I was fortunate enough to attend the 2017 New Zealand Trotting Cup in sleepy Christchurch in the south island of New Zealand.
It’s easily the best day of harness action I’ve ever experienced.
Close to 20,000 spectators on course with marquees on the inside and outside of the track, everyone dressed to impressed and sensational food and drink made for a day similar to the Cox Plate.
Watching the great Lazarus win his second consecutive NZ Cup in a cakewalk made the day ever better!
This year, all Aussies have to watch from the couch but we’ll get excellent coverage on Sky 1 and 2 and there will still be 13 races to watch with 13 winners to find.
Here is my 2020 New Zealand Trotting Cup preview…
IRT NEW ZEALAND TROTTING CUP (Group 1, 3200m, $540,000 NZD)
1 Copy That – Ray Green, Blair Orange $2.80
A young star which would be considered a three-year-old here in Australia. Won five of past six and has looked untouchable up north before winning impressively at Ashburton. He took the front a lap out and ripped off. an electric last 800m, giving nothing else a chance.
The inside alley can tighten horses on Cup day so that’s a worry but he should get away with them, the field often breaks up meaning he can get off the fence and re-take the front.
Without brutal pressure, he will take some catching from on the bunny.
8 Mach Shard – Barry Purdon & Scott Phelan, Scott Phelan $26
A real rough hope but has shown he can compete with the top horses. Has beaten Copy That and ran second in an ID Final.
Gate eight is not perfect but he should be able to get onto the back of a good horse to drag him into the race when the whips turn.
11 Self Assured – Purdon/Rasmussen, Mark Purdon $3.10
Will he, or won’t he? The son of Bettors Delight has been poorly away more times than not of late. He has overcome a few mistakes but a bad beginning on Cup day could end his race before it begins.
IF he does step, you’d think he’d get up on speed and sit outside expected leader Copy That, if not have a look for the top.
It’s impossible to pick one at $3.20, drawn 11 with bad stand start manners. Can win, but I’m not backing him.
15 Spankem – Purdon/Rasmussen, Natalie Rasmussen $4.40
The Miracle Mile winner entered last year’s Cup as a strong favourite and he was the Cup winner for all but the last 50m before Cruz Bromac pinched a famous victory.
His return to racing has been incredible and his fitness must be nearing its peak. An earner of 1.3m, Spankem has a nice blend of toughness, versatility and speed. He will likely come from off speed here which may well be suited to him more so than leading like he did last year.
Top pick but seeing out the 3200m the slight query.
3 Thefixer – Regan Todd, Bobb Butt $11
Former champ, moved stables to give him the best chance to overcome his persistent hoof issues.
Had every chance to repeat last year and was beaten on his merits. Do get the feeling his absolute best is behind him but you never discount a champion and he is the only horse in this race to have won a NZ Cup.
4 Triple Eight – Steve & Amanda Telfer, David Butcher $34
Often around the mark. Has performed well at FFA level in Auckland and competed in some of the bigger races already.
One of a few who will be keen to get away quickly and find the fence.
12 Ashley Locaz – Purdon/Rasmussen, Tim Williams $17
Racing for a few weeks in Australia may have toughened him up. A known follower of speed, Ashley Locaz won a Jewels with a dazzling late sprint. He’s reliable and tries hard and was good at Kaikoura running Classie Brigade to the line from the breeze.
Should run top six.
18 Classie Brigade – Robert Dunn, John Dunn $21
Had this 2019 place-getter drawn the front and stepped away cleanly as he usually does, then this would be a much more interesting race with another winning chance.
It’s unlikely he can strike a blow from 18 without some serious good fortune.
2 Heisenberg – Robert Dunn, Ricky May $81
Ricky May takes the reins on this consistent pacer from the John Dunn yard. One of three Dunn runners. A nice draw and stand start should see him get a cosy trip.
7 Robyn’s Playboy – Ross & Chris Wilson, Craig Ferguson $101
A five-year-old with wins in three of his past five but there’s next to no chance he can win here.
9 Henry Hubert – John Dunn, Gavin Smith $81
Has been around the mark in age-restricted races and now takes on the big boys week in, week out. Has earned close to a quarter of a million bucks and has a chance to earn a good cheque here.
13 Tango Tara – Jim Curtin, Jim Curtin $71
An up-and-comer with the lowest rating in the race but plenty of talent. Has been running good races in behind the top dogs in the lead-up to this. You’d think a race like this will season him for the future.
14 Di Caprio – Brian O’Meara, John Morrison $51
Just 60k in the bank and 22 career runs. Will be looking for an easy trip and try run into the money.
16 Check In – Steve & Amanda Telfer, Ben Butcher $81
A seven-year-old winner of close to 200k. A lowly rating of 80 against horses like Spankem who has 40 rating points on him. Chuck in a bad draw and his hopes are less than 1%.
17 Nandolo – John Howe, Jonny Cox $121
Has been in the money on 24 occasions with nine career wins and more than $140k in the bank. Is lengths below some of these but his owners will have a great experience with a Cup runner.
1 Spankem $4.40 – Class horses, versatile and like him attacking them from off speed.
2 Copy That $2.80 – An easy half lap or so and he will be almost impossible to pass.
3 Self Assured $3.10 – Too many concerns to back with confidence but he may well be the best horse in the race.
4 Ashley Locaz $17 – Likes to follow speed, may get the perfect trip. And hey, I’m on at a monster price so there’s that, too…
And a word on the other major races on the card;
Race 4 – Nevele R Fillies Series Final (Group 1, 1980m, $100,000)
Amazing Dream has been the dominant filly in New Zealand and she took her show on the road with a recent stint in Queensland.
She zipped up the lane to beat Need You Now upon her NZ return and comes into this as the red-hot favourite despite drawing gate nine.
Her major rivals, Need You Now and Stylish Memphis, will be in front of her and I expect the leader to park out Natalie Rasmussen but that should make little difference in the end result.
After Stylish Memphis and Need You Now, the class drops off a cliff which makes for an obvious couple of bets for mine.
Suggested Bets – Exacta 9 from 5,6 and Trifecta 9 from 5,6 from 5,6
Race 7 – Livamol NZ Trotting Free-For-All (Group 1, 1980m, $95,000)
Known leader Majestic Man (gate two) opened early favourite but Muscle Mountain is an incredibly progressive four-year-old with an excellent overall record. Heavyweight Hero has been the bridesmaid at his past four runs and it’s hard to see him going any better than second or third in this.
Ultimate Stride is a great trotter but draws wide and Aussie entrant Tough Monarch won this race last year but has drawn outside the front row.
Inter Dominion champ Winterfell is now trained by Regan Todd after Mark Purdon all but conceded with the enigmatic gelding.
Suggested Bets – Quinella 2 and 5
Race 8 – Woodlands Stud Sires Stakes Final (Group 1, 1980m, $150,000)
The battle between It’s All About Faith and Krug has been interrupted by American Dealer in two of this crop’s most recent races.
Here, IAAF draws the ace whilst Krug has drawn two on the back row and American Dealer is beside him in three.
Mark Purdon will be looking the run along all the way and make life hard for anything back in the pack. You’d expect Krug to run top three despite the bad alley and Aladdin, B D Joe, Shan Noble and Pace N Pride all have first four claims.
Suggested Bets – It’s All About Faith to win $2.60