Zealand Star plummets in grade and can pounce on All Stars’ pair at Auckland
Plummeting in grade, against only five rivals, Zealand Star’s turn of foot could account for even two All Stars’ rivals at Alexandra Park on Friday night.
Zealand Star has a massive advantage in the ratings in the third race at Auckland, a rating 75 horse with five wins against three horses who have won only one race, rated 55, Kayla Marie (66) who has won three, and seven-year-old Comic Book Hero, who has advanced 15 rating points to 70 for two recent wins on the grass.
Compare that with the opposition Zealand Star has been racing against:
* In his last start at Auckland, when he blew the standing start, he ran fourth to Recco Lover, Mach Shard and Check In in a rating 71 to 81 race at Auckland.
* Before that he was pitted against horses like cup class pacer Jack’s Legend (102 at the time but now 112), On The Cards and Triple Eight.
And it was only three starts ago that Zealand Star showed what he could really do, turning on his dazzling late sprint to break the Cambridge track record for 1700 metres, clocking a 1:54.8 mile rate.
The sit-sprinter gets his perfect conditions on Friday night because while sure to be out the back, he will be close enough to the leaders in a small field.
The dangers are clearly the Mark Purdon/Natalie Rasmussen pair of Kayla Marie and Bubbled Up after running fourth and fifth in last week’s NZ record-run Northern Oaks when they enjoyed sweet trips.
But trainer Ray Green says, so long as Zealand Star does everything correctly, he has to be Lincoln Farms’ best chance on the night.
No.1 stable driver Zachary Butcher, who has piloted the horse to his two recent wins, is back in the cart on Friday.
Perfect Stride fitness query
Green would normally have labelled Perfect Stride as the stable’s best in the Young Guns Final (race 8) but given he has only recently shrugged off a virus, Green says its hard to know exactly where he’s at.
Perfect Stride, so impressive when winning on January 18, has missed two lead-up races because of the Pukekohe bug which swept through the stable.
“He’s nice and healthy now but he’s probably not 100 percent, he won’t be as sharp as he could be.
“But he’s got the draw (two) and if he gets a decent trip, he’s a chance. I’m sure he’ll go a good race but he’s not as good as he could have been. The timing (of the virus) has been all bad.
“He’s a very good horse but when you’re racing the best you need to be on top of your game.
Stablemate Sir Tiger, who was also set back by the virus, has drawn badly on the outside of the gate which will make it very hard for him.
“But he’s looking in good nick again and he’ll go a good race. He’s tough but he just lacks a bit of high speed.’’
Green knows the All Stars’ Smooth Deal is clearly the one to beat after his two recent wins and acknowledges if he makes the front again from gate seven, it could be curtains.
“But I’ve noticed he doesn’t handle the corners as well up here and that could cost him. If he got left out and Mark had to nurse him round the bends, he could be vulnerable.
“But they’re good trainers and I’m sure they’ll have him sussed.’’
Not holding his breath
Green isn’t holding his breath over the chances of Hilary Barry in the Fillies’ Young Guns Final (race 6).
“She went a good race (for sixth) last time. But there are two or three in the field that on paper she can’t beat.
“But if she got a really good, cheap trip from one, she might get a cheque.
“She seems like a real Bettor’s Delight who lifts their game on racenight.’’
Recco Lover (race 5) is in the same boat, seemingly outclassed in the Group II City Of Auckland Free-for-all.
After winning a rating 50 to 67 and a 71 to 81 in recent weeks he now finds himself taking on some of the best pacers in the country like Star Galleria (119) and Jack’s Legend (112).
“It will be interesting to see how he goes,’’ says Green.
“It’s a real rise in class but I’ve always felt he could handle that level and now we will find out.
“He’s in really good shape at the moment and I just hope he goes a good race.’’
Recco Lover’s task was made fractionally easier today with the scratching of the favourite Ultimate Machete.
More news in Harness
Al on today’s demolition: What will Trojan do when he’s fully fit and stops waiting for them?
Ants: Make Way ‘won with a leg in the air’ - and there’s plenty more in store
The incredible hulk Governor’s Bay steps out at Auckland on Friday with Ray only guessing
More tests for Zealand Star after sudden lameness baffles Green
Our runners this week: How our trainers rate them
Thursday night at Penrith
Race 4: Vasari
9.33pm NZ time
“He’s been going good races from bad draws and, if he can lead from one, he’ll be awfully hard to beat.’’
Race 6: Make Way
10.33pm NZ time
“He seems back to his best again. He’s really bright in himself and is bouncing around. He had an easy time for a while with his cough, and it’s possible he’ll need the run, but he’s not far away and from the front he’d be hard to beat.’’
Friday at Albion Park
Race 3: Trojan Banner
4.57pm NZ time
“The draw is horrible and makes it very tough for him. The horse in front of him is a slug off the gate and if we follow him we could end up three or four deep. At least over 2138 metres you have a little time up your sleeve. You can grab hold, pop off, give them a little breather in the second quarter, then take it as it comes. He has improved greatly since his last run but he’s still not at his peak and I’m reluctant to pressure him too much second-up by looping the field.’’
Friday night at Auckland
Race 4: Just Wing It
“If he can land a good trip (from five) there’s no reason why he can’t pay another dividend. He’s gone three honest races so far. The winner of his race last week (Benson Boys) ran 2:40 and they don’t go much faster than that so to run on for third was a good effort.”
Race 5: Governor’s Bay
“I like the horse, he’s got the raw ability to win a race or two up here. He blew like hell after his workout on Saturday which tells me he tried hard and he’s a bit porky. He’s put on a lot of weight in a couple of weeks. It’s his first time right handed on Friday and I’ll be running him with pull down blinds after he knocked off at the trials.’’
Race 9: Hilary Barry
“Mark Purdon’s monsters aren’t there which gives everyone else a chance but she’ll find it tough from the draw. Unless she’s very lucky it’s not a good scenario. If Andrew goes forward and uses her petrol it will be hard and if he goes back she’ll get nothing.’’