A Pukekohe workout last Saturday suggests punters should be careful supporting Queensland-owned star Belle Of Montana too enthusiastically in her return to racing at Alexandra Park tonight.
While she might even be the best three-year-old pacing filly in NZ, the December fillies triple crown winner could be vulnerable in tonight’s Nevele R heat.
|Best bet:||Natty Pagger (R1, No.5):||Very good on debut and has won a workout since. Clearly better than maidens and worth backing with cover on the speedy Vatican Hill.|
|Each way:||Mach Shard (R2, No.2):||Has been tricky to follow but racing in better fields. Comes in really well under these handicaps conditions and gets his chance.|
|Forget the draw:||Gambit (R8, No.8):||Huge run for second on debut and this no stronger. Draw will make divvy palatable in a field that lacks depth.|
Belle Of Montana has been one of the finds of the harness racing season, going from unheard of maiden to Group 1 winner in three months and twice beating last season’s champion filly Princess Tiffany along the way.
She has explosive speed but faces a different challenge at barrier seven tonight in a race where she could settle close to last and main rival Chevron Supreme could lead, and trainer Barry Purdon admits that could be a problem.
“If she (Chevron Supreme) is in front and we are well back and having to make our own luck, over 1700m that can be very tricky,” says Purdon, who also has Havtime in the race.
“I couldn’t be happier with my fillies and we know how good Belle Of Montana has been, but Chevron Supreme could be hard to catch if she was able to lead and it is always hard when your horse has had a bit of a break from racing and then they have to chase.”
Chevron Supreme’s motor is not in doubt but her attitude sometimes has been, but she was on her best behaviour during last Saturday’s workout when she led, trailed and then blazed over her last 400m in 26.6 to easily beat Belle Of Montana, who wasn’t knocked around in second place.
So punters would want close to $2 to be getting value about Belle Of Montana winning tonight from her draw.
Purdon also expects a good performance from Mach Shard in race two tonight in which he comes in well under the handicap's conditions and a return to his best form would make him very hard to beat.
Meanwhile, a change of plans for unbeaten three-year-old Ultimate Sniper is a win for Alexandra Park and a loss for Menangle.
The Sires’ Stakes and Sales Series winner was going to head to the NSW Derby on March 2 but will now not make that trip because of a change of travel schedules, so he will instead be aimed at the Northern Derby at Alexandra Park on March 8. He will effectively swap places with stablemate I’m Anothermasterpiece, who was to have returned from Australia for the Northern Derby but will instead stay there and take in the NSW Derby.