Smile for the birdie - no gimee but top golfers’ gift horses to the fore in Brisbane tonight
Two of New Zealand’s best golfers will have their eyes on the Brisbane trots tonight when horses they were gifted shares in do battle at Albion Park.
When Ryan Fox and Gareth Paddison ran the quinella in the Wairakei Invitational last year they unexpectedly were given shares in Franco Nandor and Captain Nemo by Lincoln Farms’ boss and tournament sponsor John Street.
While the three-year-olds did not reach expectations here they eventually found their way to Queensland where their form lines have vastly improved.
Trainer Mark Dux takes Paddison’s Captain Nemo to the Creek tonight confident he’s the one to beat.
Drawn four in the third race, Dux says the horse is in with a great chance even though he can’t predict where he’ll end up in the running.
Though drawn inside Keayang Marven, the horse who collared him right on the line last week, Captain Nemo could well end up parked out again.
“He should be starting to get respect now but that doesn’t mean a lot here though,” says Dux. “If drivers can lead, they always seem to want to hold everyone else out.
“If Nemo had a bit more gate speed he’d be terrific. He just lacks that bit of high speed and that’s what’s stopping him from being a better horse.
“But he’ll be rolling forward at some stage. He’s got to be up somewhere handy.”
Captain Nemo has redefined tough in his last three starts, earning cheques despite twice being trapped three wide without cover, then last time three wide to the death at the bell.
“He had them beaten everywhere but on the line last time,” says Dux.
“I think barring bad luck he can win this time. I’m really happy with him.”
Two races later Franco Nandor is drawn to get a sweet trip for Fox and friends from the pole, trainer-driver Al Barnes intent on educating him to run to the line.
“He’s got plenty of ability but I want to get him into the habit of chasing, not leading and stopping. Driving him in the trail will hopefully change his attitude.”
Barnes tried the tactics for the first time last week, leading out from the pole before taking a sit behind Skippys Delight, a rival again tonight.
“He was a little keen early, until he got into the back straight, then he came off the bit at the 500. But he seemed to try a bit harder and ran all the way to the line.”
Franco Nandor fought on for third, six metres behind Majorca, who has won all four starts in Queensland since arriving from New Zealand, with Skippys Delight second, in a very slick mile rate of 1:53.6, many seconds faster than Franco Nandor has experienced before.
“Trailing seemed to pay dividends and hopefully he can do it again this week and follow the same horse.
“It’s a similar quality field so they should run time again. I don’t think he can win but he can run second or third.”
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Friday night at Cambridge
Race 3: Lincoln Lou
“He’s a beautiful little horse and I’m looking forward to seeing him run. It’s hard to know how good he is, or how far he’ll go, but I guess we’ll find out on Friday. He’s the one to beat from the draw. If he doesn’t win, he won’t be far away.”
Race 5: Commander Lincoln
“I won’t be holding my breath. He tries hard enough but he lacks a bit of high speed.”
Race 8: Onyx Shard
“It’s two and a half months since she last raced, and she didn’t grow as much as I thought she would, but I’m expecting her to go a good race. Her last two trials have been good and she’s pulled up well.”
Race 8: Obadiah Dragon
“He’ll need a good trip from five but he’s not out of it. He went a good race last time at Cambridge and would be as equal a chance as Onxy Shard.”
Race 8: Beaudiene Rocknroll
“It’s heart-in-the-mouth stuff with him until they let them go but he should step away this time. Zac (Butcher) said the gate went particularly slowly before that race and that’s why he got impatient. I thought he did well to recover for third. If he made the front, where he goes best, he’d be hard to beat.”
Race 9: Frisco Bay
“He’s a tidy horse and I’m expecting a big run. We’ve sorted the problem he had with his breathing last season and he’s right in the zone now after a second and a win at the workouts.”
Mark Dux’s comments
Saturday night at Albion Park
Race 5: Argyle
11.02pm NZ time
“It wouldn’t have mattered where he drew this week, he’s in the money, barring bad luck. He’s going terrific and he gets in so well at the ratings.”