Day At The Track

Bunty Hughes on track for Oaks win

11:18 PM 26 Feb 2015 NZDT
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"Bunty" and Gareth Hughes - Have The Orange Agent spot on for tonight

Brian Hughes has a habit of winning the Group One Northern Oaks every decade…..and his 10-year anniversary just happens to be at the harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park this Friday night.  

The man they call Bunty bred, owned and trained Iman to win the 1995 edition of the Group One classic for 3-year-old fillies, and then in 2005 Hughes owned and trained Tosti Girl to her neck victory over Cruzee Lass.

They were the first and fourth favourites respectively. This Friday Hughes will line up one of the best fillies he has ever co-owned, co-bred or trained in the Pascoes The Jewellers sponsored 2700m mobile feature – and naturally The Orange Agent will again be a hot favourite.
 
“She’s a classy mare all right. She has come through her last win very well. She’s eaten up everything and is rearing to go. She hasn't had a workout or trial since that race but Dad (Bunty) has been putting the work into her.
 
“From the draw she is going to be tough to beat,” said Gareth Hughes, son of Bunty, and a man who does a lot with his father’s team.
 
The Orange Agent has drawn perfectly at four this week and compared to her six draw last time out in the second $20,000 Nevele R Fillies heat.
 
That night she looked like she would have to settle for the runner-up prize after second favourite Democrat Party got away from her on the home turn.
 
“She’s got a bad habit of drifting wide simply because she goes too fast for her own good around the final bend. Once she got balanced up last start she came again to win. That was a very good performance.
 
“We are confident she will fly around the final corner untroubled this time,” Hughes said.
 
The 3-year-old daughter of American Ideal and Lady Fingers has now won seven of her 12 starts and just over $105,000 in purses.
 
She is yet to nail a Group One victory but did win the $80,000 Caduceus Club Ladyship Stakes at Alexandra Park in December.
 
All seven of her wins have been at at northern headquarters, but she is yet to start over the 2700m.
 
“The distance won’t hurt her, especially from the draw. The Oaks has been one of Dad’s main targets with her for some time now. It’s a race that means a lot to him. He’s already won it twice,” Hughes junior said.
 
Another race that means a great deal to Hughes is the Great Northern Derby, which will be run on Friday week – Auckland Cup night.
 
The Hughes trained Hughie Green will line up one of the favourites in the sixth race on Friday – the $20,000 Derby Prelude.
 
With some of the best 3-year-olds missing this week a good performance will be required to make the final Derby field.
 
Follow The Stars, fresh from his placings in Australia, will be tough to beat but Hughes is confident Hughie Green will put in another bold showing.
 
“He did really well to beat Ohoka Punter last start and Dad says he’s progressed nicely since then. Both he and The Orange Agent have done everything he has asked of them.
 
"If I was going to single one out at this stage it would be ‘Agent’, simply because she has the better draw and the Derby Final isn’t for another nine days. Sure we will be trying to win it but the main goal is to make the final,” said Hughes.
 
In fact the Hughes team has five winning chances on Friday.
 
Gamma Lady won well here a month ago on debut and then was a nice workouts winner on Saturday.

Hughes rated her right up there with The Orange Agent as one of his stable’s best winning chances in race four.
 
“She is flying at the moment for a young horse that has only had one run."

"My Kiwi Mate can also win the last race, while Girls Are Better can also follow up her good trial form in ‘Gamma’s’ race,” said Hughes.
 
“She ran a nice second behind Gamma Lady in the same Workout at ‘The Park’ on Saturday,” he added.

Duane Ranger - Courtesy of Steve Richardson (TAB)

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