Where to next?
By Michael Guerin
Inter Dominion pacing champion Ultimate Sniper won’t be asked to add the Auckland Cup to his summer spoils but plenty of those he beat last Saturday will.
And while many punters and harness racing fans are still catching their breath after the huge fortnight at Alexandra Park, most of the plans are now in place for where the elite standardbreds go next.
The most important impact on markets will be the news Ultimate Sniper, who was unbeaten during the Inter series, will be allowed to miss the rest of the northern summer, including the Cup at Alexandra Park on December 31.
He will instead return to Christchurch and be set for the the Miracle Mile carnival in February where his first main aim will be the Chariots of Fire, victory in which would qualify him for the A$1million Miracle Mile on March 7.
He isn’t the only star of the Inter series who will miss the Auckland Cup, with two-time heat winner A G’s White Socks to return to former trainers Greg and Nina Hope while all the Australians who contested both the pacing and trotting series are heading back across the Tasman.
But while Ultimate Sniper drops out of the All Stars team for the Cup, last Saturday’s stunning support race winner Self Assured comes into Cup reckoning and joins most of the hardened open class brigade.
Many of the trotting grand finalists will head to Cambridge next Tuesday but others will wait for the National Trot on December 31 while one of the biggest surprises is that only one of the top three-year-old pacers will head to the Victoria and NSW Derbys and that is Smooth Deal.
Plans for a potential Perth campaign for one of the All Stars open class pacers, to target the Fremantle and West Australia Cups, have also been shelved.
Here is a race by race look at the plans for the rich summer of harness racing ahead to assist you with your futures betting.
Note, intended programmes can change because of performance.
Auckland Cup (Dec 31): Self Assured, Chase Auckland, Cruz Bromac, Thefixer, Ashley Locaz, Another Masterpiece (all All Stars); Mach Shard, On The Cards (Barry Purdon); Classie Brigade (Robert Dunn); Triple Eight, Check In (Steve Telfer)
Notable absentees: Ultimate Sniper (short break), A G’s White Socks (returning south), Belle Of Montana (free-for-all same night), Henry Hubert, all eight of the Australian Inter Dominion contenders (returned home).
Melbourne: Cruz Bromac, Chase Auckland, Thefixer, Ashley Locaz (Ballarat Cup, Casey Classic or Hunter Cup); Self Assured (Bonanza at Melton, Jan 25); Belle Of Montana (Ladyship Mile, February 1). Triple Eight possible for Hunter Cup.
Smooth Deal (Vic Derby heat and final).
Sydney: Ultimate Sniper (two preludes of Chariots Of Fire, then A$200,000 Chariots Of Fire on Feb 22 and Miracle Mile if qualified); Self Assured (Miracle Mile prelude Feb 29 then Mile on March 7). Mach Shard (possible Miracle Mile preludes and final).
Belle Of Montana (Ladyship Mile on March 7, may need to race in prelude if she doesn’t win automatic qualifer at Melton). Smooth Deal NSW Derby and preludes.
Most other Kiwi three-year-olds including carnival star Copy That to stay in New Zealand, some to race in Sales Series at Alexandra Park on Dec 31 then be set for local Derbys, unless sold or exported.
Cambridge, Flying Mile (Dec 24): Oscar Bonavena and Enhance Your Calm (All Stars); Marcoola (Barry Purdon), Temporale (Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett), Majestic Man (Phil Williamson).
Alex Park, National Trot (Dec 31): Oscar Bonavena, Enhance Your Calm, Winterfell, Temporale, Massive Metro, Paramount King, Majestic Man, Valloria, Woodstone (possible).
Tickle Me Pink to race in lower grade race same night.
Absentees: Lemond (stress fracture, out for season), Monty Python (returning south), Credit Master (fighting infection, out for summer).
Victoria for Dullard Cup and Great Southern Star (Jan 25 and Feb 1): Oscar Bonavena, Enhance Your Calm, Massive Metro, Temporale.
Winterfell only 50-50 for Victorian campaign with decision made after the National Trot.