Racing: Xtravagant has tough rival in sprint

By Mike Dillon

Xtravagant (left) will not want to give others a huge start. Photo / Nick Reed
Xtravagant (left) will not want to give others a huge start. Photo / Nick Reed

Co-trainer Stephen Autridge sees today's $200,000 NRM Sprint at Te Rapa as a test for everyone.

First, he fully accepts 3-year-olds like the stable's Xtravagant are better known for winning the the other feature on the card, the 2000m Herbie Dyke Stakes.

The other factor, Autridge believes, is the barrier draw - No 7.

"It's an average barrier for a group one sprint - what do you do, you are always wondering if you should go forward out of the barrier or not."

Chances are Xtravagant's brilliance will take him forward and to his advantage because this will be run at dynamic speed and giving the leaders a huge start would be difficult in the extreme.

Xtravagant's exceptional ability at 1600m took him to victory in the 2000 Guineas at Riccarton by the length of a cricket pitch and then he couldn't get away from the opposition on rain-affected footing at Trentham last start finishing fourth, releasing the usual Doubting Thomases from the shadows to declare the glory premature.

Autridge, never one to pre-empt reputation, is happy sitting where he is.

"You can only break track records when the footing is right, not when they are racing in the middle of the track because of rain." Autridge is delighted with the progress of Xtravagant.

"He's been working really well and we can't be happier with him."

Like the Herbie Dyke two races earlier, the NRM Sprint is a fascinating contest exceeding the usual reputation that these are among the two best New Zealand elite races all season.

Xtravagant has to face one of the best sprinters we've recently seen with Sacred Star having won this race last year after a similar stylish victory in Trentham's Telegraph.

Bottom line: This will be a match between youthful brilliance and seasoned toughness. It doesn't get better.

And then you have the massively talented Volkstok'n'barrell. He can achieve anything and he throws the wildcard into what is a season-topping race.

The $100,000 Cambridge Stud Sir Tristram Fillies Classic is yet another race befitting a huge raceday, even if it is a nightmare to sort.

Has Capella ($3.80 favourite) been brought slightly undone by missing her Trentham lead-up because of a foot problem? Duchess Kate ($4.40) will not fall into the same category and deserves enormous respect and Coldplay at $4.40 deserves a similar look when you bring into play her lack of recent luck in running.

Cool Tart is the interesting runner. She came from last with a massively sustained run to win in minor company on this track last start and looked wonderful doing it, but from a wide barrier she may have to attempt the same again and against this field it will be more than a touch difficult.

Megawatt, from an inside barrier, could get some of it.

- NZ Herald

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