Mark is hopeful that grand soldier SELF ASSURED can go one better in the Invercargill Cup than last year’s second to Krug- and says he is ready for the task.

“They all seem good and ready for the day and I expect them all to go close. “

Two reservations about Self Assured that might not have been considered earlier in his career is the 20m handicap and the 3200m distance. It seems absurd to question either on his record but his preferences have altered somewhat this season.

“He is not finding it easier at his age with younger horses coming through but he seems in a good place just now and you know he will always turn up on the day.His record speaks for itself”

Self Assured ran off 20m last year when Krug walked the field in the middle stages and ran home too strongly in 4.00.4, barely a respectable time for a Group One pacing race these days. Self Assured followed Spankem into the race but couldn’t peg back the break Krug had put on the field at the turn even though he matched his overall  time. That sort of scenario is probably the main factor against him again. 

His outstanding record includes four wins from eight 3200m starts and  seconds in three of the others. He last won at the distance in the Auckland Cup of 2022 running 4.00.4 also and won the Easter Cup of 2021 in 4.00.5 but clocked 3.58.8 running second to Copy That in the NZ Cup that year and ran 3.55.2 winning the Cup in 2020.

Consistency has never been a problem with Self Assured’s form but there has been a change of emphasis since his disappointing Spring campaign. The decision made to keep him to sprint distances was fully justified by his NZ Free for All win over 1980m (his 2nd in succession)  running down Australian- bound Akuta.

So a little query hangs over the 3200m return. 20m handicaps are always tricky in fast run 3200m races too as the  NZ Cup records confirm, so much will depend on what tactics are adopted in front of him.

Mark will be driving in the “seat of the pants” style depending on how “Jimmy” gets away and what opportunities await to improve in the running. He won’t want to be too far away if major danger Beach Ball is calling the shots,a scenario which seems on the cards after similar tactics on Grand Prix Day which  Self Assured was unable to overcome.

Beach Ball ran third in the NZ Cup at his only 3200m start and poses a big threat off 10m with a safe beginning.

This is a field below the strength of most recent G1 3200 races but last year Krug ran home in 54.5 a time which would stretch Self Assured at this stage of his career -and it reduced much of the rest of the field to battling status then- though to be fair to Spankem he was below his best going into the race.

At his peak Self Assured would be a lock-in for a race like this but recent events place him at some disadvantage. What seems certain is that if he doesn’t win he will be close by

OSCAR BONAVENA “has done well” since a daring drive got  him home in the New Zealand Trotting Free for All. While his form is obvious he has also had opportunities to use his potent late sprint in recent races which Mark will be looking for once more.That is not always easy from 30m but he should prove his recent form right and must be in contention for Trotter of the Year if he wins this.

AMORE INFIDA is a watchable runner in the 1700 Fillies Pace if only because she looks a much improved racehorse.

From a woeful draw in the New Zealand Oaks she put up a huge performance improving wide with a round to go then parked and only fading late.That was over 2600 and she is back to 1700 here but there are hints of a Cinderella story in her form. 

TREACHEROUS BABY is also blossoming following early promise and is another shorter odds candidate.

Tomorrow kicks off a busy period for Mark who has had a couple of days in Queenstown to freshen up for the challenge. He will be off to Auckland over the Xmas period with a brief return to Rolleston when the galloping team will run at Timaru before returning or New Year’s Eve at Alexandra Park with Akuta and Don’t Stop Dreaming before both embark to Australia for their Shepparton-Ballarat-Hunter Cup campaign for Akuta and a leadup to the Chariots of Fire qualifiers for Don’t Stop Dreaming.

“It’s difficult for Don’t Stop Dreaming here now he’s four. The only ideal races for him the Taylor Mile and the Messenger are some time away and the stakes are hard to pass up in Australia at this time of year”

Pic; Amore Infida


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