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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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At last, Argyle gets the pole on Saturday night and Mark reckons it’s his big chance to salute
Our runners this week: How our trainers rate them
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.”