Racing: Cambridge is calling the hotshots

Where Monbet goes could also impact on our other best trotters. Photo / Dean Purcell
Where Monbet goes could also impact on our other best trotters. Photo / Dean Purcell

Cambridge is a big winner as the trainers of New Zealand's harness racing elite plan how to approach two months potentially pathed in gold.

After hectic New Zealand and Auckland Cup carnivals the four-year-olds have emerged as our brightest stars in both the pacing and trotting gaits but the question facing their, and all other trainers is: where next?

The answer for some of our most glamorous names is Cambridge this Friday, which could have suffered a hangover from the Auckland carnival but has instead been able to attract a hot field field for the Flying Mile and a better than expected line-up for the main trot.

While Auckland Cup quinellamates Have Faith In Me and Hughie Green will bypass the mile to head to Sydney, their female stablemates - Fight For Glory and The Orange Agent - will be at Cambridge.

The four-year-old mares will take on Auckland and New Zealand Cup placegetter Smolda as well as Sky Major, back from a recent lung infection.

All four have red hot sprint form, with Smolda responsible for one of the great ever mile performances at Cambridge in the Jewels four years ago.

Sky Major has pleased trainer Barry Purdon with his recovery from the lung problem, which could well have been behind his substandard November.

"He seems good now and he is ready for a strong mile," said Purdon.

The fields for Cambridge have been delayed until today and favouritism for the Mile will depend on the draws, but satisfactory performances from the big four will be enough to book them tickets to Australia.

"We are looking at the Victoria Cup now and as long as I am happy with him he will be going," says Purdon of Sky Major, who has raced well in Victoria before.

The A$400,000 Victoria Cup, on January 30, is also on the agenda for Smolda, who like Sky Major is also nominated for the Hunter Cup a week later.

Both horses could then head to Sydney for the February 13 heats of the Miracle Mile, before the February 28 glamour sprint worth A$750,000.

But therein lies the trick of programming races for the best horses, with both trainers reluctant to race three or even more weeks in a row, so they are likely to have to pick one of those features to miss.

Trainer Mark Purdon says Smolda has three options in Victoria so could even dodge the Victoria Cup and go for the Ballarat Cup and Hunter Cups because of their longer distances.

Purdon won't be taking Have Faith In Me to Victoria, having pulled him out of the Victoria Cup yesterday so he can head to Sydney for a campaign aimed at the Chariots of Fire on February 13.

"If he happened to get in that and win it then the Miracle Mile could be an option for him too," says Purdon.

"But the Mile is not our main aim."

The Orange Agent and Fight For Glory are using Friday's race to stay fit for their Sydney campaigns which will see them clash again in the Ladyship Mile at Menangle on February 28, the race last season in which Adore Me paced her record 1:47.7 mile.

Hughie Green will also head to Sydney, maybe earlier than The Orange Agent has he has to contest one of the lead-ups to the Chariots in late January.

Have Faith In Me has yet to qualify for that race either so the Auckland Cup quinella could clash again in a heat in Sydney in just a few weeks from now.

That Sydney carnival should also feature Christen Me, who is being aimed exclusively at defending the Miracle Mile, also the target for Beautide while Inter Dominion winner Lennytheshark is also heading there after the Victoria Cup.

While Smolda and Sky Major head to Victoria, they could be joined by Mossdale Conner, but NZ Free-For-All winner Tiger Tara won't be going.

"I think he is a couple of lengths down on his best so we will go home and ease up," says trainer Geoff Dunn.

"If he bounces back quickly he could still go to the Pelorus at Blenheim or one of the Cups in Southland."

Mossdale Conner heading to the Victoria and Hunter Cups increase the chances his budding champion trotting stablemate Monbet could make his Australian debut at that carnival.

He can contest A$170,000 of races in two weeks in early February and traveling with Mossdale Conner would appeal to trainer Greg and Nina Hope more so than Monbet going solo to Victoria for the richer Great Southern Star a month later.

Where Monbet goes could also impact on our other best trotters, with the decision to take trotters like Speeding Spur, Stent, Prime Power and even One Over Da Moon to Victoria for the Great Southern Star on March 12 a lot easier if their trainers knew Monbet wasn't going to be there.

First though that quartet are set to contest the trot at Cambridge on Friday, after which their immediate futures could become clearer.

DECISION TIME
* The trainers of New Zealand elite harness horses have some decisions to make.
* There are millions of dollars of races around Australasia in the next two months.
* Four of pacing biggest names clash in the Flying Mile at Cambridge on Friday.

- NZ Herald

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