The decision to bypass the Invercargill Cup in favour of the Franklin Cup was influenced by the proposed trip to Melbourne for  AKUTA if all goes well in the meantime.

“A direct flight became available and was too good to pass up especially as it is on the way to Australia” Mark said on Monday reflecting on the stable plans over the holidays.

The usual high stakes are on offer in Victoria in January and February underlining how much better off open class pacers in Australia are compared to their Kiwi counterparts.

The Shepparton Cup, $A75,000 may appeal on January 13 then comes the Ballarat Cup worth $A100,000 on January 29, followed by the big prize, the Hunter Cup worth $A500,000 on February 2. The Cranbourne Cup worth $100,000  is there a week later if required.

Mark feels Akuta was below his best on Free For All day when beaten by Self Assured but not because of his relatively intense buildup which included the Kaikoura Cup.

“No I think it was just the hard race in the Cup itself that affected him. He seems fine now and as long as he continues like that Australia offers some good opportunities.”

DON’T STOP DREAMING may have a short break depending on how he bounces back from Sunday’s Derby.

“We had been looking at the Invercargill Cup with him and it is still possible but when he was shod in front this morning his feet were a little tender and he seems pretty tired after Sunday as well.So we will have to monitor that before making any decisions”

Mark does not believe the change of the season dates which can mean a long year for the top horses of all ages has been a factor.

“I was thinking about that this morning. What you have to remember is that virtually every race he has had outside Group One has been with a Preferential draw which means he gets the worst of the start. That can take a toll in the end”

Mark regards HIGH ENERGY  as his unlucky runner of Grand Prix Day. The much travelled filly finished third in the Oaks but could have been “much more of a threat to them”

“There was a chance to come off the fence down the back then one came around three wide and the gap closed just as we were moving into it.I think if we had got off then she certainly would have offered more”

Something of the same problem occurred with Oscar Bonavena but with a different result.

“I had to go down on the inside because he was starting to pull in the open and he can be a difficult drive like that. I had no real clue that a gap would come in the straight but I knew if he was pulling he wouldn’t have that final sprint  that serves him so well”

SELF ASSURED is likely for Invercargill all going well this week.

“He is finding it hard now with those young horses coming through but he still tries as hard as ever”

MILLWOOD NIKE is now unlikely to undergo a further scan until later in the week or early next week Mark said.

PICTURE;Don’t Stop Dreaming in Derby prelim




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