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Stunning sectionals put Simply Sam on top of the pedestal at Auckland on Thursday night

The outstanding sectional times that Simply Sam recorded fresh-up gives trainer Ray Green plenty of confidence that he can go one better at Auckland on Thursday night.

Rocketing home from second last at the 400 last week, Simply Sam ran past seven rivals in the last 150 metres to beat all expect Te Amo, with driver Maurice McKendry sitting quietly.

And given how McKendry’s first words on returning were about the rare speed the horse showed, it wasn’t surprising he clocked 55.5 for his last 800 metres and 27.1 for his last quarter. Winner Te Amo, who sat in in the one-one, clocked 56.2 and 27.6.

To put Simply Sam’s performance into perspective, you only have to compare his splits with those the very best three-year-olds ran in the Northern Derby Prelude over the same 2200 metre distance.

Driver Maurice McKendry was impressed by Simply Sam’s speed last week.Driver Maurice McKendry was impressed by Simply Sam’s speed last week.While the brilliant winner Akuta paced a supersonic 54.6 and 26.5, Simply Sam’s times were right up with the next three home, Beach Ball (55.6, 27.4), Franco Indie (55.2, 27.1) and Franco Mac (55.8, 27.6).

“It was great to see him do something spectacular, which only good horses can do, as I’ve rated the horse from day one,” says Green.

“He’s just run into a lot of hurdles. That was the first time since he had his first start as a two-year-old that we’ve had no issues with him.”

Green says with natural improvement - “that was his first race for a while” - we can expect more of the same on Thursday.

Simply Sam has again drawn the outside of the front line but Green believes he can win, no matter how the race is run.

It will be up to McKendry to decide how to drive Simply Sam, he says.

“You can’t make plans. If they go hard, you have to sit back. If they choose to walk, you can get round them so you’re there when the sprint goes on.

“That’s a no-brainer but you can’t predict what scenario will unfold.”

Colonel Lincoln (Andrew Drake) finishing stylishly up the markers behind winner Te Amo.Colonel Lincoln (Andrew Drake) finishing stylishly up the markers behind winner Te Amo.Green is also expecting another good run from two-year-old stablemate Colonel Lincoln who, debuting in the same race last week, made ground stylishly from three back on the markers for fourth.

“He’s a lovely big horse and I was pretty happy with him. I was just happy to see him get round with no trouble. He’d never been off the place since the sales.

“Andrew (Drake) said he tried to go a bit quick when he got off the gate, and he had to nurse him a bit, but after that he was good.”

Removeable gear this week

Green took the prudent path of racing the $200,000 yearling with fixed deafeners last week but he’ll have removeable gear on Thursday.

“Andrew thought if he’d been able to pull the plugs, he’d have gone to the line even stronger.”

Colonel Lincoln’s chances will be dictated, however, by the pole runner Imashadowprincess, whom he follows out from the inside of the second row.

While the mare left the gate on terms in her debut at Cambridge on April 28, she galloped on the first turn, a worry this week for Colonel Lincoln’s driver Andrew Drake.

“You’d hope they’ve addressed that problem,” Green said.

Heaven High is unbeaten in two workouts and two trials.Heaven High is unbeaten in two workouts and two trials.Green is not expecting Sky Major colt Heaven High to win the second race but says he has the ability to run a place if things go his way.

Only the second race starter for owner Trevor Casey’s five times Group I-winning stallion, Heaven High was supposed to run in a maiden race for two-year-olds but when it was canned for lack of nominations, Green elected to let him go round for the experience in the tougher up-to-rating 50 event.

“He’ll be at the mercy of the others from the second row but he’s not out of it, he’ll just need a modicum of luck.”

Heaven High is unbeaten in two workouts and two trials and held his Pukekohe rivals at bay with little effort last Saturday over a mile in 2:00.6, home in 59.3 and 28.3.

“He keeps improving and you can’t knock that,” says Green. “But this is his first race and his first time under lights so there’ll be a lot going on for him.

“He’s not a silly horse, though, he seems to have good manners.”

Frankie Major … best driven for one sprint at them.Frankie Major … best driven for one sprint at them.Green also lines up Frankie Major in the race but isn’t advising punters to back him down to $1.25 like they did two starts back.

“He’s not as good as he’s been touted but he has got some speed and, if he gets a nice two hole trip that would be perfect for him. Held up for one sprint, he’s pretty deadly.”

Frankie Major, who ran into a brick wall in the home straight last week when eighth, will be driven by Drake, with regular pilot Zachary Butcher committed to the Purdon-Phelan runner Tonites Delight.

Our runners this week: How our trainers rate them

Ray Green

Ray’s comments

Friday night at Auckland

Race 1: Obadiah Dragon
6.07pm

“He’s the lowest rated in the field, so it will be tough for him, but he’s racing really well. He just doesn’t need any bad luck.”

Race 4: Lincoln La Moose
7.38pm

“You won’t see the best of him on Friday. It’s his first race since April and he’ll definitely need the run.”

Race 6: My Copy
8.31pm

“He’s no champion but he’s very honest and is always capable of finishing in the money. He only needs a fair crack at them.”

Race 7: Tyson
8.57pm

“You can forget about that debut run, it was a non-event for him the way the race panned out. He got way too far back and would need to have clocked ridiculous times to get into it. He has speed and feels like a nice horse but he’s very inexperienced. I wouldn’t expect him to round the others up but he won’t be disgraced.”

Race 7: Lincoln Lou
8.57pm

Update: Scratched on vet’s advice

“He’s a very nice colt. He’s a lot stronger this time in and he could develop into a serious horse. If he repeats his last run, he’ll be hard to beat. I think he might have the wood on Sugar Ray. He has better manners and probably a bit more speed too.”

Race 7: Sugar Ray Lincoln
8.57pm

“He won comfortably last time despite being three wide for much of the last lap and four wide turning for home. He’s a very good colt. There’s not much between him and Lincoln Lou.”

Race 9: Commander Lincoln
9.49pm

“He’s as honest as they come, he’d die for you, but he lacks a yard of sharp speed to be a serious horse. He has a draw upgrade and drops in class but things have to pan out for him.”

Mark Dux

Mark Dux’s comments

Friday night at Albion Park

Race 8: Captain Nemo
6.33pm NZ time

“It’s not an easy race and, from an average draw, we’ll drive him quietly again so he’ll be at the mercy of the tempo. If he gets the right trip, I could see him hitting the line well and sneaking into the money but after this run to tighten him up he’ll be all set to go, close to winning.”

Les Harding

Les Harding

Saturday night at Port Pirie

Race 5: Beaudiene Rocknroll
10.02pm NZ time

“I’m very happy with him and confident he’ll run a top race but it’s hard to predict how he’ll measure up given this is a big step-up in class compared with the horses he has raced against for his last two wins.”

Whales Harness