Franco Nelson looks to join impressive list of winners of Easter Cup
When you go back through the winners list of the Easter Cup, you soon see that this is a genuine Group One race and a race that generally only the very best win. The last three winners of the cup - Christen Me, Adore Me and Terror To Love - are testament to this. That is why for Robert and John that a win in tonight's feature race would mean so much. For Robert, the opportunity to replicate the success of his old favourite Master Musician back in 1996, would cap a great season, a season where currently he leads the trainers premiership.
"Nelson" as he is known, resumed for the stable last week in a C5-OC handicap, running a nice second behind his stablemate Mighty Flying Mac. This race was a notable one for many reasons. It was Nelson's first start for the stable in 16 months, it was his first start for some new owners in the horse, including John's wife Jenna, but more importantly, it told the man that will do the steering tonight, John Dunn, that his old mate wasn't far away and that given another eight days to prepare, he could be a big factor in this week's feature.
Franco Nelson has always been regarded as one of the very best of his age. As a three year old, he beat Arden Rooney in the Sires Stakes Final and was a close up third behind Ohoka Punter and Adore Me in the Great Northern Derby. At four he win the Group Two Pelorous, ran second behind Elios in the Messenger, before winning the Harness Jewels at Cambridge. Then in the 2014-2015 season, he ran that fantastic second, beaten just a nose in Adore Me's World Record New Zealand Cup win. While a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, he is back, ready to stand up and be counted against the very best.
While tonight's cup will see Smolda start a red-hot favourite, John knows that there is enough pace in the race to make things that much harder for the favourite, that will start on his own off a 20m handicap tonight. The southerner Costa Del Magnifico has already broken four minutes over the distance this season, Locharburn the second favourite holds a New Zealand record over the 2600m, while Sky Major has proven himself in the past even if the formline doesn't stack up as well as it may have in the past. If Franco Nelson is able to sit just behind the pace and can unleash that trademark late finish of his, then he can be the blowout horse in the race.
John also believes the other two stablemates in the race are far from forlorn hopes. Mighty Flying Mac has done super since coming to the beach. He was a dominant winner last week and in a repeat of that tonight, he won't be out of it. Remember that just six months ago he was the horse that downed Christen Me in the Hannon Memorial at huge odds. A very in-form Blair Orange will partner the horse tonight.
Cullect A Guinness is entering new territory starting in a Group One. However, given his record this season, that includes eight wins, who could begrudge him his chance. He loves the extreme trip, gives his all on the track and won't be far away given the right circumstances. Colin DeFilippi combines with him tonight.
The stage is set for a super race. Good luck to the connections of the three stable runners tonight. It would be great to see the name of one of your horse's join the honours board alongside the likes of: Master Musician, Monkey King, Terror To Love, Adore Me and Christen Me.
Posted: Sat 26 Mar 2016