Day At The Track

Hug The Wind back racing

09:48 AM 30 Jun 2017 NZST
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Hug The Wind

Ability won’t beat Hug The Wind in the Winter Cup at Alexandra Park tonight - but the stopwatch might.

It is rare to see an Auckland Cup runner-up reappearing in the middle of winter, with trainer Barry Purdon explaining that wasn’t exactly how he planned the five-year-old’s season.

“We took him to Australia for some of the big races over there but when he got back he developed a hoof abscess,” said Purdon.

“So we have spent plenty of time working on that and now we have it fixed there was no point putting him out for another spell.

“There are some decent races in winter, like this one, so we will keep him ticking over.”

Hug The Wind has been a serious Group One bridesmaid during his career, having also finished second in a Harness Jewels, Sires’ Stakes Final and Sales Series.

His last win came in this race last season, when he easily overcame a 20m handicap in a better field than he faces tonight.

He has had two workouts to prepare for tonight’s $20,000 resumption and looked sharp at both, suggesting the clock will be his greatest enemy tonight.

“It is the same old story with these good horses when they come back off handicaps like he faces,” says Purdon.

“If they go very hard up front and he has to pace 3:20-3:22 to win then he could struggle, because while he is as fit as we can have him, race fitness is different.

“But if they don’t go too crazy up front his class will take him a long way.

“My gut instinct is he will go very close.”

Hug The Wind’s cause is aided by the make up of the field, with just three of his seven rivals on the front line and he is only giving 10m start to an intermediate class mare in Bronze Over so he shouldn’t be too far from the leaders starting the last 800m.

His punting prospects come down to price, with anything approaching $3 worth your while.

The each way danger could be Bettors Pocket, who continues to go solid races, was a close fourth in this last year and is well placed off the front with driver Tony Cameron’s concession claim.

Cameron will also use that to snare The Almighty Johnson 10m handicap relief in race eight tonight and that could be crucial over the 2200m, a distance over which half his six wins have come.

Michael Guerin

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