Racing: It's a classic match race

By Mike Dillon

Start Wondering, with Johnathan Parkes on board, is coming off a 1400m win at Te Rapa last start. Photo / Race Images
Start Wondering, with Johnathan Parkes on board, is coming off a 1400m win at Te Rapa last start. Photo / Race Images

We don't have match races these days, but the closest you will get to seeing one is when Kawi faces off against Start Wondering in tomorrow's $200,000 Haunui Farm group one WFA Classic at Otaki.

Plenty can go wrong in a horse race and it will probably need to for this not to be the quinella result, Sofia Rosa being the only question mark in preventing that.

This is a race in which you do not want to see either Kawi or Start Wondering beaten. Both are enormous crowd pleasers.

Start Wondering beat Kawi 1.7 lengths when the latter finished fifth in the $200,000 NRM Sprint at Te Rapa last start. Against this returning a similar result is that Kawi produced very fresh at Te Rapa in his first start after returning from Perth. He got rid of jockey Michael Walker in the birdcage and continued playing up on the way to the start.

That he had enough energy left to run home strongly in a fast-run 1:21.22 1400m says a lot for his talent. He should be more settled this time and the step up to 1600m will also be in his favour.

Start Wondering is coming off a 1200m victory in Ellerslie's group one Railway, a nose defeat in Trentham's 1200m Telegraph and a 1400m win at Te Rapa last start.

Few horses can compete successfully at 1200m, 1400m and 1600m at Group 1 level - Start Wondering is the exception.

After Start Wondering's last three races many will be believing him to be simply a sprinter, but he has had six 1600m races for three wins and three placings before he left to join Chris Waller's Sydney stable and before he bled and returned home he won over 1500m on a heavy track at Rosehill, which would be the same as 1600m. "We've always thought 1600m was his best distance," said co-trainer Evan Rayner yesterday.

The style of most top level sprinters is to explode through 1200m to put their opposition to bed.

That's not Start Wondering, who can take up a handy position, relax and wait for the orders to be given to produce something exceptional.

His winning margin at Te Rapa was narrow over Natuzzi, but the result was never really in doubt.

"We've dug him up to be handy in recent starts because they've been sharp races, but we won't have to do that this time, he can relax a bit more early," says Rayner, who is happy with the topliner since Te Rapa.

"This will be his last start before going for a spell."

Jason Waddell will be a good addition to Kawi, who can get up and racing at times.

Waddell's kind hands should be able to manage that well.

The result? Kawi by a half head from Start Wondering, unless Sofia Rosa gets in the way.

But a dead-heat would be a better option.

Punting pointers

Better luck here: Aotearower, R2 Matamata. Hampered when making a run at leaders at Te Rapa last start. Needs only a bit better fortune.

Staggering on debut: Love Affair, R3 Matamata. Few horses, especially on debut, can come from last and win at Te Aroha despite the very long home straight. This filly could end up being exceptional.

Hitting sixes regularly: Volks Lightning, R7 Matamata. Winner of three of her last four for part-owner Brendon McCullum and with just 53kg looks well placed to make it four from the past five tomorrow.

- NZ Herald

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