When harness racing trainer Steve Telfer went looking for the perfect comeback races for two of his stable stars tonight’s Alexandra Park meeting stood out.
After all, the $12,000 feature pace in which Cyamach will start a dominant favourite is penalty-free because it is part of the Island Of Origin driver’s series, meaning Cyamach should resume his career with a win without going up in grade.
But as astute a judge as Telfer is, even he couldn’t have foreseen what his other stable rep Cilantro would face in what should have been a normal maiden race tonight.
Good enough to beat Sales Series winner Isaiah on debut last season, Cilantro looked a serious two-year-old before he decided all he wanted to do was run flat out, forcing Telfer and training partner Chris Garlick to put him aside.
With blistering speed he would have been expected to come back as a standout maiden and cruise through his return to racing.
Which he would, if he was in any other race but race four at Alexandra Park tonight.
The event is a taste of things to come this spring, a maiden race that sees a clash of high-class juveniles from last season, star trialists and three-year-old winners, all horse who would win any standard maiden race at very short odds.
Cilantro will meet three “maidens” who have won races in their last two starts, a brave last start runner-up in Raffaello and one of the north’s most impressive recent un-raced trials performers in Jetcraft, recently sold for good money.
"It is a hell of a field,” laughs Telfer.
“I suppose you are going to get that at this time of the year. Put him in a normal maiden race and he would probably bolt in but he is up against horses here who would do the same.
“It will be a good test for him but he is a horse we like and could have run with the best juveniles last season but he just got too hot.”
Cilantro has the gate speed to use barrier two and with the Telfer-Garlick team having a fine first-up strike rate he deserves favouritism even against quality opposition.
There is no doubt Cyamach should start favourite from the ace in his comeback race.
He tackled the Victoria and NSW Derby series last season and has won over $100,000 but has always looked like he would be a better horse with time to strengthen.
He trialled well at Alexandra Park last Saturday and even against an in-form rival like Mac Tiger should be too good.
“He is forward enough and even though it is hard to win fresh-up in this grade at Alexandra Park the ace draw helps so we are confident with them both,” says Telfer.
The TAB will open betting on the team and individual results of tonight’s Island Of Origin series, which pits six of the best drivers from each island against each other over six races, most of which surprisingly don’t have full fields.
The South Island has won the title the last two years but the North looks a better bet tonight as Simon Lawson, David Butcher and Tony Herlihy all have good books in the invitation races.
By Michael Guerin
Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)