Alta the word for Auckland Cup Day
Its Group One day at Alexandra Park, with the Auckland Cup and the National trot the two big feature races. However, from a stable slant, the first two races on the days programme hold a lot of interest with half brothers Alta Maestro and Alta Las Vegas both appearing great winning chances.
The first race today is for the two year olds and is the second heat for the Young Guns series. After a dominant win on the track two weeks ago, Alta Maestro looks set to start a dominant favourite for his Ashburton owners Stu and Liz Leadley. On that occasion he drew well in barrier four over the 1700m and speared to the early lead before handing up to a race rival today in Ocean Ridge. He always loooked to be travelling well, exploded up the passing lane when he got the opportunity to take the lead, before holding on for a convincing win by one and three quarter lengths in a very smart 2.02.7 for the 1700m.
Today the draws are reversed from last time, with Ocean Ridge having drawn barrier five and Alta Maestro in barrier six. The other big chance in the race, the Purdon/Rasmussen trained Spankem is drawn outside of the two in barrier seven.
Given the high speed that he showed off the gate last time, it looks certain that driver Dexter Dunn will again look to press the go button early on to take up a forward position. He has a range of options after that, but one thing is certain, it will take a top run to beat Alta Maestro which has derived plenty of benefit from the first up run.
In Race Two, the Leadleys again hold a strong hand, with Alta Las Vegas (in picture) a horse that they own outright and Franco Cristiano a horse that they hold a share in both looking big chances. They are joined in the race by another stable runner in Robbie Burns, but it is a Purdon/Rasmussen runner in Vincent that looks certain to start a short priced favourite.
Franco Cristiano was very good in the JLT Futurity on Xmas Eve. After an early dig for the lead, driver Dexter Dunn had to bail out and take a hold as Chase The Dream won that early battle. Parked for a good section of the race, he still finished strongly for his third placing. If he can get a good truck into the race at the right time, he is a good winning chance, but it is not easy the times that they are running on this track to come from a long handicap and win. That is why in fact Alta Las Vegas may be the strongest winning chance for the stable in the race.
Away from racing for a long period, Alta Las Vegas has had the two starts back this time in. First up he needed the run, when finishing a battling 7th, but his last start run when second to On The Rantan had a lot of merit to it. After being parked early, he led for the last 1500m, only to be nutted late in the race by the winner that had enjoyed a trail throughout. With the expected improvement out of this race and off the frontline today, he looks a great winning hope at nice odds, particularly if he can ping the tapes early. Today is his first stand start, but with only a small frontline, he should be able to cop it pretty well.
The other stable runner in the race is Robbie Burns which is proving somewhat of an enigma at present. His was only a battling run at Cambridge, but if he got the right sort of run today, he would be a place hope at odds.
Three year old Wrangler tackles the big guns today in the Yearling Sales pace for the three year old colts and geldings over the 2200m. A very honest horse, he may lack the ringcraft of one or two of these but there is no doubting his abillity. A strong tempo throughout will suit him better than the muddling pace of his last race. His draw makes things decidedly more difficult though and place hopes are most likely with him today.
The final runner for the day is Little Rascal in the Group One Auckland Cup. A good 4th in the JLT Futurity last time, Little Rascal faces a difficult task today off the unruly and meeting a very good field. Providing he can catch the start right though today, he will run his usual honest race and he is always a rough place hope even in this company.
Good luck to the team today and from all of us involved with the Robert Dunn stable a very happy New Year to you all!
Posted: Sat 31 Dec 2016