Day At The Track

Power Of Tara seeks BIG6 Hunter Cup glory

04:23 AM 04 Feb 2011 NZDT
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Power Of Tara has been heavily supported
Power Of Tara has been heavily supported - To win Saturday night's BIG6 Hunter Cup

The fact that Saturday night's harness racing $425,000 Group 1 BIG6 Hunter Cup will be run at Tabcorp Park for the first time in 2011 may be an omen for enduring Kiwi stayer Power Of Tara. He loves a change of scenery.

Currently under the tutelage of his sixth trainer, Brendon Hill, the teak tough eight-year-old has always thrived on a new challenge – as evidenced by his brilliant record when crossing the ditch for many of our very biggest races.

So despite some sense of pleasant surprise, Hill was hardly shocked at his new protégés massive run in last week’s Ballarat Cup to kick off what he hopes will be Power Of Tara’s most fruitful Aussie campaign ever.

“We really went into the other night just wanting to run top five and give John (Caldow, driver) a feel for the horse and that was it,” the Kaiapoi conditioner said.

“So for John to drive the horse 10 out of 10 and only get beaten by a very fast horse coming off his back, we were just thrilled. And he picked up enough prizemoney by running second to pay for his trip here too, so it was a great start to the tour.”

Already an Australian Group 1 winner in the Fremantle Cup of 2009, when too good for this year’s Hunter Cup favourite Im Themightyquinn, Power of Tara has already made two assaults on Victoria’s richest and most prestigious handicap race.

Sixth placed both two years ago behind Mr Feelgood and again last year following home fellow NZ’er Bondy, the powerful son of Live Or Die has drawn barrier two for his most recent foray.

And as arguably the fastest horse off the front line from the strands, the much travelled pacer appears better placed than ever to win one of Australasia’s most sought after feature races.

“I’m really hoping he can lead from the two hole,” Hill said. “I’ve put the overcheck back on him and he’s been going away really well from the stand.

“And you guys don’t mess around at the start here, which is a good thing for all horses and will certainly help him ping away at the start on Saturday night.”

As one of the strongest horses in the southern hemisphere who has seemingly followed his great stablemate Monkey King by finding a new lease of life with Hill in recent months however, Power Of Tara will need only to step safely, not fast to be a major factor on Saturday night.

And repay the faith of his newest mentor.

“He’s only won the one race for us, so he doesn’t win out of turn like a Monkey King,” Hill conceded.

“But he’s still a good honest horse who deserves a chance at another Hunter Cup, because this was always the plan and he’s done nothing to discourage us from going ahead with it.

“If anything he’s proven to us that we made the right call.”

Stunin set for more Aussie spoils

After an ambitious but ultimately fruitless Aussie foray a tick over 12 months ago, Tim and Anthony Butt must have thought Stunin Cullen’s Trans-Tasman luck had turned ahead of this Saturday night’s Group 1 BIG6 Hunter Cup at Tabcorp Park.

A record-breaking win at Bray Raceway in last week’s Ballarat Cup, followed by a favourable protest result which allowed them to keep the race reason enough to believe that this Victorian visit may end in glory.

And despite their latest Aussie sojourn facing its first roadblock when drawing gate 13 for the 3280-metre stand start feature they first targeted with their flying five-year-old last November, Anthony is adamant it hasn’t ruled them out of the race.

“I’m not overly concerned about where we’ve landed,” he revealed. “Of course it would have been better to draw the front but sometimes that can play against you too.

“He’ll take his chances from there and he’s always been a good horse off the pace so I’m not too worried at all.”

If anyone should understand what’s required for success in Australia’s greatest handicap race, it’s Anthony Butt.

The most successful pilot in the $425,000 race’s 55-year history with four wins; two aboard brilliant mare Blossom Lady and one each steering super stayer Mister DG and glamour American import Mr Feelgood, Butt has been there and done that.

So when he declares Stunin Cullen a live chance on Saturday night, even in the presence of one of the strongest Kiwi raids on the race in recent years with regard to depth, people understandably sit up and take notice.

“We’re in this up to our eyeballs,” the gun reinsman said. “It is a strong contingent and we’ve all taken turns a bit I suppose, back home, but we’re still bullish.

“Stunin Cullen was favourite for the New Zealand Cup, Smiling Shard is the new kid on the block who’s measured up every time he’s stepped up, (The) Sleepy Tripp is a bit of an enigma who can be awesome one week and a bit flat the next and Power Of Tara’s just an old professional who shapes up week in, week out and keeps getting the job done.

“But we couldn’t be happier with our horse since his win last weekend. Everything’s gone exactly to plan and he’s as bright as a button - everything’s spot on.

“So we know it’s going to be a big challenge, but that’s what you go in this big races for and I wouldn’t be swapping him for anything else in it, definitely not.”

The BIG6 Hunter Cup will be the eighth race of a massive 10-race card to close out another hugely successful SKY Racing Nights Of Glory carnival and is scheduled to run at 9:30pm.

Cup card's class runs deep

Every harness fan knows that some of Australia’s best standardbreds will be in action at Tabcorp Park, Melton this Saturday night.

The $425,000 BIG6 Hunter Cup is Australia’s richest handicap, the $200,000 Alabar Victoria Derby the nation’s most prestigious Classic and the $150,000 Australasian Trotting Championship one of our most lucrative events for squaregaiters.

But it’s not just the Group 1s that have attracted big names to the meeting most harness purists consider the best night’s racing of the season.

A four-time Grand Circuit winner, former champion colt and filly and some probable stars of the future headline the races that make up the support events on the glittering 10-race card.

Queensland visitor Washakie is the headline act of the Sky Racing Free-For-All, the night’s fast-class mobile event.

One of the original 10-metre markers for the BIG6 Hunter Cup, the dual Treuer Memorial winner was saved from that gruelling event in favour of the 2240m mobile after a last-start fourth to Im Themightyquinn when defending his WA Cup crown.

The millionaire has drawn the inside barrier in the 7:00pm event that also contains former champion two and three-year-old Captain Joy.

The winner of the Victoria Derby at this meeting two years ago, the Susan Hunter-trained gun is preparing for his only his second run as a five-year-old, having resumed with a slashing third to Udoit on January 21.

Gun mare Broadways Best, runner-up to Captain Joy in the 2009 Derby, resumes in the feature mares’ event, the $20,000 Group 3 BIG6 Angelique Club Cup (7:30pm).

Shannon McLean’s star daughter of Village Jasper, a winner of 15 of her 30 starts, hasn’t been seen since her third to Make Mine Cullen in last season’s much-anticipated Breeders Crown final and returns against classy types Jazzam, Glenferrie Alexis and Elixir in the 2240m mobile.

But the black-type action doesn’t stop there with Group 1 winner Renaissance Man and rising stars Bitobliss and Our Hillview Gold among those in the $30,000 Group 3 PETstock Animal Supplies 4YO Bonanza (2240m, 9:02pm), while there is also the $20,000 Group 3 Sky Racing Trotters Handicap (10:30pm).

Rejuvenated Ronerail is likely to start favourite in that 2760m event despite the 30m backmark and his shock failure to qualify for the Australasian Trotting Championship.

The $20,000 Swift Signs Premiere Stakes (10:00pm) doesn’t carry black-type status, but it will be one of the more eagerly anticipated races on the card.

For the two-year-olds, the 1720m event has attracted a slick field, headed by unbeaten pair The Noble Steed and We Never Say Die and highly-rated duo Harryoh and Charlie Machsheen.

Rounding out the card is the $20,000 Tabcorp Park Melton Country Clubs Championship Final, which kicks off the card at 6:00pm, and the $20,000 VHRSC Pace for M1-M3s (6:34pm).

by Jason BONNINGTON

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