Day At The Track

Laurence has another smart pacer

10:25 AM 26 Dec 2014 NZDT
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Cullen Keefe - Looking to make it four from four today at Ashburton
Cullen Keefe - Looking to make it four from four today at Ashburton

Laurence Hanrahan has been in harness racing long enough to know what makes a good horse.

 With a score sheet on the wall that includes New Age Man, The Tough Nut and Marika, the Ashburton horseman is more than qualified to back up any comments he might make about a horse in his stable.

 So when he says that Cullen Keefe is potentially one of the best horses he has had for a few years, it’s worth taking notice.

The new kid on the block might never reach the dizzying heights of those who stood in the stables before him.

But you know that with Hanrahan at the helm, he’s going to get every chance to do so.

Unbeaten in his three races so far everything about Cullen Keefe points towards him being a little bit better than just your normal horse.

There is an arrogance and style in the way he goes about his business that is usually only reserved for those who have big futures in front of them.

And as far as Hanrahan is concerned, the best is still to come.

“I think we will see plenty of improvement out of him in the next 12 months,’’ he said.

 “He’s a good horse now, definitely one of the better ones I have had for a few years, but with a bit more time on his side he could get even better.

 “Especially physically, that’s where I think he will improve the most.’’

The unbeaten record of the well-bred pacer will go on the line at Ashburton on Boxing Day when he lines up in front of his home crowd in the middle of the day’s proceedings.

With neither of his last two wins carrying a penalty, Cullen Keefe remains in the C1 grade which should see him hard to beat again – and starting at very short odds on the market.

Hanrahan said he had come through his fresh up run at Forbury Park last week well.

He was driven on that occasion by Kimberley Butt who is the grand-daughter of local racing identities Dick and Leonie Prendergast.

“It was a good effort I thought, you are always a bit suspect when you haven’t had a race and but Kimberley drove him well.
“You would expect him to be hard to beat this week, but it’s another challenge for him and there are a few nice horses in there so he will need to be on the top of his game.’’

Ricky May jumps back in the bike again on Friday and will also be in the sulky behind Hanrahan’s other two runners during the day – The Emperor Robyn (race 5) and Bute Courage (race 11).

As long as both of his other runners are running on well at the finish their trainer is going to be happy.

“I think we will learn a bit off The Emperor Robyn, I’m happy with him, but not completely happy with him.

“Bute Courage has really strengthened up and come back well, but he has to take on three pretty smart ones so if he could run fourth I would be really happy.’’

Today’s feature, the Ashburton Cup, has drawn a small, but select, field of pacers to run over the 3200 metres.

Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen are represented by two runners in Isaiah and Meticulous while Greg and Nina Hope have Jason Rulz and Mossdale Conner.

Cran Dalgety might hold the strongest hand in the race however with his talented pacer Bit Of A Legend.

A winner at Addington last week, the former Breeders Crown winner will start off a 25 metre handicap but has the services of Dexter Dunn.

“You know what to expect from him,’’ Dalgety said.

“He will go out there and give you his all and you would like to think that he will be pretty hard to beat.’’

Later in the day Vulcan will attempt to join an elite list of trotters in the $1 million club.

The 10-time Group One winner is just $5,000 shy of the magical mark and jumps into another small, but select, field of trotters.

Courtesy of Matt Markham - HarnessRacing New Zealand


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