He might have only finished second, but the first up performance of Christen Me at today’s Ashburton trials gained a big tick from the team behind the New Zealand Trotting Cup bound pacer.
But the chances of seeing him in a surprise appearance at Rangiora on Sunday are growing slimmer by the hour.
Trainer Cran Dalgety has the Victoria Cup winner up and running early on in proceedings with a view to giving him a slight let up after a month or so in order to have him peaking perfectly on November 11. And judging by his performance against four other fellow Cup aspirants today (August 12th), Dalgety is already on the right track.
Carrying a bit of condition, Dexter Dunn had Christen Me settled last in the field and never angled him into the clear until 250 metres off the finishing line.
When asked he grabbed the bit and really hooked into his work making up plenty of ground to run second behind Jimmy Johnstone, who enjoyed a trail, in a slick last 800 metres which bettered 55 seconds.
“Really pleasing effort first up,’’ Dunn said after the heat.
“He’s still got the high speed, when I asked him to run he really jumped through the bridle.
“It’s a perfect start for us.’’
Dalgety had intended on running in a graded preferential barrier draw on Sunday at Rangiora – but the race looks unlikely to get off the ground with only seven horses accepting for the race – some of which held double nominations.
It leaves Dalgety in a slight predicament, but the master trainer wasn’t harbouring too many concerns.
“It probably just means we will have to look at another trial.
“The idea behind having him going now was so that we could give him a freshen up before things get real serious, so we certainly won’t be pushing him.’’
Jimmy Johnstone looked in good nick with his victory – sprinting up the passing lane in good fashion.
Those in behind; Locharburn, Four Starzzz Flash and Pass Them By were all doing good work at the line as well.
Meanwhile Dalgety threw a curve ball into the mix for the up-coming Breeders Crown Series with a decision to chuck forgotten pacer, Bit Of A Legend, who will also be a nomination for the Cup when they are realesed tomorrow (Wednesday afternoon), on a plane to Australia tomorrow.
He will potentially join stable mate, Katy Perry at the series, provided he comes through his assignment on Sunday with flying colours.
“It’s a bit of a risk, but you don’t get anywhere by sitting back and wondering,’’ Dalgety said.
“We are pretty happy with him, all his work has been done away from the public.
“I think he will compete well over there.’’
Bit Of A Legend will fly out of Auckland tomorrow.
Matt Markham - Harness Racing New Zealand