Franco Nelson simply too good in Kaikoura Cup
At the start of this season Franco Nelson had been winless for 26 months and had been through a few stable changes. But what those closest to him knew was that things were on the up after an important operation to improve a bone chip from the horse's fetlock. The old Nelson was back they sensed and maybe there was a chance to go around in this year's New Zealand Cup, a cup that he was narrowly beaten in two years ago by the great mare Adore Me.
Three months on and Franco Nelson is again looking the real deal, with three Group wins in his last four starts and an unlucky fith in the Canterbury Classic wedged in between. However, it was today's Kaikoura Cup win at Group Two level that has had the bookmakers scrambling, slashing his odds for next Tuesday's cup and putting a possible trip to Perth well back on the radar.
As expected today, Franco Nelson made an electric beginning from his wide frontline draw and was in front with two laps to go. Unlike his earlier starts this campaign, he was enjoying his work so much in front that John elected to stay in that position.
"We were running along pretty good and then I got a cheap quarter so I thought we'd just keep the lead."
Hot favourite Smolda started to move closer a lap out but had done some work to be there. From the 800m, John really started to light the wick with his charge and a 27.2 second quarter had most searching for the oxygen masks. With a closing quarter run in a strong 27.4, to close out a 54.6 second half, there was no hope of anything coming from the back. It was only a brave Smolda that was able to make any impression in the run home, finishing one and three quarter lengths in arrears at the line.
John knew as soon as he got to the South Bay Racecourse today that his old mate Nelson was there for real business.
"He's such a quiet, laid back horse at home, but as soon as he gets to a big raceday he knows what he's there to do."
"Its great that he seems to really peak this time of the year and he has to be accorded a big chance next week."
Today's win also made the possibilty of a trip to the Perth inter-doms an even more real one.
"Well we've spoken to RJ (dad Robert) and he said we will pay up and then make a decision after next Tuesday."
If Franco Nelson performs well next Tuesday it is almost certain that he will follow Smolda and Have Faith In Me to Perth as New Zealand represenatives.
John was also stoked with the run of Billy Badger which was winning in C1 company today.
"We got caught wide for the first 600m really before I was finally able to find the breeze so we'd done plenty early."
"I thought we were still travelling ok coming off the back, but I had to really nurse him coming around that last bend and we lost quite a bit of ground. But when we flattened out he gave me plenty and went on for a very good win."
Today's win was not unexpected after a very nice run for 5th in last week's Sires Stakes heat at Addington when he got home well late.
"He found the line really well in that heat actually and his run up north in the first heat wasn't bad either."
John is still quite hopeful that Billy Badger will earn a start in the Sires Final on Cup Day.
"The word is that a few of the northerners aren't likely to come down so hopefully that will play into our hands a bit. With two 5ths in the heats you'd think that he will make it."
Billy Badger's win completed a good few days for owners Ross and Angela Gordon who enjoyed success up north on Friday with their very good pacer Robbie Burns, which is now being targeted at December's Auckland Cup.
Posted: Mon 31 Oct 2016