Racing: All Stars Oaks party on track but may founder later

By Michael Guerin

Mark Purdon drives Dream About Me to victory in the 2016 Trillion Trust Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park Raceway, 2016. Photo / Peter Meecham
Mark Purdon drives Dream About Me to victory in the 2016 Trillion Trust Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park Raceway, 2016. Photo / Peter Meecham

Complete confidence in one feature at Alexandra Park tonight, none in the other.

That is how champion trainer Mark Purdon is viewing Oaks night tonight as he returns from Australia with his team of stars and Auckland's biggest week of racing kicks off.

Purdon and training partner Natalie Rasmussen totally dominate the $125,000 Pascoes Northern Oaks, with Partyon $1.50 to remain unbeaten and stablemate Spanish Armada rated her only real danger.

The two fillies have swept all before them on different sides of the Tasman this season and tonight is just their second meeting, the first being when Partyon led and won the Jewels last year. The same scenario and result looks more than likely tonight as the last-start NSW Oaks winner has drawn barrier seven, while Spanish Armada is handicapped by one on the second line.

Unless something truly odd happens Partyon should find the front and win, with Spanish Armada such a fine stayer she is likely to come sit parked and run the quinella.

But while the All Stars look certain to win the Oaks, Purdon is far from confident with another star three-year-old, More The Better, in the Founders.

Last season's best juvenile has played second fiddle to Ultimate Machete this summer but will have plenty of support against the older horses over 1700m.

But Purdon warns punters he does not think he is a good bet.

"I am not happy about him being in this race but it was the only one we could get before the Derby next week so he has to start," said Purdon.

"But I am considering going to the stewards and saying we will look to drive him conservatively because he's only a young three-year-old, fresh up and against horses who have won major Cups.

"So while he will start and you never know what can happen I think the punters deserve to realise this is the wrong race for him and I am not very confident with him."

You can't be more blunt than that and once those sentiments are consumed by punters expect to see More The Better replaced at the head of the market.

It is not an easy race to find a clear alternative though, especially with outstanding mare The Orange Agent having not raced for 14 months.

She is a very special mare back from a fractured pastern and showed both gate speed and her ability to cruise quick sectionals winning at the Alex Park workouts last Saturday.

At her best she would win but trainer Brian Hughes is trying not to put pressure on his stable star.

"She is forward as she can be after this long away from the track but trials fitness and race fitness are different things," says Hughes.

"I won't be giving any instructions because she has a wide draw and so much depends on what the ones inside her do. So she will go well but I don't want her having a gutbuster."

Doubts over the pair suggest punters' enemy of late, Heaven Rocks and now veteran Christen Me have chances in a battle of four Jewels winners.

Heaven Rocks has the worst manners of the really good horses in the country but his motor is huge and if he behaves he can win.

But the race stacks us nicely for Christen Me if they decide to launch him at the start. While his stunning best form is long gone he still pushed Lazarus close in the NZ Free-For-All in November and might get revved up for a slick 1700m so could be the each way value.

Tonight's meeting also hosts two excellent juvenile races before next Friday's Young Guns finals as well as plenty of top three-year-olds in support races prepping for the Derby.

Oaks night

• Best bet: Idle Bones (R4, No.10): Handicap not so bad in average and small field.

• Each way: Christen Me (R8, No.8): If he blasts the gate could get the lead and keep going.

• Well placed: Wrangler (R1, No.12): Likes a hot speed and last week's run was huge.

- NZ Herald

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