Star pacing mare Belle Of Montana is ready for her comeback to racing in Auckland next week even after a scary incident at last Saturday's workouts.
She is looking increasingly likely to get two lead-up races at Alexandra Park before trainers Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan decide whether she tackles the New Zealand Cup.
Belle Of Montana started in a six-horse workout won by Cruzee Mach at Pukekohe last Saturday but galloped at the 400m mark and tailed off, causing disruption for those back in the field, including Copy That.
With Belle Of Montana coming back from a leg injury that ended her season last year, the last thing Purdon wanted to see was those legs placed under the pressure of a gallop at full speed but the mare was not harmed in the incident.
"It was probably the last thing she needed but she's fine," said Purdon. "We don't really know what happened. Zac [Butcher, driver] said she might have just lost her footing.
"But she pulled up fine and I worked her myself and she felt good. So we're excited to get her back to the races next week."
The Spring Cup is set for Friday week, with the Holmes D G programmed for two weeks later, and Alexandra Park officials have suggested they will hold the race
with a minimum of six starters.
That won't be an issue next week, with the six who trialled last Saturday (Cruzee Mach, Bad To The Bone, Christianshavtime, Copy That, Dance Time and Belle Of Montana) having the potential to be joined by Mach's Back and Rough And Ready, and Purdon suggesting if Major Jellis performs well at Cambridge on Thursday, he could start.
That would give the field a respectable nine starters, especially considering there are four northern Cup contenders starting at Addington on Friday and would seem to scrap for now the suggestion there needs to be one pool of open class horses racing together pre-Christmas.
The two sets of open class racing with the horses meeting up for the Flying Stakes, Kaikoura and the New Zealand Cups still looks the best, fairest and most cost-effective early spring programme, with the reality being if all the northern open class horses were in the south, some wouldn't get a start in the major lead-up races anyway.
"That's what we want, two races in the north for both her and Bad To The Bone, and then they can both head to Kaikoura," said Purdon. "By then, we will know where we stand for the Cup."
With Steve Telfer suggesting he would rather stay north for the same races, there should be enough horses to get both races off the ground, with Copy That's trainer Ray Green the one most likely to head south after the Spring Cup to defend his Flying Stakes title at Ashburton.
The favourite for the NZ Cup makes his return at Addington on Friday night, with Self Assured the $2.50 favourite for the Canterbury Classic. He meets race-fit rivals such as Henry Hubert and Classie Brigade, as well as northerners South Coast Arden and Kango, both on the unruly in the 2600m standing start.
Friday's meeting also sees Sundees Son resume his rivalry with Majestic Man in the main trot and the official return to training of Mark Purdon.