Locharburn on the improve

10:26 AM 27 Feb 2014 NZDT
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Big and strong: Locharburn and Dexter Dunn pictured after winning the Alabar Classic.

Locharburn may be the most talented three-year-old pacer in the country but that won’t stop him being vulnerable at Alexandra Park tomorrow night.

The Canterbury pacer with the big motor and even bigger chassis meets only five opponents in the Northern Derby prelude but four of them are group one winners, including last-start Victoria Derby quinellamates Maxim and Sky Major.

Add in Sires’ Stakes winner Tiger Tara and their clashes over the next eight days will go a long way to determining three-year-old of the year honours.

After beating most of his opponents tomorrow in the Alabar Classic in December, Locharburn looks a rare talent, if somewhat untapped.

But having not raced since December 31, trainer Kevin Chapman admits tomorrow night’s race is tricky.

“He had a small setback which put me behind the eight ball a touch otherwise he would have had a lead-up race,” said Chapman.

“But he has had a workout and a trial and paced his last 800m in the first of those in 54.8 seconds.

“So he is close enough but of course the Derby next week is the main aim.”

The race looms as the highlight of the opening night of Auckland Cup week but a nightmare for punters and bookies, with the order the field settles in crucial.

Meanwhile, record-breaking filly Venus Serena has opened the $1.70 favourite for the first group one of Cup week, the $125,000 Pascoes Northern Oaks tomorrow night.

She heads the market over Snooki at $5.500, while Pembrook Benny is the $2.80 favourite for the City Of Auckland Free-For-All, the final lead-up to the Auckland Trotting Cup.

The New Zealand TAB bookies have also taken a stand against Beautide, the favourite for the A$750,000 Inter Dominion Final in Sydney on Sunday.

They had him as long as $4.60 yesterday, the best price in Australasia and huge overs compared with SuperTab’s $3.60.

The New Zealand TAB has Kiwi pacer Smolda as the $4 favourite for the Interdom.

By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing NZ)

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