Day At The Track

Chance in both features

09:20 AM 13 Apr 2018 NZST
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Tony Herlihy,Harness racing
Tony Herlihy a chance in both features

Two of the most improved horses in Tony Herlihy’s stable can give him a feature-race double at Alexandra Park tonight but they will have to do it in very different ways.

Because while The Almighty Johnson could try and lead throughout in the major trot, Italian Delight faces a 30m handicap in the $17,000 Franklin Country Cup for the pacers.

Italian Delight has been one of the most consistent improvers in northern harness racing over the summer and is guaranteed a spot in the glamour four-year-old male division of the Jewels, sitting fourth on the ladder.

Last season he looked a touch one-paced but this season he has matured as so many of the Bettors Delight stock do and has added extra strings to his bow, one of those being able to come from off the speed.

That will certainly be the case at least early from the back mark in tonight’s 2700m standing start but so steep has his improvement curve been, coupled with the small and moderately talented field, that anything like his best performance would probably see him win again.

While trainer-driver Herlihy might have to play the patient game early with Italian Delight, The Almighty Johnson has the gate speed to gain tactical advantage in the 1700m open trot.

He has finished third in both the Lyell Creek and Flying Mile at group two level over the summer, showing gate speed on both occasions and is drawn best of the three favourites tonight.

Aiding him further is the fact Ross Paynter, trainer of his arch rival Lemond, thinks his charge is still on his way back to peak form.

“He has had two workouts since he last raced and while I was happy with him trotting 2:48 for 2200m mobile at Cambridge last Saturday, I think he will still improve with the run,” says Paynter. 

 The rival clearly good enough to beat The Almighty Johnson is Bordeuax, who at his best ranks in the top five trotters in the country.

 If he trots squarely and handles Alexandra Park perfectly tonight he has a huge chance and the small field should suit him but while he has yet to suggest he is bulletproof during previous northern campaigns, trainer Philip Iggo is confident.

 “He actually trots betters right handed and showed gate speed two starts ago so I think he will be hard to beat,” says Iggo.

Another southern trotter with the talent to win but something to prove tonight is Renezmae in race five.

Last season’s juvenile filly Breeders Crown winner returned with a stunning win against older horses in February but has raced below her best last start and faces the double trouble of some in-form opposition tonight as well as being first up at Alexandra Park, a track that has tripped so many southern trotters.

Michael Guerin

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