Racing: Agent on an urgent mission

By Michael Guerin

The Orange Agent heads into tonight's race on the verge of a rare spell. Photo / Jason Dorday
The Orange Agent heads into tonight's race on the verge of a rare spell. Photo / Jason Dorday

A dramatic change of plan for The Orange Agent could see her on a more urgent mission than some of her rivals in the $60,000 Flying Mile at Cambridge tonight.

The glamour mare is set for a short spell after tonight's sprint, with trainer Brian Hughes having ditched his original plans to campaign both her and Auckland Cup runner-up Hughie Green in Sydney.

Both were going to head to A$200,000 races at Menangle next month but after finishing second in their respective qualifying races, they would have to contest lead-up races in Sydney, meaning being away from home longer than Hughes wanted them.

"They both still have a lot of targets here, with races in March, the Taylor Mile and Messenger and then their Jewels," says Hughes.

"So we have scrapped Sydney."

That means The Orange Agent goes into tonight's group two on the verge of a rare spell, her longest one in the last 14 months having been only three and a half weeks.

So Hughes won't be scared to tell driver Maurice McKendry to go forward and put her into the race, from where she will be awfully hard to get past around Cambridge.

There is, of course, no guarantee The Orange Agent will run to the front, with Te Kawau probably having the early speed to hold the front from the ace unless Franco Nelson flies off the gate.

The possibility of Te Kawau and The Orange Agent both being close to the speed and capable of 1:51 miles, which is what the former paced winning the Jewels, would make them the pair to beat.

And they are also two of the stars in the field whose connections won't mind them having a hard run as they are set to stay in New Zealand for the rest of the season. That is not the case for Sky Major, Ohoka Punter, Fight For Glory and Franco Nelson, who are all being set for Australian campaigns, some starting next week.

Obviously their connections still want to win tonight and being a mile few are likely to take any harm from a hard run.

They both still have a lot of targets here ... So we have scrapped Sydney.
Brian Hughes

But the reality is also most will sit where they settle in the running and don't expect a crazy charge with horses three and four wide swapping places.

So as tends to be the case with Cambridge miles, especially at the highest level, it is advantage leaders, which is why a decent bet on either The Orange Agent or Te Kawau and covering on the other makes sense.

All of the Aussie-bound pacers are good enough to win under the right circumstances but unless the leaders go ridiculously fast there aren't many places in the field you can realistically expect them to come from and win.

The obvious exception is the trail and if Te Kawau did hold the lead then Fight For Glory comes right into play as the best each way chance, as at $7 fixed she is worth a small ticket.

Smolda's scratching (he has no serious issues) robs the race of its most likely three-wide attacker, a possible lack of pressure that won't help those off the speed like Ohoka Punter.

And as wonderfully athletic as he is, there must be a question mark over Sky Major. He is over his lung infection and has won four group one miles but again, will need luck at the right time to win.

While the mile is one of the best fields assembled at Cambridge in a decade, the trotting sprint looks a three-horse race which again could be decided at the start.

Speeding Spur was so good when second fresh up in the National Trot he deserves favouritism but if the enigmatic One Over Da Moon can hold the lead he will be hard to catch, with Prime Power fast enough to cause them both tactical problems.

Cambridge crackers

Best: Lusty Mac (R4, No.6): No luck at Alex Park last week and handy fields means divvy could be all right.

Suited: Il Pirata (R2, No.8): Drops back from big runs in premiers at Alex Park to mobile on home track.

Class drop: Uandmebabe (R11, No.5): This is miles below what she has been racing lately. Should simply win.

- NZ Herald

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