Racing: Heavy track worries Wheeler

By Michael Guerin

Tobouggie Nights has plenty of weight to carry in the Pakuranga Hunt Cup at Ellerslie on Saturday on what may be a heavy track. Photo / APN
Tobouggie Nights has plenty of weight to carry in the Pakuranga Hunt Cup at Ellerslie on Saturday on what may be a heavy track. Photo / APN

Trainer John Wheeler heads into Saturday's Pakuranga Hunt Cup with uncharacteristically low confidence levels - but still feeling good about bigger prizes a fortnight away.

The training great has a freakish strike rate with his best jumpers and brings two of them back to Ellerslie for the Pakuranga meeting after successful Australian campaigns.

Tobouggie Nights will be asked to carry 70.5kg in the $35,000 Mad Butcher Pakuranga Hunt Cup, while Seeking The Silver looks to continue his ultra-consistent winter in the Richards Toyota Hurdle.

Tobouggie Nights returns home on the back of three failures but before them dominated the Easter carnival at Oakbank, winning the Von Doussa and Great Eastern Double.

He conceded the runner-up in both those races, the subsequent NZ Grand National Steeples winner Cape Kinaveral, 2kg and 3kg respectively and is asked to give him 1.5kg again on Saturday.

But it is not the massive weight that worries Wheeler.

"The handicapper hasn't missed him, that is for sure, but you could argue he deserves that," said Wheeler.

"But I am far more worried about the track.

"He doesn't like it really heavy and that is what he is likely to get on Saturday.

"He has to run to be fit for the Great Northern in two weeks' time but to be honest I'd be happy if he manages to finish in the top four this week."

The track was rated a heavy (11) yesterday.

However, Wheeler warns punters if that does happen and the weather stays clear in Auckland for the next fortnight, then Tobouggie Nights is the horse to beat in the Northern.

"He is a great stayer and even though he will be carrying a lot of weight in the Northern, too, I think he will be up to it.

"A lot will depend on the track though. He doesn't want it too wet."

Wheeler says the return to New Zealand from the more dashing tempo of Australasian steeplechasing, will suit Tobouggie Nights.

"He is a good jumper so the bigger fences back here will suit him and the hill will suit his stamina.

"It is quite a different racing style from over there, where the fences are smaller and they scoot along a lot quicker, but I have brought horses like Real Tonic and Crafty Dancer home and won these sort of races before."

Wheeler says that while Seeking The Silver is a classy act, he rates his place chances best in Saturday's major hurdle. "He has been set for the Northern Hurdle in a fortnight so might be more ready then."

But he does advise Herald readers to look out for his feared racing colours in the first race of Saturday's annual meeting.

"Ayatollah is a horse who is right in the zone at the moment and I think better than ever," says Wheeler.

"So he is the one the punters should get on. He is my best chance at Ellerslie."

While Saturday's meeting is mainly about the jumpers, one of New Zealand's leading stayers returns on the flat.

City of Auckland and Avondale Cups winner Single Minded will carry 59kg in the open mile after pleasing trainer Graham Richardson in a gallop between races at Taupo on Monday.

- NZ Herald

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