Racing: Taylor-made for the leaders

By Michael Guerin

Speeding Spur has a tricky race in the Anzac Cup. Photo / Harness Racing Victoria
Speeding Spur has a tricky race in the Anzac Cup. Photo / Harness Racing Victoria

If you are considering backing a horse who might not settle handy in tonight's $100,000 Taylor Mile, you had better rate him a budding champion.

Because they are about the only horses who come from off the speed to win Alexandra Park's biggest sprint.

The 1700m group one returns to 4-year-old only status tonight and has drawn one of the most even fields in recent years, with Have Faith In Me and Hughie Green not there to dominate betting.

And when you talk Alexandra Park sprint races and even fields you need to start being very careful about any horse you expect to settle in the second half of the field. Nine of the last 10 Taylor Miles have been won by the leader or trailer, the one horse to buck that trend being Christen Me, who sat parked.

In fact in the last 13 years, only three horses who haven't led or trailed have won the race - the other two being all-round pacing heroes Just An Excuse (parked) and Elsu (one-one). So racing on the speed, and preferably on the markers, isn't just important in the Mile, it usually wins the race.

Which makes tonight's edition particularly tricky because the two favourites Field Marshal (second line) and Hug The Wind (six) have drawn awkwardly while most of those with good front line draws are outsiders.

In the old days of harness racing that may not have mattered but now, with hard-running racing and 1:52 miles common for top horses, those working in the major sprint are usually in a world of pain.

Field Marshal has been a revelation this season, beating Locharburn last start, and he only needs to get some luck early to be a player. But Field Marshal isn't an open class superstar so he is still going to need plenty to go right to get you the cash.

Hug The Wind at least has the advantage of a front line draw and has gone two beauties since joining Barry Purdon so if he has the gate speed to get across them early he becomes the one to beat.

"To be honest I don't know him well enough to know whether he has that type of gate speed but Brent [Mangos] will sum it up," says Purdon.

"He is very well and ready but these can be tricky races."

With the advantage of at least being master of his own destiny early, Hug The Wind deserves outright favouritism. But the best each way bet in the race might be Risk, who is under-rated yet has all the attributes of a Taylor Mile sneaky.

He has high gate speed, likes to race on the speed and under those circumstances has beaten home the likes of Ohoka Punter, Lancewood Lizzie and Sky Major this season. And he went within a head of beating Te Kawau and Hughie Green in the Futurity at Cambridge on Christmas Eve, compelling form for tonight.

Risk is one of the most proven pacers in the sprint and if he can get to the markers early, he is the one you want to be on.

Former Auckland pacer My Kiwi Mate brings Australian flavour to the race and has enough speed to be a factor while Maverick and Bettor Spirits are other bolters.

Premier picks

Best: Le Reveur (R1): Perfect conditions for him and if he steps well should win.

Each way: High Gait (R5): Gets ideal draw to lead or trail and impossible to see her out of the money.

First timer: Blazing Under Fire (R10): Never been to the Park but sidesteps the top 3-y-os.

- NZ Herald

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