Racing: Rare rule may aid punters

By Michael Guerin

Marcoola may be the best winning chance of the hot to trot favourites. Photo / Greg Bowker
Marcoola may be the best winning chance of the hot to trot favourites. Photo / Greg Bowker

Punters putting their faith in the most unusual of hands for Harness Jewels day could end up praying for a recently-changed rule to come to their aid.

Although the champion All Stars stable has four of the nine favourites at Saturday's $1.2 million meeting, the three hottest favourites of the day are set to be trotters.

Once the bain of the harness racing punter and still responsible for the Jewels' greatest upset when Charlemagne won paying $90.70 in 2012, the trotters are set to be the multi bettor's darlings this week.

Monbet is rated a $1.12 chance, Marcoola $1.15 to win the three-year-old trot and Enghien only $1.40 in the juvenile feature.

Those figures are undoubtedly a record low for three trotters on the same programme in New Zealand racing, let alone all contesting group ones.

And they could have been shorter but for the scare put into the Enghien camp by his gallop from behind the mobile at the Cambridge workouts on Saturday.

Trainer Greg Hope was initially so concerned by the wild gallop he asked stewards if the exciting youngster could be placed on the unruly for Saturday but that request had to be made before Friday's draws.

"Otherwise, as they pointed out to me, Mark Purdon could ask to have Dream About Me put on the unruly rather than one on the second line in her race. So I see their point," admits Hope.

"I am going to put an undercheck on him to stop him throwing his head in the air and I am sure he will settle down but it did shake my confidence a bit."

Ironically, one of harness racing's rarely-engaged rules could aid Enghien if he does get too stirred up and gallop behind the mobile.

If, and it is one of the big ifs of the day, Enghien does gallop from barrier three in the score up then he only needs to check another rival for a false start to be declared, at which point driver Ricky May would be asked if he wanted to move to the outside of the front line.

Any such request would be undoubtedly met with a "yes" because while it hardly sounds ideal, his last-start thrashing of his main race rivals at Addington suggest Enghien could give them a few lengths at the start and still win providing he goes away smoothly.

So from the time the mobile gate starts rolling for race two, it could be among the most nerve-wracking 30 seconds of the day for punters.

Hope has no such concerns with stable star Monbet, even though he has drawn the outside of the front line in the four-year-old trot.

"He trotted beautifully on Saturday and I couldn't be happier with him," he said. "So even if he has to sit parked I'd be fine with that."

Although Marcoola hasn't raced since winning the Northern Derby on April 29 and finished last of two in his workout at Pukekohe, he may actually be the best winning chance of the three hot to trot favourites.

He wasn't asked for his best by driver Clint Ford when he finished alongside four-year-old Paramount Dream in his workout and trotted smoothly, looking spot on for Saturday.

"I think he has got stronger and from our draw [four] I'll be going forward and trying for the front," says Ford.

His task has been made easier by arch rival High Gait being shipped off to Australia while newcomers Lemond and Temporale's chances have been badly dented by them drawing the second line, along with Sales Series winner Wilma's Mate.

Meanwhile, the juvenile male pace is down to 12 starters after Motu Meteor joined The Kaik as an early scratching, meaning it will comprise two lines of six.

- NZ Herald

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