Zac Butcher isn’t letting a mediocre last-start version of Ideal Belle’s dent his confidence heading to Cambridge tonight.
And that could translate into a consolation win for his boss Barry Purdon and Butcher after losing outstanding three-year-old Maxim for the season.
“He has a tendon issue and while it doesn’t look too serious we would rather not take the risk with him,” said Purdon.
“So he won’t race for the rest of the season.”
That could prove expensive as Maxim is a money machine, rarely finishing out of the money even though he competes exclusively at the elite age group level.
As well as winning this season’s Victoria Derby he won last year’s Sires’ Stakes and finished second to stablemate Sky Major in the Jewels.
Butcher and Purdon now turn their attention to Ideal Belle tonight after a rare substandard effort last start.
That was in the Northern Oaks when Ideal Belle settled last and then had to work hard as Venus Serena smashed the clock over 2700m mobile.
Ideal Belle could only manage seventh, which while not disastrous under the circumstances meant that six fillies best her home, whereas you would usually say there aren’t six fillies in the country better than her.
“She had a hard run and maybe she should have beat a few more home,” said Butcher.
“But it was also 2700m and she settled a long way from the winner.
“So we have turned the page on that and she will bounce back this week because I am sure she is better than most of these fillies.” That leaves Butcher with the job of finding a spot handy in the running line from barrier seven, never easy from the Cambridge mile start point.
“She has gate speed so I think we have to use that early and then slot in somewhere. “But she can still win, even from the draw.”
Charleston Belle looks the most likely leader and if she can get softer sectionals that she did at Alexandra Park last Friday will be hard to catch but with Saharazona and Pricillas Girl in the race punters wouldn’t want to be taking short odds for any of the girls.
Age group racing dominates tonight’s meeting at the home of this season’s Jewels, with the two-year-old boys in the Sires’ Stakes heat to open the night.
Chachingchaching has the huge advantage of the inside barrier over Bettor Spirits and Express Stride so driver Simon Lawson should be able to manipulate the race.
The two-year-old trotters making their tote debuts in race four are far more of a mystery though, with Yagunnakissmeornot having won all three non-tote races for this grade in the north so far.
On his home track she will be a warm favourite to remain unbeaten but there have been flashes of talent from Speeding Star and This Sky Rox already to suggest this could be a deeper than usual northern juvenile trot crop.
By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)