Racing: New Years Jay no flight of fancy tonight

By Michael Guerin

Hug the Wind.
Hug the Wind.

Training legend Barry Purdon has a surprise for punters assessing the final feature race of the season at Alexandra Park tonight.

While Hug The Wind is likely to start favourite in the main sprint, Purdon thinks his other rep, New Years Jay is the better winning chance.

The Purdon pair are likely to dominate the market on the 1700m event, Hug The Wind having come from a 20m backmark to win the Winter Cup last start, a race in which New Years Jay was a luckless third off 10m behind.

As a Messenger placegetter and proven group one pacer Hug The Wind makes obvious appeal but Purdon says the draws could tip the race the other way.

"They are obviously both good horses but I think the mare might have slightly more high speed at the moment," says Purdon.

"Hug The Wind is a very good stayer but if New Years Jay sat on his back she might beat him for speed.

"I think they could both win and a lot will come down to the run they get but I will lean toward New Years Jay."

It will be interesting to see how much punters take that on board, especially with Hug The Wind having the bigger reputation and coming to the end of a solid season.

One horse who clearly deserves favouritism is Purdon's only other runner tonight, Arden's Choice (R5). The 3-year-old filly staged a huge recovery after an early gallop in her first standing start last week but drops back in grade and picks herself in a competitive 2200m mobile.

The scratching of Foray leaves Harrysul and Mum's Pride to dominate betting on the free-for-all trot, with Harrysul clearly the one to beat but Mum's Pride unlikely to get a better chance to return to something like his peak.

The bet of the night should be Temporale (R3), where he is well suited by the handicap conditions, his 10m impost largely irrelevant as there is only one horse on the front line.

While race eight tonight will hardly go down as the highlight of the harness racing season it will still be special for Waikato trainer Dane Alexander as it will be his last racenight drive.

Alexander has driven 151 winners from fewer than 1000 career drives but will leave the driving to others in the new season, although he will still train.

A historic feat of a different sort could be accomplished by the nation's leading stable should the All Stars enjoy the expected success at Addington tonight.

Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have three starters, all of who will be favourites and favourable results would see them end the season with a UDR rating over .5000.

Their rating, which takes into account wins and placings against number of starters, is unbelievable and no stable in New Zealand history with more than 100 starters in a season has ever approached a .5000 rating, with few eversurpassing .4000.

In New Zealand, the All Stars have lined up 383 horses (three more to go tonight) for 128 wins and 124 placings worth $3,932,418 in stakes, with their strike rate in Australia with far smaller numbers even higher.


Final night
Best bet: Temporale (R3, No 3): Only has to trot all the way to win.
Each way: Shieldmaiden (R4, No 1): Almost got the money at big odds last Friday and drawn to get right run.
Hard To Catch: Whitecliff Chapel (R1, No 5): Has rare gate speed so should put herself in the right spot.

- NZ Herald

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