Day At The Track

Mexicana hot to trot in comeback run

03:18 AM 12 Mar 2021 NZDT
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Mexicana, harness racing
Mexicana returns at Alexandra Park tonight.
Stuart McCormick Photo

One of New Zealand racing's most unheralded Group 1 winners returns at Alexandra Park tonight to start a campaign that could see her get the recognition she deserves.

Mexicana resumes in a strong three-year-old trot race to start tonight's Alexandra Park meeting, her first start since Melton in Victoria in November, and faces a tricky assignment off a 20m handicap over 2200m.

Making that more complicated is Mexicana meets a race-hardened rival like Son Of Patrick, who has been cleaning up older opponents at Cambridge, as well as giving some talented types that 20m start.

There is no doubting her ability as Mexicana was good enough to beat older trotters at Alexandra Park twice in October, both times with faultless manners and a high cruising speed.

After that she headed to Victoria where she won one of harness racing's more unusual Group 1 races, the A$50,000 Redwood at Maryborough, a standing start 2190m trot for two-year-olds.

Even though that was only four months ago she was a two-year-old in Australia but three here, with the Australian season now based on the calendar year whereas the New Zealand harness season still runs August to July.

As odd as the conditions of the Redwood were and Mexicana's yo-yoing age status is, she is still clearly a good filly although trainer-driver Josh Dickie admits she might be vulnerable.

"She has only had one workout so she will have improvement in her," says Dickie.

"But she has great manners and that should help with the handicap. But it looks a very handy and even bunch of three-year-old trotters this season, both here and down south.

"I think there are six or eight horses who could win the major three-year-old trots."

The next of those Group race trots is the New Zealand Oaks at Addington in two weeks, for which Mexicana is on trial tonight.

So much will depend on the scurry to the first bend. If Mexicana steps well and a couple of her rivals gallop (likely) she could be handy enough to win with a lap to go.

But if the front markers step and run hard then both she and Son Of Patrick, who is the one to beat, could be playing catch-up for a long way as most in the race have good ability.

Dickie was sent Mexicana to train by Canterbury owner Trevor Casey, who also entrusted him with former Inter Dominion champion Winterfell.

The latter has developed a disdain for left-handed racing that means he is better off racing in the north and Dickie is aiming him at the Anzac Cup and Rowe Cups next month.

"He had a workout for us last week and was really good and seems a happy horse," he explains.

"It is great to be given a chance with a horse like him and we are going to avoid temptation with him and just stick to the right-handed racing at this stage."

Dickie takes another open-classer to Alexandra Park in Kay Cee, who faces a daunting task off 50m over 2200m in the main trot.

Dickie believes the six-year-old can still win.

"It won't be easy but there is only one on the front line and he does step well so if he can catch the body of the field he still has a chance," he said.

Bosses prepared for all levels

Alexandra Park bosses are being flexible about tonight's meeting as they await today's alert levels announcement, but they still have room for owners on track for the meeting unless there is a dramatic change of circumstances.

With Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern not set to announce the likely change until noon today, Alexandra Park could be run at level 2, meaning only owners who have registered or restaurant guests are allowed, or if Auckland drops to level 1 before 5pm, the meeting will open to all comers.

"We already have close to 100 owners registered to come and they will have their own room," says ATC racing manager Karen Blanchard.

"And we have other restaurants and bars which will be kept separate from each other which can also hold 100 people each.

"So we are prepared for a level 2 meeting but if the levels are dropped, the gate will be open to everybody as usual."

Michael Guerin

Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

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