Sam’s sure to run another top race at Hawera on Friday - and the bookies are giving you $9

Simply Sam might be only the fifth favourite but his ability to begin swiftly is expected to take him close in Friday’s $20,000 Stratford Cup.

Bookies have opened Simply Sam at $9 and $3 for the cup on the first day of the two-day meet at Hawera, behind Village Rebel ($4.80), southern pair Smoke On The Water ($5.50) and Johnny Mac ($6) and Artisan ($7.50).

But Lincoln Farms’ trainer Ray Green rates the consistent pacer a good winning chance, even from his 20 metre handicap, and expects him to have the measure of stablemate Lincoln River ($18).

“He’s our best shot even though he’s spotting the other horse 20 metres. We know he’s a quick beginner and he’ll pick up half that handicap pretty quickly.

“The field isn’t daunting - he’s beaten them all before - he’ll just need a little bit of luck.”

It’s a long time since Simply Sam performed poorly and his recent efforts at Auckland were in much stronger fields than he meets at Hawera.

You had to admire his grit last start when he ran on well and was best of the rest behind topliners Merlin and Sooner The Bettor in a 1:55.1 mile.

And the horses who beat him into fifth in the Group II Franklin Cup before that also included some of the very best in the country - Don’t Stop Dreaming, Old Town Road, Akuta and Bach.

With regular driver Andre Poutama away in Fiji, the reins on Simply Sam go to stable junior Monika Ranger.

“Moni is driving well and has driven him before so he has plenty going for him. I know it’s his first start on grass but I can’t see that worrying him.”

Lincoln River may be at long odds and the lowest rated horse in the field but Green doesn’t think he will be embarrassed.

“He’s capable of fronting up to them now and it’s only 2100 metres. Nathan (Delany) knows the horse well and he’ll be right in the fray if he does everything right.”

What Lincoln River has to do right the most is begin safely in his first test behind the tapes.

When tried in a standing start workout last December, Lincoln River was slow to find his straps but Green believes the addition of hopple shortneners this time will do the trick.

Lincoln River showed he was in great heart last Friday at Auckland when, as outsider of the field, he finished only a length behind up-and-coming pacers Better Knuckle Up, Escape Artist and Throwyaarmsaroundme in a 1:55.7 mile, doing plenty of early work before finding the one-one.

Our runners this week

Saturday night at Albion Park


Our runners this week: How our trainer rates them

Ray Green

Ray’s comments

Friday night at Auckland

Race 2: Frisco Bay

“He obviously needed the run last week. He pulled his way round the field and sat outside the leader but he couldn’t cop a run like that first-up and got tired. The ability is there, whether he’s fit enough or not we’ll find out. But I expect him to go well, the three draw is much better than last week.”

Race 2: Lenny Lincoln

“He’ll probably need a race but he’s capable of running a slot. He’s unlucky not to have won a race, all three of his seconds were good. He’s got a bit better with each of his trials this time in and he got home well last Saturday, after coming widest on the turn.”

Race 3: Obadiah Dragon

“The way the race was run at Cambridge last week, his effort wasn’t bad at all. Moni (Monika Ranger) said he felt strong and, if he’d been a few slots closer, he would have been right in it. He’ll be improved for the run.”

Race 3: Leo Lincoln

“He’s very consistent - he’s only missed a couple of cheques. But he’s another just coming back and should improve with the run.”

Whales Harness