Many good horses are playing for keeps this Friday at Addington and the quality of the harness racing fields reflects this.
Capacity fields for the night's features, the Ricoh NZ Derby and the Seelite Windows & Doors NZ Trotting Derby head the billing but they'll be ably supported by some exceptional Premier Night fields.
Eligible for credits as 'Best Supporting Acts' this week include Sir Lincoln, Franco Emirate, Mah Sish and Highview Tommy in the ICE FFA; Ohoka Punter and company in the Welcome Stakes; returning trotting stars Stylish Monarch and The Fiery Ginga and the raft of talented runners that are scattered throughout the 12-race card.
The NZ Trotting Derby has attracted a great mixture of trotters and with Escapee being the dominant force in the grade the race could see yet another female victor. The race is full of form and talent though and the likely one-on-the-second-row barrier for Escapee will add flavour to the race for punters and give a decided advantage to PGG Wrightson Trot winner, You Rock.
The undoubted feature though will be the Ricoh NZ Derby. The $150,000 Derby has attracted a worthy field and the addition of Kiwi-bred Aussie Scandalman adds great interest to the race.
On paper it may appear to be a Purdon/Payne domination but the strength and depth of the field and the apparent preference for sprint racing by Smolda and Fly Like An Eagle may open the door for a race rival.
The obvious threat to the Purdon/Payne runners is Scandalman. Luckless in the Northern Derby he stormed home late from a pocket to place second. He appears well situated at barrier four to perhaps repeat his front-running Victoria Derby win.
Group 1 winners Lets Elope and Texican hold claims in the race also. They aren't far off the pace being set by the speedy Purdon pair right now and a hard-fought 2600 metres could play into either of this pairs' hands, both of whom have tasted their biggest success at Addington Raceway.
The Ricoh NZ Derby will be run as Race 7 (8.25pm) on Friday's programme and herald the start of the $50,000 Pick6.
NZ Derby Fast Facts:
- Mark Purdon has trained or co-trained the winners of seven NZ Derbies
- Mark Purdon has driven eight NZ Derby winners. The record is 12 set by Maurice Holmes.
- Race Record is held by - 3.09.4 (55.8, 27.1)
- NZ Derby was first run in 1914 and won by Admiral Wood. He ran 3.37.4 for 2615m
- The last Australian-trained runner in the NZ Derby was Mon Poppy Day in 1996.
- The last Australian-trained winner was Westburn Grant in 1989. Note: Bus To Harland was an Australian horse but trained by Tim Butt in the 2009 Derby.
- In winning the NZ Derby in 1999 paid the princely sum of $1.00 and a $1.00.
- As a stallion is represented by Smolda this year. He had previously sired Sleepy Tripp to win the NZ Derby in 2009.
Escapee winning the Group Three NZ Trotting Oaks at addington raceway last Friday (March 23, 2012):