Last week we presented an early overview of the 11th edition of the Harness Jewels and last Friday the all-important Barrier Draws were conducted, resulting in further discussion on the various contenders’ chances.
On a day of Group 1 racing, with every race carrying the status of this elite level of competition, there is a lot at stake and glory to be had by nine winners on the day.
So the excitement continues to build for New Zealand’s richest race day, to be staged at Ashburton Raceway, this Saturday, the 3rd June.
Mention has been made of the two invited Australian representatives One Muscle Hill (2YO Trotting Ruby) and Mr Mojito (4YO Pacing Emerald) who each will be attempting to become the first Aussie-trained winner at the event and although participation from across the Tasman has been minimal over the 11 years to date, it must be realised that their participation, mainly through invitations issued by HRNZ, has resulted in the coup of obtaining the much-needed publicity for NZ Harness Racing in the very large Australian betting market through at least the first seven Jewels races being shown live on the Australian flagship channel, Sky 1, which notably does not usually show any harness racing on Saturdays until at least the first eight thoroughbred races are completed at the Sydney and Melbourne thoroughbred meetings. This is a significant achievement and one that results in a substantial increase in betting turnover, which will flow back to industry participants in New Zealand.
There are nine Group 1 races on the day, all run over the metric mile distance of 1609m and most are seen to have very warm favourites that are fancied by most pundits to create a day of winning favourites.
The first race (11:47am) on the programme is the Group 1 $150,000 Ashburton Guardian 2YO Diamond and features the top-rated 2-year-old filly in the country, Elle Mac, a current NZ Record holder and beaten only once in her career to date. She has come up with the plum No.2 draw and is currently rated a $1.70 win chance on the TAB Fixed Odds market. Other fancied runners in the event are New York Rain and Dizzy Miss Lizzy.
Race 2 (12:22pm) is the Group 1 $100,000 Neumanns Tyres & The Tyre General 2YO Ruby which on paper appears to be a very even affair for the 2-year-old trotters. There is shaping up to be a close betting affair, with the first five runners in the market all quoted within $3.50 of each other. The current Fixed Odds market shows Springbank Lachie as a narrow favourite at $4.50 to win and others in contention here are Majestic Man, One Muscle Hill, Sundees Sun and Paramount King.
In Race 3 (12:57pm), the Group 1 $150,000 Woodlands Stud 4YO Diamond, there is a dominant and deserving favourite in Piccadilly Princess. Despite being by far the highest rated mare in the field, she only just made it into the final 13-runner field, finishing at No.12 in the rankings, but this was mainly due to her previously racing the main part of her season (successfully) in Australia. She is a short-priced $1.15 favourite. Those capable of running a place in this race would be Arden’s Choice and Rocknroll Princess, but really Piccadilly Princess should be winning this for fun.
Race 4 (1:32pm), the Group 1 $150,000 Mid Canterbury Trotting Owners Assn 3YO Diamond, has also produced a dominant favourite, in Spanish Armada, currently showing $1.35 to win and after her powerful displays in winning the two recent 3-year-old fillies classic races, the latest in NZ Record Time, she is a deserving favourite too. Others in contention here would be Partyon, Delightful Memphis and Bonnie Joan.
Race 5 (2:07pm) is the Group 1 $100,000 Christchurch Casino 3YO Ruby and sees yet another low-priced favourite dominating the market. This is Enghien, who is currently quoted at $1.25, but will need to be trotting at his best to justify these tight odds. Others who rate as challengers are President Roydon and possibly Chevron Express, but all being equal Enghien should win.
Race 6 (2:42pm) is always a much anticipated race for the baby boys, the Group 1 $150,000 Commodore Airport Hotel 2YO Emerald and features yet another very short-priced favourite in Spankem, after coming up with a good draw at No.2. He is also very deserving of his microscopic $1.15 odds on offer, having won four of his last five races and should take a power of beating. His main dangers will be his stablemate The Devils Own, as well as Alta Maestro.
In Race 7 (3:17pm), the Group 1 $150,000 McMillan Feeds 4YO Emerald, there is also an odds-on favourite in the talented but erratic Heaven Rocks. He is currently at $1.75, with his stablemate and major challenger Waikiki Beach quoted as second favourite at $3.40. The Australian representative Mr Mojito is on the third line of betting at $7.00.
Race 8 (3:52pm), the Group 1 $100,000 McMillan Feeds 4YO Ruby presents a very even affair on paper. There are a number of runners that appear to have claims in this race, including Dark Horse ($2.90), Marcoola ($3.60), Wilma’s Mate ($4.00) and Temporale ($7.20), so it is set to be the most evenly contested race on the card.
The final race of the day, Race 9 (4:27pm), is the Group 1 $150,000 Hanley Formula 3YO Emerald, also an eagerly awaited division. It also contains an odds-on favourite in Ultimate Machete, currently at $1.90, but who hasn’t raced for close to 2 months. He is no doubt a class performer, but will need to be on his game, as he is closely challenged by two of his stablemates in Thefixer ($4.50) and More The Better ($4.70). According to the bookmakers, these are the only three horses in the race.
Now that the final fields are programmed, it is amazing to see that Breckon Farms have an incredible 10 horses that were either bred by them, bred on the farm, raced by the Breckon Farms – The Top Ten Syndicate or raced by the Breckon Racing Syndicate, that are set to compete on the day.
We wish these runners in particular and of course all competitors and their connections, the best of luck for their respective races on the day.
It should certainly be a great day’s racing.