If there is still a little mystery about what the Ellerslie track will "exactly" be for this evening's $500,000 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup, there is no doubt about our pick for the group one feature.

We had it big for Jacksstar when the Cup was due to be run Saturday, but we were greatly concerned when the rain arrived Friday.

Well, that's all behind us.

The Ellerslie course proper has come back from a heavy 11 at the weekend to yesterday morning being a slow 8. Warm weather with a decent wind in Auckland yesterday was drying the surface significantly.


"At the moment it's a slow 8 and close to a slow 7, "said club executive Craig Baker when the Herald called at 11am yesterday. "This weather will continue the same now and at worst it will be a dead 6 by late tomorrow when racing starts. Whether it gets to a dead 5 or not remains to be seen."

We conveyed the news to Jacksstar's trainer Gary Vile.

"Fantastic, just what I wanted to hear," was the reply.

If ever a horse deserves a race like an Auckland Cup it's Jacksstar. There has not been a better staying performance this season than his close second in the Wellington Cup. Had that been run in lanes, Jacksstar wins by five lengths.

Winner Savaria also went huge, but when Jacksstar was 10 wide on the bend she and he followed it up with a solid-closing effort to be only a length or two from the placegetters in the Avondale Cup, running clearly the fastest late sectionals in the race.

With the track drying Jacksstar has closed into $6 second favourite behind Cambridge mare Chenille at $5.50. There has to be some doubt about Chenille being suited.

Rider Leith Innes has expressed his opinion that the mare is not as well suited even to a dead 5 or 6 as she is to firm footing. If a certain type of footing shortens up a horse's action stayers are going to be more affected than sprinters simply because there are more strides in 3200m than 1100m. That's not rocket science.

But if the footing gets back to a dead 5, her Nathans Memorial win will guarantee her a decent following.

No surprise Five To Midnight is the $7 third favourite for Lisa Latta, a position shared with Megablast. Five To Midnight was narrowly beaten when third behind St Jean in the City of Auckland Cup and did well when fourth in the Avondale Cup. He is capable on any footing, but probably a length or two better when it's wet.

Stablemate King Kamada prefers a decent track. At relatively long odds he represents good value for quinella and first4 players.

Megablast would have been greatly suited had the race been run on the heavy 11 at the weekend, but being able to get his toe into the track tonight will still be to his liking.

Fanatic and Pentathlon will be better served with the drying surface.