By MIKE DILLON
Even a little bit of class counts for a lot at this time of year in racing.
Vyner's Lane has more than a little, making him one of the great bets at Ellerslie this afternoon.
At his best, on a surface which has just a little give in it, Vyner's Lane is not too far behind the best sprinters. None of his opposition in the Lion Red Sprint today can claim that.
He has some huge pluses, like the 3kg claim apprentice Cameron Lammas drags off his 57.5kg topweight. Lammas rides well and in this field Vyner's Lane looks remarkably well placed with only 2.5kg above the minimum weight.
Vyner's Lane is resuming from a break and from 11 career starts when fresh he has won four times and been three times placed. As he ages it is more difficult to have him fit to win first-up, but there are too many advantages to ignore the smart Taranaki sprinter. A fine week in Auckland should result in the footing bordering between soft and easy and that will suit perfectly. Indiarma is very fit after some tough races on heavy tracks.
Lord Penn (No4, R1) could be a good way to start the day. He looked one of the most promising hurdlers around last year, but an internal complaint undermined his form. He looked likely to win on this track two weeks ago, but the combination of it being his first steeplechase and only his second race start since last year probably counted against him and he was beaten threequarters of a length by Desperation. He should be improved and he will give a great sight today, provided trainer Davina Waddell secures a suitable rider. Ben Foote rode him last start, but is required for Sir Avion at Riccarton and Waddell yesterday was struggling to find a replacement. In desperation she asked Trudy Thornton to produce one of her rare jumping rides, but husband Craig talked her out of it.
If you couple Dissident Bay (No1, R2) and Just Not Cricket (No2) in quinellas and trifectas you won't get a new car, but it might pay for dinner tonight. Dissident Bay deserves a turn after a couple of game seconds. In his first middle distance start this campaign he was beaten only a head on a tough track at Paeroa last week. Just Not Cricket was slightly hampered in the final stages when second at Avondale.
It was not easy to come from the back and win at Ruakaka a few weeks ago, which made the effort for third by Miss Leading (No10, R5) very smart. She ran on strongly after having to go wide on the home bend and the step up from 1200m to 1400m here will be in her favour. A value runner for multiple bets in the race could be Too Close To Call (No4), whose debut fourth at Hastings in June was a useful run.
You can make a case for and against a lot of the runners in Race 6 and that might give an edge to Meribel (No9). She has had a few chances, but on her day is useful and the key could be the slightly improved footing.
Lady Of The House (No3, R7) is one of the better bets on the day. She is on the way through and did well to be narrowly beaten back to third after taking that first big step from intermediate to progressive grade here last start. The only slight hitch could be that she is making her middle distance debut. That can also be tough, but she looked to race a fraction one-paced in the closing stages of her 1600m last start and gives the impression distance racing is where her future lies. In her favour at her first 2100m attempt is that the track will not be a bog and therefore not a simple test of grit.
Cydne Evans believes Cyclades (No1, R8) probably cannot win in his first start back on a Melbourne Cup trail, but it might pay to keep him safe simply on the basis that top class stayers almost always go a big race when fresh. If he can't do the job, then O'Malleys Boy (No2) certainly can. He has been hampered by very heavy tracks lately and deserves plenty of points for putting in regardless and recording a list of minor placings. Lance O'Sullivan, who has been riding O'Malleys Boy, climbs onto Cyclades so if Cyclades fires he will know how to beat O'Malleys Boy. Back O'Malleys Boy and save on Cyclades.
The racing pattern late in the day might become important and on that basis we will give the nod to O'Sullivan and Famesahead (No6, R9). It is a tough race though with plenty of chances, one of which will be Mighty Prospect (No1).
The Koral Steeplechase at Riccarton might be only a prelude to next week's Grand National, but the battle between Silver Archer (No1, R6) and Currency (No2) should be fabulous. Currency destroyed Silver Archer when the pair last met in the Hawkes Bay Steeplechase two starts back, but Silver Archer is a much fitter horse now. He might just have the edge in what should be a very close contest.
The Winter Cup, Race 8, is a great betting race. Rising star Irish Rover (No5) will go close. Anchor him and take Real Vision (No4), Maserati (No1), Danzapride (No3) and War Dancer (No12) in the multiples.
By MIKE DILLON