Two of the most impressive trialists seen at Alexandra Park during the winter months are set to make their much awaited debuts on Friday night.
So if you don’t like backing first starters, I suggest you turn the page now.
The first of them is Al Bundy, who is likely to start a warm favourite in the second event on the card, the maiden trot.
Trained by Andrew Grant at Pukekohe, the four-year son of Great Success has been sublime in all three of his public appearances and while I generally don’t like to tip out maiden trotters. This fella, touch wood, hasn’t looked like putting a foot wrong in any of them.
In his first public appearance he won a sedate workout by two lenghts, before coming back the next week and winning a workout by 15 lenghts.
He then obliterated his opponents in his qualifying trial by some 22 lenghts and trotted four seconds under the required time.
A half-brother to the well-performed Double Bundy, who has won 14 races and trotted a mile in 1-54.6 at Menangle, Al Bundy, looks to have inherited all of his brother’s ability.
Already dubbed an up and coming trotting star by one North Island scribe, Al Bundy looks set to make a winning debut on Friday. As does Crocket’s Cullen, the other star trialist set to debut on Friday.
“He is a nice two-year-old who I think has the potential to develop into a top-liner,” said his trainer Brent Mangos.
Crocket’s Cullen, who is full-brother to Band On The Run, was victorious in his first three public appearances back in February and early March. He was then spelled before returning to the workouts on the 14th of June.
“He was coming into strongly and then galloped in that workout, but it actually wasn’t his fault as he was hitting the wheels,” explained Mangos.
Mangos then resolved that issue before taking him back to the trials the week later where he was once again very impressive, winning by three lenghts in a 2:02 mile rate.
The strong son of Christian Cullen has drawn the pole in the eighth race on Friday and baring bad luck, and plenty of it, he should be winning.
“I’ll just see how he feels behind the gate, but he doesn’t have to hold up to win,” said Mangos. “It’s a small field so even if he gets crossed from the gate I should be able to get him back out and around them,” he added.
“Either way I expect him to be very hard to beat.”
Crocket’s Cullen is Australasian Breeders Crown eligible but Mangos thinks the rich series comes just a few months to soon for the exciting colt.
“We will know more after Friday but he is still pretty green and I think he lacks the ring-craft to go to Australia for a series like the Breeders Crown,” said Mangos.
“He may compete in the heat at Cambridge next week but I don’t think we will take him over to Australia for the Final. He is going to be a much better horse next season,” he enthused.
Meanwhile, reformed rogue trotting mares Sunchita and Idle Bones look set to battle out the feature trot with in form gelding Sunshield.
All three of the trotters look set for open class. However, a few months ago I wouldn’t have given any of them a chance of making it to the elite level.
Idle Bones was victorious in her debut at Ashburton before bad manners led to a sixteen race losing streak, while Sunchita had, up until a few weeks ago, thrown away more races than she had won.
But a few weeks is a long time in harness racing and a few changes to Sunchita’s gear and shoeing and opportunities for Idle Bones to race from behind a mobile have led to both mares winning their past three starts. Sunshield has also won his past three starts, but on Friday only one of the three will retain their picket-line fence form line.
Which one will it be you ask? My money is on Idle Bones.
She, like Sunchita, was fantastic in her North Island debut and has the advantage of the mobile, which will probably suit her more than it will Sunchita, who is generally a fast beginner from a stand.
She has also come up with the ace alley and should be able to lead and roll along in front, like she did at Addington two starts back when winning by 15 lengths in a two-minute mile rate. If she can replicate that performance, she should win again.
Idle Bones is one of two horses South Island trainer Paul ‘Tank’ Ellis has racing on Friday. The other is Ellmer Hanover, who drops back from racing in last week’s Winter Cup to a much more suitable C2-5 mobile pace.
He wouldn’t be without a chance and is worth specking at odds in an interesting race with sees smart two-year-old Mighty Flying Major and Southland Oaks winner Royal Counsel clash with country cup type pacers such as Ellmer Hanover, Who Dares Wins, and Chief Thundercloud, who caught my eye when flying home for fourth in the Winter Cup and is my top pick in the race.
That race is the first leg of the Quaddie and I suggest that you go wide and take Zeta Bromac, Mighty Flying Major, Royal Counsel, and Ellmer Hanover as I am confident that you can get away with anchoring Crocket’s Cullen in the second leg. It may also pay to go wide in the third leg before thinning things down again in the last.
By Mitchell Robertson