Racing: Arden's Choice in uncharted territory

By Michael Guerin

Barry Purdon trains and drives Arden's Choice in tonight's main pace. Photo / Greg Bowker
Barry Purdon trains and drives Arden's Choice in tonight's main pace. Photo / Greg Bowker

One of the more annoying regular questions of the pacing winter rears its head at Alexandra Park again tonight.

And training legend Barry Purdon admits he can't help punters out much with the answer.

Purdon trains and drives Arden's Choice in tonight's main pace and is adamant she would be the horse to beat if she behaves from the standing start.

But that is the problem. Arden's Choice has never raced from behind the tapes before and how she will handle it is a total mystery.

"I don't know to be honest," says Purdon.

"She had a couple at home the other day and they weren't perfect. I don't want to put anybody off backing her but I couldn't say for sure she would go away safely.

"If she did she would be hard to beat on her last-start run."

That same question dogs many of the standing starts at this time of the season, when age group performers are all but forced into standing start races because of the lack of options.

So punters are left with no form reference for one of the favourites in the main race of the night, much like when three-year-olds Motown and Shandale were in the same position last month.

If Arden's Choice, who is also chasing an Alexandra Park bonus tonight, does step she will take catching but Purdon at least has a back up in Aliante, who has been very solid behind the likes of Hug The Wind, Shandale and My Kiwi Mate in recent starts.

"She actually missed away last start but Zac [Butcher, driver] thought it was just one of those things and she has won from a stand in the past."

With the doubts over Arden's Choice, a proven standing start rival like Bettors Pocket looks some each way value while backmarker Bettor Dream has a good standing start record but hasn't raced this winter, which makes tonight's assignment potentially tricky.

Also returning tonight but after a much longer layoff is Cool Cobber in the feature trot, his first start since December.

While he has only won nine races in a career dogged by suspensory issues, at his best he has looked serious group one material, having finished fourth to Master Lavros in the 2014 Rowe Cup.

Trainer Derek Balle is thrilled to have the big boy back but says even a placing tonight would be a good result.

"I'd be surprised if he can win," says Balle.

"The track here at Pukekohe is probably a bit small for him to really stretch out on so I have tried to take him to the beach as much as possible.

"But even that can be tricky with the weather the way it has been."

The race sets up nicely for Djokovic, who had a rare gallop this campaign last start but is suited by the small field.

Friday fancies

• Best bet: Lucky Fortune (R2, No.2): If he races up to last start form should win again.

• Suited: Bro Fawkes S (R8, No.5): Has plenty to learn but better than maiden grade and this week's field weaker than last start.

• Forgive: Shieldmaiden (R4, No.7): Trialled well before debut and stable gets them right early so can bounce back.

- NZ Herald

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