Two top-class 3-year-olds, who couldn't be less alike, are going head-to-head today to prove themselves in the race that perpetuates one of our great champions, Bonecrusher.

The $70,000 Manuka Doctor Bonecrusher Stakes at Ellerslie sees the clash between Xiong Feng, a huge, almost camel-like chestnut with a pronounced sway back, and The Soultaker, a neat, compact grey colt.

To prove genetics is not an exact science, both are by the same sire, Iffraaj.

The only commonality is for the pair to prove they can handle a winter-like track and for that there is an element of doubt in both camps.


If they do it would be appropriate if they broke away at the 250m and came together ahead of the others in a classic dog fight that typified many of Bonecrusher's great victories.

Many elements make up a good horse, but courage is perhaps the most prized. Bonecrusher cornered that market in his time.

The TAB on Fixed Odds rates the pair The Soultaker (No 2) $3.80 and Xiong Feng (No 1) $4.80. They come out of barriers No 2 and No 1, but late on the programme (R7), that may not be an advantage.

The rail could be chopped out by that stage and both riders, Mark Du Plessis on The Soultaker and Danielle Johnson may be looking to get out wider approaching the home bend.

The TAB may have the market correct because being more compact The Soultaker could get through the conditions slightly better than the long-legged Xiong Feng.

At $11 fixed, Quantum (No 3) looks the value bet. He likes the course and should manage the conditions well. Hello M'Lady (No 10) is under-rated.

The opener is a challenge. It has experience up against a handful of impressive barrier trial performers. There is no form like raceday form, but Santa Monica (No 11, R1) was stylish in winning her Te Awamutu trial, finishing strongly from the tail.

Veearma (No 12) and Belle Hope (No 10) are a couple of other trial winners. In a tricky race, Saignon (No 9) and Sir Harold (No 1) will have their supporters.


The well-tried stayers at present are no champions and the Mitchelson Cup could be between up-and-comers in Pacorus (No 4, R2) and Megablast (No 6). On face value Pacorus' fifth at Ruakaka last start was disappointing, but the chance is he may not have coped with the track.

He has yet to win at Ellerslie, but he has been three times placed from five starts at headquarters and that's good enough to give him the edge. His form, pre-Ruakaka, was impressive. Megablast has put three wins together and even though he is stepping up in class, he rates in this line-up.

Race 3 is a nightmare. Some of these are nominated for Ruakaka on Wednesday and might give this a miss, complicating the race even more. You can make a case for just about all of them. Might be a good time to take lunch.

Race 4 looks better. Strada Cavallo (No 5) will be well supported, but there could be an element of risk if the track is very testing. Fresh up, she managed the officially slow track at Hastings for a close third to Ohope Prince, which is good form for this, but the footing here will be tougher. Promises (No 9) was affected by a slowly-run race last start and did well to be narrowly beaten by Eletist.

She handles reasonable slow ground well. Maid Of Steel (No 8) is a possible danger, although her best form has been on good ground.

She looked home when she booted clear in the home straight when resuming at Ruakaka, but a fitter Rocknrolla narrowly ran her down. Cheeky Boy (No 7) is a danger.

The rider on Mr Knowitall (No 6, R5) lodged his challenge a touch early last start and he was outfinished late. Held up for a later charge he should be difficult to manage. Close Up (No 5) looked good winning at the barrier trials and looks ready to perform fresh. He has twice won under similar circumstances. Spoke To Carlo (No 3) could be the upsetter.

Bao Shan Magic (No 5, R6) is a horse on the way through to the best classes and he can score a fresh-up win. The same case can be made for Fire Jet (No 1). You can follow both. Alamer (No 7) is the value.

The last is tricky, but Gold Rose (No 13, R8) each-way may not be out of hand.

The race could have been a little sharp for her last start, but this will be a battle right to the line and that will suit. Smichael (No 9) should be included.