The road to the New Zealand Trotting Cup begins today but with the potential for a shock race return this weekend.
And early indications are New Zealand’s greatest harness race could attract one of the strongest fields in its 110-year history to Addington on November 11.
While the Cup is still three months away, the first of its major players returns to the public arena today when Christen Me steps out at the Ashburton trials.
He will meet former stablemate Locharburn, who is now back with owner-trainer Kevin Chapman, and Jimmy Johnstone in a 2400m trial around 2.45pm.
But in the first surprise on the path to the Cup, Christen Me’s trainer Cran Dalgety is considering starting Christen Me in a $10,000 mobile at Rangiora this Sunday.
“It will depend if they get a field, which obviously him being in the nominations won’t help,” says Dalgety.
“But he is forward and after a trial on Tuesday he would be ready for a 2000m race by then.
“So if he trials well and the races goes ahead, he is a huge chance of starting.
“He looks great and is definitely bigger and stronger than last season.”
Racing on Sunday would make Christen Me the first of the Cup favourites to do so this season and almost reverts to the race programmes of 30 years ago when NZ Cup contenders usually resumed in August.
In recent years that has changed to a late September start for most, with many having just three runs before the Cup.
It will also force a rushed trip back to Canterbury for driver Dexter Dunn, who will be at Ballarat on Saturday night to partner Katy Perry in her Breeders Crown semi final.
Nominations for the NZ Cup close at 3pm tomorrow and Christen Me will be joined by three-time winner Terror To Love, Adore Me, Smolda and Pembrook Benny, while the Australian nominations will be very strong, with I’m Themightyquinn, For A Reason and Mach Beauty likely to be entered.
Michael Guerin - Courtesy Of Harness Racing New Zealand