If Christen Me is going to win the A$400,000 Victoria Cup he is going to have to do it the hard way.
The Kiwi pacing superstar will start from the outside of the second line in the 2240m group one at Melton on Saturday, with the only good news for his connections being key rivals For A Reason and Beautide will also start off the second line.
That means the trio, who ran the trifecta in the Miracle Mile 11 days ago, will have to give starts to the likes of Smoken Up (5), Restrepo (4) and defending champion Caribbean Blaster (3).
Auckland-owned Cranbourne Cup winner The Gold Ace will have to start from the outside of the front line.
With the first three home in the Mile drawn the second line bookmakers don’t know which way to look, with the Australian TAB opening Restrepo the $4 favourite, with Christen Me rated a $6 chance.
On a night with strong Kiwi interest, chestnut trotting mare Habibti was the best backed early runner after drawing well in the A$50,000 Dullard Cup.
The Canterbury mare galloped twice in the Bill Collins Mile last Saturday but that was after drawing the second line and from barrier three on Saturday she was quickly backed from $4 to $3.20 in Australia yesterday.
Meanwhile, champion Pukekohe mare Bettor Cover Lover could hardly have asked for a better homecoming present than the ace draw in Friday’s $100,000 Rosslands Queen of Hearts at Alexandra Park.
The mare has a torrid recent trip to Perth where the heat caused her hoof problems and that combined with difficult draws saw her return without a win.
But co-trainer Brent Mangos believes a near week-long stopover in Victoria will have the mare affectionately known as Betty close to her best as she tries for a Queen Of Hearts three-peat.
“While he hooves weren’t the best over there she has travelled home well and had a plenty of time in Victoria where she could swim,” said Mangos.
“So she will continue to improve and I think she will be close to her best by Friday, which she will need to be against Adore Me.” Bettor Cover Lover has drawn the one in the group one, with Adore Me at barrier three in one of the glamour clashes of the season so far.
Friday’s premier meeting also boasts a sensational three-year-old pacing race, with the $50,000 Alabar Classic as good an early-season three-year-old field as has been assembled at the track in a decade.
By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)