Before you write off the back markers in tonight's Smith And Partners Lawyers Winter Cup at Alexandra Park, consider something a little strange about the horses they are chasing.

While the likes of Hug The Wind and Bettor Spirits (20m) and Beyond The Silence (10m) are giving away starts to the kids off the front line, the latter are giving away plenty of experience.

Tonight's 2700m feature sees high class three-year-olds Shandale and Motown take on serious older horses while promising last-start winners Jo's Dream and Hank Bromac join them on the front line. But none of that quartet has yet to race from a standing start.

That doesn't mean they won't step away safely, even brilliantly, and give their more experienced rivals some fresh young legs to chase. But if you are betting on the young guns don't be surprised if a couple of them misfire.


It is one of the oddities of New Zealand harness racing that classic horses like Motown and Shandale can place in the Jewels and NZ Derby respectively but then have to learn a whole new skill when they progress to the intermediate grades, where so many races are standing starts.

Some handle it, some don't - as anybody who backed Auckland Reactor, Adore Me or Have Faith In Me early in their standing start careers knows.

Both Shandale and Motown, who fought out the finish of their latest clash two weeks ago, are well-gaited, seemingly sensible pacers but with the dual challenge of a first standing start and only 10m to move in because of the tape behind them, you would want an each way price to be getting too involved with any of the front line newbies.

Hug The Wind faces a tricky 20m handicap but any front line gallopers would aid with his field position later and he has been good from a stand. He worked hard and had no luck late in the Jewels last start but a better pointer to his chances is his Messenger third the start before.

Bettor Spirits has already beaten better fields than this under similar circumstances but that was when his form was more convincing a few months ago.

Which suggests Beyond The Silence as each way value, his standing start form excellent as he has already won the Spring Cup and Holmes D G at Alexandra Park under these conditions this season.

An interesting newcomer is New Years Jay, fresh up in the north for new trainer Barry Purdon.

She undoubtedly has the motor to win but appeals as the sort of mare who might improve with a race or two right-handed.

The huge 12-race programme means Pick6 doesn't start until race seven and it seems to have few anchors, with First Home in race 10 probably the best.

He has been racing in stronger fields and four of his eight career wins have come over tonight's 2700m distance. It wouldn't surprise to see him roll to the lead in the middle stages and outstay his rivals.