Racing: Herlihy hopeful, rather than confident

By Michael Guerin

Tony Herlihy admits his rivals may hold the fate of One Over Da Moon in their hooves. Photo / Greg Bowker
Tony Herlihy admits his rivals may hold the fate of One Over Da Moon in their hooves. Photo / Greg Bowker

Tony Herlihy admits his rivals may hold the fate of One Over Da Moon in their hooves when the standout trotter returns to Alexandra Park tonight.

And that means the champion horseman wouldn't be surprised if the best horse at the meeting won by two lengths, or finished a gallant placegetter.

"He could do either and be equally good runs," says Herlihy.

One Over Da Moon returns to Auckland, where he dominated the trot scene last winter, for a three-race programme, while usual trainer Paul Nairn is campaigning a team in Australia.

So Herlihy hasn't had much time to reacquaint himself with the speedy stallion, having driven him only a handful of times since he arrived.

"He hasn't had a trial and only arrived up last week, so it is hard to get an exact line on him," says Herlihy.

"He looks great, as you would expect coming from Paul's place, and when I spoke to Paul on Sunday he said he was trotting great at home before he left him.

"But winning any race at Alexandra Park off 45m fresh up is tough.

"A lot will depend on how quick they go. If a mare like Sunset Peak steps and trots 3:30 off the front then we have to trot 3:27 to win and that would be hard without a lead-up race.

"But if they go a bit slower and he has to trot 3:30 to win and gets a cart into it, it becomes a bit easier.

"So the tempo will play a big role."

Sunset Peak has been the surprise package of the northern winter for John and Ben Butcher, going from unheralded maiden to looking open class material in a handful of starts.

Ben Butcher takes the drive tonight so the mare can claim a concession and start on the front line, where she seems happiest and most likely to be able to reach her favoured pacemaking role.

"Ben drove her at the workouts on Saturday and if she trots away she might take some catching," said co-trainer John Butcher.

For a small field the race is a winter gem, also boasting Cool Cobber, who was excellent in his comeback race last start, and Harrysul, who is chasing a hat-trick for Dave and Clare McGowan.

Harrysul only just won last start after trotting roughly but McGowan says the gelding has worked much better this week and he is confident even though he is not happy to be starting off the same handicap as One Over Da Moon.

"I think he has been harshly handicapped but he is going great and the owners are coming up, so he will start," says McGowan.

Earlier on the night, the Pukekohe stable has exciting trotter Inkyroe in race four. Inkyroe lived up to her huge reputation by bolting in on debut and has a new driver tonight, with Andre Poutama replacing Todd MacFarlane for this race as the latter has his own horse George in the race.

"Andre came and drove her on Wednesday and was smiling after," said McGowan.

"It is a big jump from maidens to one-win but I think she will handle it. Her manners early will be the key."

The other highlight of the harness weekend for Kiwi punters will be the clash of Waikiki Beach and Franco Cristiano at Melton at 10.30pm (NZ time) tomorrow as they prepare for the Breeders Crown semis next week.

Park picks

• Best bet: Aliante (R5, No.7): Won't need to go any better than last start when she brained better opposition.

• Each way: Stunning Shadow (R3, No.10): Stable happy going into moderate race tonight.

• Forgive: Major Ben (R7, No.10): Costly for punters two starts ago but pushed Shandale close last start and runner-up in Jewels.

- NZ Herald

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