Racing: Field Marshal ready for war

By Michael Guerin

Bullish Dunn backing his four-year-old Emerald favourite to see off challenge of dramatic mover Titan Banner.
Dexter Dunn has faith in Field Marshal (4). "They are going to need to do something special to beat my fella." Picture / Greg Bowker
Dexter Dunn has faith in Field Marshal (4). "They are going to need to do something special to beat my fella." Picture / Greg Bowker

Nobody has a better insight into just how destructive the biggest plunge horse of Harness Jewels day can be than champion driver Dexter Dunn.

But even armed with that first-hand knowledge, Dunn thinks he can beat Titan Banner with four-year-old Emerald favourite Field Marshal.

Titan Banner has been a dramatic mover in Jewels markets, being as long as $26 before joining the Purdon-Rasmussen stable but around $3 now after a stunning last-start victory over Christen Me at Addington.

Dunn was, as usual, driving Christen Me that day and was impressed by what Titan Banner did.

But not impressed enough to be worried he can sit outside Field Marshal and beat him tomorrow.

"Titan Banner was great at Addington but this is a very different sort of race," says Dunn.

"I am sure I will lead because my horse has super quick gate speed and he is also tough enough to roll along.

"So while there are a few horses there who can keep going forward, they are going to need to do something special to beat my fella." On a day when draws haven't been kind to some favourites - most notably Monbet, Dream About Me and More The Better - their sheer class may prevail.

But reverse that and you realise Field Marshal, who has won the Taylor Mile and Messenger at his last two starts, should be leading in a race where his main rival is likely to be working three wide for much of the first 600-800m, and it becomes extremely hard to make a case to bet against him.

Especially when Field Marshal reeled off a 26.5 second last 400m at the Cambridge workouts last Saturday, suggesting a colic attack 17 days ago has not hampered him.

Another southerner hoping to use gate speed on a proven group one performer tomorrow is Nathan Williamson, who partners Democrat Party in the opening race.

Williamson has never won a group one pacing race but the mare has, having claimed the scalps of The Orange Agent and Fight For Glory in the past.

After an easy all-the-way win in weaker company at Alexandra Park last week, many are rating Miss Daisy a chance to try for a repeat tomorrow, and if she holds the front then potential trailer Rocker Band, with 25-year-old southerner Samantha Ottley in the sulky, will emerge as a huge danger.

But Williamson says the gate speed Democrat Party showed in a far stronger race with a quicker lead time last Friday has boosted his confidence.

"She flew off the gate last week and I think we can get the top," he offers.

"I won't be scared to put the pressure on because she has beaten good horses before and if she gets the top then she will be awfully hard to beat." It is hard to argue with Williamson but if a few others have the same attitude - including not only Miss Daisy but Lusty Mac and Cambridge specialist Bettor B Amazed, then the race could open up and bring those back in the field into play.

But that is the thing about punting on those settling back in mile races at Cambridge: unless they are clearly superior it becomes a game of bet-and-hope.

Whereas backing previous group one winners with good draws and aggressive young drivers is a far more likely recipe for a successful day on the punt.

Enghien's trainer relaxes

Greg Hope will arrive at Cambridge tomorrow a lot more confident than when he left it last Saturday.

The Canterbury trainer now believes juvenile trot favourite Enghien is set to do things right in his $100,000 division of Jewels Day.

Enghien has been the red hot favourite since destroying almost all of his opponents tomorrow in the Sires' Stakes Trot at Addington two weeks ago, giving the likes of Custodian and Habibi Inta a huge start and thrashing them.

That suggested he only has to bring that form and manners to race 2 tomorrow to win but the manners component looked far from a done deal when he galloped away wildly from behind the mobile in a simple two-horse workout at Cambridge last Saturday.

That sent a shiver down Hope's spine but he has rested easier since Enghien was far more professional during private use of the mobile starting gate at Cambridge on Wednesday.

"We have worked on a few things and he was great," says Hope, who trains in partnership with wife Nina.

"He was far more relaxed and now I am too because I am more confident he will go away safely."

For all the genius of Custodian's new trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen and the freakish ability of Habibi Inta's mentor Paul Nairn, a well-behaved Enghien looks the first good thing of the day tomorrow.

Even hotter will be his stablemate Monbet who looks certain to complete his stunning season by overcoming a wide draw in the four-year-old trot, with Hope thrilled with New Zealand's best trotter.

- NZ Herald

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