Sunday morning before Cup Day is always both hectic and exciting as the final touches are put on what is hoped to be Tuesday’s Heroes.

Most interest this year centred on AKUTA who bypassed the Cup Trials last Thursday so was having his serious last piece of work.

From Mark, on the eve of what may be his astonishing eighth Cup win as a trainer it was only good news.

“He worked 2400 in 3.10 the last 800 in 58” he reported.

“That is similar to the tasks set for our earlier Cup winners and he did it well. He was as good as any of the others we have won with so far so he seems in great order”

When you assemble names like Il Vicolo,Adore Me, Lazarus etc, it is good news for backers of the favourite. Mark rarely wants to compare horses of different eras, especially when one of them is Lazarus but Akuta is clearly getting somewhere near the conversation.

Does he just win ? As many keen judges think ? Not in Mark’s book. He admits to reflecting on what might go wrong rather than counting his Cup chickens.And a couple of factors concern him.

One is the obvious.The second line draw.

“He has a lot of bases covered but he is usually slow for those first few steps from a stand and I have to allow for that. Another thing is the size of the field”

The club have allowed a full field but clearly a number of them are not genuine contenders and is also  clear Mark suspects they are as big a threat to Akuta as Australian Swayzee.

“You  have to get around them and you can see that some are going to be potentially a problem. You don’t know how deep into the race they will go. So I have to assess when to make a move.I am not afraid of that. Luckily he is a horse quite happy to sit in the open as he has shown lately.But the question of when to go I will have to wait until it unfolds”

It is safe to assume it will unfold at the right time. Over nearly 30 years Mark has produced a number of superb Cup drives.Some in front,others further back,all judged by a superb judgement of pace which will help carry the day again on Tuesday.

Akuta ran in the Cup last year but it seemed from the sidelines that while it was a great race to win  the NZ Derby may have been  set to be his peak performance =as it turned out to be. This year he seems an improved horse again  in his racing,less vulnerable and fully professional thanks to a patient approach. Through the last two years he has picked off nearly all the most cherished races- almost at will it seemed at times -and now comes the big dance

Anyone for Mark to be be especially worried about ?

“Obvous Swayzee. He will be moving forward because that’s his style. I haven’t seen all his videos but I was impressed with his win in the Black’s a Fake so I know he is a challenge”

Most of our horses will be hoping for the right run.Republican Party with an easy from that draw will be a threat too A lot depends on what Cameron Hart wants to do with Swayzee.”

The top Aussie driver is unlikely to be saying,even though he drives for Purdon Racing on the day.But he is sure to push forward in the Australian way over many years of Cups. He may also hold the key to the race.

It all comes down to 5.20pm Tuesday and whether what seems a two horse race theory comes to pass.

Or should be that a one horse race ?



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