Christen Me faces night of reckoning

08:01 AM 10 Jan 2014 NZDT
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Fly Like An Eagle
Fly Like An Eagle looks a danger to Christen Me tonight
Race Images

Tonight may tell the story of exactly where Christen Me's harness racing career is at.

The talented pacing star will again start a hot favourite in the $50,000 JLT Futurity at Cambridge and if he races up to his potential he should win.

While he meets a classy field and a horse who beat him home in the New Zealand Cup in Fly Like An Eagle, the best version of Christen Me should be able to sit parked and still win, which is probably exactly what is going to happen.

If he does that then he still deserves his top billing for the upcoming Hunter Cup and Inter Dominion in Australia and his name will still be feared by rival trainers.

However, defeat in a race which contains only one other open-class pacer, no matter how talented some of his rivals are, will see questions starting to be asked about Christen Me.

He has now lost six races on end, some through sheer bad luck or poor draws, others through inexperience racing in the field, a penalty paid by those who are simply so superior in their age group they don't learn the subtleties of racing until later.

 

But there will also be the nagging doubt in the minds of his harshest judges and the army of punters he has burned that maybe he has not improved since last season, or worst of all, is slightly less potent.

Trainer Cran Dalgety has no such worries and blames bad planning for Christen Me's defeat by Pembrook Benny in the Flying Mile on this same track last Friday.

"To be honest, he probably needed a run in the Manukau Cup a few days earlier but we chose not to go there and he wasn't sharp enough for the Mile," said Dalgety.

"That and a great drive from young Zac [Butcher] was enough to beat us because you can't give a horse like Pembrook Benny that sort of start and beat him over a mile around Cambridge.

"But he will be sharper this week for sure."

But Christen Me's string of defeats are more than denting his aura of invincibility. Last Friday he was $1.20 to win a similar race; he opened $1.70 with Aussie bookies for tonight's race.

He should have the luxury of relaxing early tonight and then working forward to sit parked and outstaying his toughest, and probably only real rival, Fly Like An Eagle.

And if by some twist of fate or tempo he is able to race to the lead in the middle stages then it should be race over because in none of his six straight defeats has he been able to secure the pacemaking role.

Fly Like An Eagle is on to his third trainer for the summer in Tony Herlihy, who is happy with the 5-year-old's work and even more so his draw tonight.

He has always been a natural front-runner and if he can get into his rhythm without pressure tonight he could pace a hot last 800m.

But as good as he can be when he is spot on, Fly Like An Eagle still deserves to be about $5 tonight. The best of the rest, many of whom are heading for open class, is Besotted, who should be handy but may lack the gate speed to take full advantage of barrier three.

Earlier on the night, the north's best 3-year-old pacers clash in the rescheduled Waikato Guineas with the Barry Purdon-trained pair of Maxim and Sky Major both chasing their first win of the season.

Luck in the running should determine which one of them gets it, with Cyclone Prince and Te Kawau good enough to make them both work.

Courtesy of Michael Guerin and the New Zealand Herald

 

 

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