Punters shouldn't let Mach's Back's poor standing-start record put them off him when the former southerner attempts to record his first Alexandra Park win tonight.
Co-trainer Logan Hollis says the veteran pacer is in superb form and he thinks he will handle the standing start of the $17,500 race eight well enough to give him a tactical advantage over the other favourites.
Mach's Back was a journeyman pacer in the deep south with nearly 50 starts for seven wins when he joined Pukekohe trainer Hollis and partner Shane Robertson two months ago, but has been excellent since, including finishing second in the high-class Uncut Gems final last start.
He missed a scheduled race two weeks ago because of a minor hoof abscess but Hollis says he has worked well since. But punters may be put off by the fact he has only placed twice in nine standing-start attempts, with a poor beginning enough to stop him making the most of his advantage of being off a 10m handicap, with only two horses on the front line and many of the other favourites further back.
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"We have given him some standing starts at home and he has been good and last time he had a stand down south he led and was a close second to Memphis Tennessee in 4:1.9 for 3200m," says Hollis.
"So we think he will handle the stand and is fit enough that if he steps away well we'd be happy for Maurice [McKendry, driver] to try and get the lead with him, which would be a huge help over 2200m."
Like many veteran pacers, Mach's Back looks happiest running on the speed and keeping going, so tonight's race stacks up beautifully for him if he can master the start.
His biggest danger, and the horse who probably deserves to be favourite, is Double Rocket, a class act who was huge when fourth in the Uncut Gems but faded here last start after racing parked. Hit and miss from a standing start, the small field may suit Double Rocket but iffy beginners can be annoyed by having horses rush up behind them, so having four rivals start just 10m behind him could make him a flip of the coin to get away safely.
Add in Havtime, and Warloch, who is in career-best form, and the race is a treat for a mid-winter meeting.
Hollis and Robertson have two other starters in Drum Withers (R3, No 3) and Betyahavtime (R4, No 9).
"We only just got Drum Withers from Lew Driver but he is going well enough to be a chance in that field and Betyahavtime follows out Arden Velocity in race four and if he trails I think he runs in three as he has improved a lot since his last start."