job.

 Barclay is the co-trainer and driver of unbeaten pacer U May Cullect, who is very good and might even be very special.

 He faces the biggest challenge so far of his six-start career in the $40,000 Uncut Gems Male Pace at Addington tomorrow night, up against genuine open class horses in Classic Brigade and Triple Eight.

 The Uncut Gems are for horses who haven’t won a race worth more than $55,000 and didn’t run top three in the recent Jewels. With better legs, U May Cullect would be ineligible by now.

 He only started racing this season as a five-year-old because he had damaged the tendon in his near-side leg twice as a younger horse.

When he did finally make it to the races this season the shock value was instantaneous, with his six wins having come with an average five-length margin.

While his margins and times, including a 1:52.1 mile at his second start, are those of a good horse, his explosive speed and the same pacing action that made his sire Gotta Go Cullect one of the best juveniles of his era are what set him apart from the other open class pretenders.

Already a rating90 horse U May Cullect is as good as qualified for the New Zealand Cup, which would be a dream come true for Barclay, who trains him with Paul “Tank” Ellis.

 But the road to the New Zealand Cup, or any other serious open class races next season, leads through the pacing might of the All Stars stables, led by Spankem, Turn It Up and defending Cup  hero Thefixer.

 Barclay is unfazed.

 “We know how good these top horses are and how good a trainers Mark and Natalie are,” she offers.

 “But if you aren’t excited by taking them on then I think you are in the wrong game.

 “That is what we want to do, go up against the best and see how we go.

 “I am not saying we will beat their best horses but there is only one way to find out.

 “So if he holds together and we are lucky enough to be in a race like the Cup I’d be excited about it, not scared of them.”

 While beating the absolute elite is a far cry from beating up on Southland’s next best, some of the horses U May Cullect meets over the 2600m mobile tomorrow night would not be out of place in a New Zealand Cup so if he beats them easily the hype machine will change gear.

While U May Cullect was too old to contest the Jewels, it would have been an fascinating drag race up the Addington straight had he sat on Turn It Up’s back on Jewels day, particularly as the Auckland Cup winner understandably wasn’t as sharp as earlier in the season.

 Barclay admits as exciting as her new equine toy is “he is amazing to drive at full speed” she tries not get carried away with what the future holds.

 “For me it is a big deal to be going to Addington with a really good horse who we think can win. This week’s race is a big deal for us and I’ll be a bit nervous.

“Before he won with him there in April I had only ever won one race at Addington before.”
 That was 17 years ago so Barclay is entering foreign territory but at least she is doing so with an owner who backs her, a canny training partner she trusts and U May Cullect, who is as weird as he is fast.

“Yep, he is a bit of a weirdo,” she admits.

 “He spends most of his time being worked at the beach and he doesn’t really like people fussing over him. He is a bit of a loaner.

 “But he is lovely to work with and every time we find a new challenge for him he loves it.”

 Challenges don’t come much bigger in harness racing than the second Tuesday in November at Addington.

 Barclay won’t shy away.


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