The final field has now been released for this year’s Group 1 $800,000 Christchurch Casino NZ Trotting Cup, set down for a new time of 5:12pm on Tuesday the 13th November, of course once again at Addington Raceway in Christchurch.
There have been many twists and turns along the way to establishing the field to face the starter in this the 115th running of the “Holy Grail”, with an unusually high attrition rate of recognised stars and favoured runners along the way.
The most high-profile withdrawals to date have been two reining favourites at their time of withdrawing, in Western Australian star Chicago Bull and local aspirant Ultimate Machete. The former was withdrawn after sustaining multiple fractures to his whither region in a freak accident the day after an amazing winning performance at Alexandra Park saw him move into Cup favouritism. Then Ultimate Machete took over as the favourite in the betting market, before he too had to be withdrawn having succumbed to a possible foot abscess with tenderness in his hoof.
Also withdrawn more recently have been No Doctor Needed, a competitor in the last three editions of the race, and Northview Hustler, who both hale from the north.
So, fifteen runners are set to line up, in what is recognised as the greatest harness race in the southern hemisphere. This year will see five runners from the Robert Dunn stable take their place in the field, a remarkable feat that equals the record set by Mark Purdon in 2012, with four further runners this year hailing from the All Stars Stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, so these two trainers alone will account for more than half the field.
However, it is a Kiwi-bred venturing across the Tasman Sea from NSW, where he is now trained by Kevin Pizzuto, that has taken over the mantle of Cup favourite. Tiger Tara, despite receiving a second-row draw, has maintained his favouritism that he assumed after the withdrawal of Ultimate Machete earlier this week.
It has been quite a bazaar Cup build-up, but some normality was restored when several of the nominees raced at Addington last week, where in a truly run race, The Fixer promoted himself into the limelight with a good win, having previously suffered a setback in his preparation.
Then last night, Cruz Bromac took out the Cup Trial, a relatively sedate affair that featured five Cup runners, which he won comfortably from a stablemate Spankem who is not in the NZ Cup and fast-finishing Jack’s Legend and Forgotten Highway who will take their places in the Cup field.
Also, last night the final field for the big event was selected, with three of the All Stars runners drawing the first three barriers and their other runner Dream About Me drawing at No.5, split only by the northern runner Star Galleria. Drawn in No.1 is The Fixer, to be driven by Natalie Rasmussen, who is part-owned by Breckon Farms Syndicate members Philip and Glenys Kennard and John Magness, along with Pauline Gillan and RJ Fleetwood. At Barrier No.2 is Cruz Bromac, to be driven by Mark Purdon and at No.3 is Eamon Maguire, to be driven by Blair Orange, who is part-owned by another Breckon Farms Syndicate member Trevor Casey, along with AD Gow, SR Pulley, GJ Anderson, Pauline Gillan and R Chalklin. Further down in the field at No.16 is Zadaka who is part-owned by yet another Breckon Farms Syndicate member Gary Williams, who shares the ownership with Ross Johnson, Aria Small, Janine Cole and Laurie Henwood.
The road for the favourite Tiger Tara to win became much harder when he drew the second line and on trainer Kevin Pizzuto’s own admission his task has been made that much harder again by drawing behind Cruz Bromac, who is a horse Pizzuto himself used to train and who is one of the worst standing start beginners on the front line. Tiger Tara has however already had four starts in previous NZ Cups, for two sixth placings, a second and a third, with both his placings behind champion pacer Lazarus, so as a race-hardened fit horse Tiger Tara could still possibly be the one to beat, but that will be dependent on the run he gets during the race. Since the Cup draw was released the Australian TAB has doubled Tiger Tara’s price from $3.50 to $7, but the NZ TAB Fixed Odds have held him firm at $3.80.
The Fixer is the second favourite at $4.30, closely followed by Dream About Me at $4.40 in the third line of betting. Cruz Bromac has shortened into $7.00, with Eamon Maguire drifting to $11.00. The next line of betting is shared by Star Galleria, a first-time starter in the Cup and Jack’s Legend, last year’s runner-up, both at $17.00.
The other feature pacing race on the big day is the Group 1 $170,000 McMillan Equine Feeds Sires Stakes Series Final, for 3-year-old colts and geldings, which sees Ultimate Sniper set to start a $1.60 hot favourite. He, along with The Moonshadow are part-owned by Breckon Farms Syndicate members Philip and Glenys Kennard, who share in the ownership with GR Douglas, Phil and Margaret Creighton and Kevin Riseley, so it is set to be a big day for them once again. Interestingly, another runner in this field is Bettor Getta Lover, who was prepared for the 2017 Australasian Classic Yearling Sale by Breckon Farms for Karnup Racing Pty Ltd from Western Australia.
The first race on Cup Day is at 12.05 pm and while the great racing spectacle on offer will enthral the spectators, the oncourse entertainment also features a band, fashion parades that include the Best Dressed Lady and Best Dressed Man competitions and Body Art competitions.
The scene is set for a great day’s racing with of course the NZ Trotting Cup taking centre stage, so we wish all horses and their connections the very best of luck in their quest to take home the “Holy Grail”.