Day At The Track

Class filly to shine in Oaks

05:17 AM 01 Mar 2019 NZDT
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Arden's Choice, harness racing
Arden's Choice driven by Barry Purdon
Greg Bowker Photo

The best horse usually wins the Northern Oaks, the classic that starts Derby week at Alexandra Park tonight.

That would seem a pretty obvious statement but in harness racing it is not. Barrier draws, tempo and the fact being wide cost horses so much ground can mean being the best horse just sometimes isn't enough.

But add distance to that equation, especially for young fillies, and the creme rises to the top because many don't stay and the real athletic superiority comes out.

That is what training legend Barry Purdon hopes happens with Belle Of Montana in the $125,000 Pascoes Oaks tonight.

There is little doubt that on their form this summer Belle Of Montana and Wainui Creek are the best two fillies in the race, in that order.

But with Wainui Creek drawing the ace and all but guaranteed the short way home on the marker pegs Belle Of Montana could have to come from behind her and wide to win.

Purdon, who last won this race 30 years ago with Happy Hazel, thinks his filly can do that.

"She is very fast and while I'd prefer to see her lead or trail, I think she can come from off the speed to win," says Purdon.

"You tend to find in the Oaks the best horses come to the fore and while Wainui Creek is very good too, I couldn't be happier with my filly." While it looks likely Belle Of Montana may have to be clearly superior to win it may not be that cut and dried. Stablemate Havtime is just one rival who could go forward early and at least have a look for the lead.

Even if she can't get there it could open the field up and punter shouldn't be stunned if driver Belle Of Montata's Zac Butcher can weave some magic which negates her supposed draw disadvantage.

Purdon also goes into tonight's $30,000 The Founders with renewed confidence after Jack's Legend has returned to his best in recent starts, even though he faces serious opposition in Star Galleria and Ultimate Machete.

"He feels great and is working really well so I don't think anything will be different from his last couple, he will go forward and maybe even lead."

On a night when Ultimate Sniper (race one) and Sweet On Me (race eight) will be many punter's multi anchors, the best each way bet could be Somethingaboutmary in the Breeders Stakes.

Michael Guerin

Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

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