Mark is very happy with Akuta and Self Assured going into the Free for All at Auckland Friday but will be pleasntly surprised if either of them win

“You would have to think from that gate Copy That will just get to the front and win. We have tougher gates and Self Assured really needs a race at this stage  not having had a recent trial good as he is” Mark said midweek.

“Don’t get me wrong.For where they are at I am very pleased with both and am expecting good races from both. But the barrier gives Copy That an early advantage”

The Race in mid April is the main goal for the All Stars duo and this should help that prep.along nicely. Akuta being the slightly more forward and such a brilliant pacer he can beat them all when at his best.

A driver for Self Assured had not been finalised Tuesday but will be either Blair Orange or Tony Herlihy probably the former as Maurice McKendry has been named as Copy That’s pilot.

Mark says the decision for him to drive Sinbad in the Woodlands Northern Derby was pre-arranged.

“Blair was always going to drive Sherlock in the big ones so as not to mess drivers and owners around. Don’t Stop Dreaming will be in later age group races and I would be driving him anyway (co owner). I will be interested in seeing   how Sinbad goes though”

Sinbad also had the ace gate in the Derby Heat last week and enjoyed a nice trail before pacing roughly and galloping in the straight and losing his chance.

“He’s got another inside gate and I could  probably end up trailing Merlin (gate 2) so that will be no bad thing.He should get his chance”

Sinbad did hang a bit last time but was not crowded by Sherlock as some thought. Sherlock follows Merlin (R81) who is the likely favourite from the gate after a big run in the Heat to match Sherlock last week, so early tactics will be interesting.

Less dramatic looks to be Millwood Nike’s challenge to win the Pascoe Northern Oaks after thriving since her leadup win in the Breckon last week. While she has not been tried past 2200 as yet nobody expects this to be a problem as she shoots for an incredible 11th successive win without defeat

By coincidence All Stars is also gunning for its 11th win in the G1 race.

Mark drove his first Pascoe winner back in 1988 (Miss Ardmore) and Happy Hazel,Scuse Me, Adore Me, Twist and Twirl, Partyon and True Fantasy (2022) since. Millwood Nike certainly belongs in that illustrious company.

“No newcomers this week and she has done well and drawn good so we just need some luck” Mark said

There might be more value in With Style in the R56 class.His northern tour has been a disappointment so far but Mark is hoping for some improvement in a race his best would win.

“He hasn’t had a lot of luck but he seems to have just lost his confidence” said Mark of the youngster who has galloped in both his most recent starts.

“He is training good and I have confidence he can bounce back”

From a distance Mark is taking close interest in Oscar Bonavena at Addington on Friday in a mile race that would have been a moral for him in his heyday. However things have been mixed lately making Friday’s race probably a crucial one in the brilliant trotter’s career.

“Nathan reports some of his work has been disappointing and left it to me but since then he has produced better and is ok. It seems to be an up and down thing but if its good on Friday it is a chance for him”

Pic: Oscar Bonavenat-crucial test this week


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