Horse racing: Ruakaka puzzle for punters

By Mike Dillon

Makfi contenders will be at various stages of fitness when they kick off their spring campaigns tomorrow
Although Stolen Dance is preparing for richer plums she could be a  place hope at Ruakaka tomorrow.Picture / Trish Dunell
Although Stolen Dance is preparing for richer plums she could be a place hope at Ruakaka tomorrow.Picture / Trish Dunell

The $30,000 1200m sprint at Ruakaka tomorrow is not a practice run, but you are excused if you think it looks like one.

It's a practice run - no, let's call it a lead-up run - for the $200,000 Makfi Challenge Stakes on August 27.

Ryan Mark, Stolen Dance, Hasselhoof and Valley Girl are all resuming from spells and prepping for the first group one race of the season in three weeks.

Make no mistake, the connections of all four declare they will win if they can without punishing their charges and potentially wrecking their preparations when they are not ready for it.

Make no mistake - all four are capable of winning; these are genuine group one horses.

So, how do you sort which of the four is most likely to win when all are short of full fitness and will take huge improvement heading to the Hastings Spring Carnival.

As a Railway winner, Ryan Mark is the best suited of the quartet to the 1200m, but for his efforts he has 61.5kg, a huge lump of weight if you have high-class rivals chasing you.

However, owner and trainer John Morrell knows how to get his horses ready to win without racing and Ryan Mark has previously won when fresh.

David Greene is somewhat sceptical about the chances of Stolen Dance even though the mare also has an admirable record fresh.

"She is going to need the run. Because of the continual rain it's been difficult prepping horses this winter, getting a decent galloping surface has not been easy."

Last season, Stolen Dance tended to be light in condition, but Greene says that is definitely not the case now.

"They always told me what a slow developing family this is and that's been the case with her.

"She's bigger than she's ever been and looks like a bull at the moment."

Greene believes Stolen Dance will settle in the trail or one spot further back. "Unless there is a real push for the front she should end up just behind the speed. Apart from one or two runs last season when, for whatever reason, she decided to walk out of the barriers, she has always been capable of beginning sharply."

At 60kg, Stolen Dance is not well off in the weights compared with the 57.5kg Hasselhoof will carry and the 56.5kg for Valley Girl. Under set weights, mares get 2kg off the males, which makes Stolen Dance something around 4.5kg worse off than Hasselhoof under handicap conditions.

Hasselhoof has not raced at less than 1400m, but he is so remarkably brilliant you couldn't be too sure what he is likely to do. He is keen in his races when fresh and don't be staggered if he leads.

If you fancy Valley Girl in the Caulfield Cup have something on her in that race before tomorrow's fresh-up run. She looks a different horse to the filly that with better luck probably should have won our Derby and is in for a big season.

Like Hasselhoof, she has not raced at less than 1400m. She lacks the absolute brilliance of her stablemate and may not be able to match the early speed if the leaders go crazy, but she will be running on.

Going forward, her performance will be worth analysing.

Unless all of the quartet are way off their game, which is highly unlikely, it is difficult to make a case for the remainder of the field, even though there is ample class there.

On the balance of probabilities it might be Hasselhoof's day.

There have been plenty of them previously.

Punting pointers
Forget: Lord And Master (R1, Ruakaka). Things went wrong at Te Rapa last start. On the way up and on home track this time.

Take the short odds: Mongolian Falcon (R3, Ruakaka). Class act and the only winner in the field. The 1000m is a touch short, but should still be too good.

Each-way: Segenhoe (R4, Ruakaka). Beaten first up, but fitter now. Odds should be each-way value.

- NZ Herald

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