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POSSIBLE has become probable for Tim Butt’s surprise NZ Cup plans for new stable addition Bettermatch. Butt had been so impressed with the former star juvenile’s trackwork, he dared to telegraph a possible NZ Cup raid before Bettermatch had raced for him. And those who watched the now five-year-old blast home in a flying 1min50.4sec mile at Menangle yesterday (Tuesday) could clearly see why Butt is thinking such lofty thoughts. Bettermatch was the lone back row runner and settled worse than midfield in the running line, but was helped when the leader, Heza Bromac, blazed through a 55.1sec first half. Things got hairy coming to the home bend when driver Chris Geary was dragged back behind a tiring horse and lost a couple of lengths coming three-wide. Bettermatch copped another check and lost momentum at the top of the home straight, but Geary picked him back up and surged past the leaders for a powerhouse win. “It was a big win to overcome a few things in and run, give them such a big start and run that time,” Butt said. Butt immediately turned his thoughts to a path to the NZ Cup. “We’ve got a nice program planned,” he said. “There’s another race for him next Tuesday, then an M0 on October 6 over 2300m, which really suit him and he should be getting to peak fitness by then. “That M0 will let me know if he’s up to an NZ Cup and, if so, we have the Ashburton Flying Stakes on October 22, which is three weeks out from the Cup. “I think it’s a perfect preparation if he’s up to them.” Bettermatch was sidelined for three years with injury after his stellar juvenile season and returned with four wins and a third from five start for Riverina trainer Colin Thomas. Butt then bought the entire and was immediately impressed. Bettermatch’s win headlined a fascinating Menangle mid-week meeting where former top class Kiwi pacer Franco Nelson sparkled in a trial for Shane and Lauren Tritton. Franco Nelson, who hasn’t raced since finishing down the track in the Len Smith Mile, won his trial by 16m in a 1min52.8sec mile and blasted home in 54.0 and 27.0sec. The trial was enough for Team Tritton to put the Victoria Cup back as a genuine possibility. They already have the in-form My Alpha Rock and last week’s sparkling Menangle win winner Gotta Go Ya Hu being set for the Victoria Cup. My Alpha Rock (gate 10) is shooting for his fifth successive Menangle win, but faces another step-up against the likes of proven open-class stars Tiger Tara (gate 11) and Mach Doro (gate seven). They clash in the Health Foundation Cup (1609m) at Menangle on Saturday night.   Adam Hamilton

TIM Butt is planning a trip back home for the NZ Cup and it won’t be just to catch-up with old friends and family. Butt revealed he is seriously thinking about tackling the Cup with new stable addition Bettermatch, who has his first for the trainer in a ho-hum midweek race at Menangle tomorrow (Tuesday). When Bettermatch appeared in NZ Cup nominations a few weeks back, he hardly rated a mention. The former star juvenile won the Leeton Breeders Plate and NSW Saplings Stakes in his freshman season for trainer Colin Thomas before spending three years on the sidelines with injury. He has returned with four impressive wins from five starts this campaign, including his farewell run for Thomas in the Country Series final at Menangle on August 25 where he won in terrific style. “I really like him,” Butt said. “He feels like a very good stayer. We hope to go if he keeps improving like he feels as though he will. “It’s the year to have a go. Chicago Bull is the one to beat and Ultimate Machete if he’s right, but it’s a thin lot that’s for sure. “Put it this way, on what Bettermatch is doing at home, he’s up to those who horses who ran in the main race at Addington last Friday.” Bettermatch is the lone back row runner (gate 11) in the sixth race at Menangle at 7.07pm NZ time tomorrow (Tuesday). In other stable news, Butt has ruled-out the Victoria Cup with his sparkling Blacks A Fake winner Let it Ride. “It was always unlikely. We wanted to give him a good break after Queensland,” he said. “He won’t be ready and the Inter Dominion is his first target.” And Butt’s Miracle Mile winner My Field Marshal will return to training at he end of the month, but the Inter Dominion is not on the agenda. “He’s not an Inter Dom horse. We’ll bring up with a view to returning to racing around Christmas time,” Butt said.   Adam Hamilton

There are only minor changes this week. Monkey's Way following his win last week jumps five spots in the Dominion Rankings. Jen Jaccka moves up a place for her second. Queen Bee Bardon and Bailey's Knight swap places at the bottom of the Cup Rankings. For the full list of rankings click here.   Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

The full list of initial rankings for the 2018 Christchurch Casino NZ Trotting Cup and the Haras des Trotteurs Dominion are now available. You can view the full list here! The next rankings are due out on Tuesday 11th September.   Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator Harness Racing New Zealand Inc  

The Christchurch Casino NZ Trotting Cup nominations include last year’s place-getters Jack’s Legend and Tiger Tara.  The latter is one five Australian nominees including: Bettermatch, Chicago Bull, Cruz Bromac and Messini. The Haras des Trotteurs Dominion nominations reached a record 52.  Included in the nominations are five Australians: Gentleman Sir, Kyvalley Blur, My Tribeca, Tornado Valley and Une Belle Allure. Former champion trotter Monbet has also been nominated, despite not starting since winning the 2016 edition of the Dominion. The North Island is represented by a strong contingent initially, with 10 nominations.   2018 Christchurch Casino NZ Trotting Cup Nominations   New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club Inc - Addington Raceway - Tuesday 13th November   A G's White Socks Alta Orlando Baileys Knight Bettermatch Billy Badger Captain Dolmio Chicago Bull Classie Brigade Cruz Bromac Don Domingo Dream About Me Eamon Maguire Forgotten Highway Jack's Legend James Dean Lets Elope Letspendanitetogetha Locharburn Messini No Doctor Needed Northview Hustler Queen Bee Bardon Raukapuka Ruler Sheriff Star Galleria Thefixer Tiger Tara Tiger Thompson Ultimate Machete Zadaka   2018 Haras des Trotteurs Dominion Nominations New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club Inc - Addington Raceway - Friday 16th November   Alderbeck Amaretto Sun BD Khaosan BD Love Belles Son Benchmark Bordeaux Destiny Jones Doctor Bones Everybody Knows Galleons Victory Gentleman Sir Great Things Happen Habibi Inta Harriet Of Mot Harrysul Heavyweight Hero Hey Yo Jen Jaccka Kyvalley Blur Lavros Jack Le Lievre's Gift Leanne's Boy Lemond Lovely Bundy Marcoola Massive Metro McLovin Missandei Monbet Monkey's Way Monty Python Mr Good And Evil Muscles Galore My Tribeca Playboy's Brother Pres The Belle Quevert Ronald J Ruthless Kayla Speeding Spur Sundons Flyer Sundons Wish Sunny Ruby Temporale The Almighty Johnson Tornado Valley Une Belle Allure War Machine Wilma's Mate Winterfell Woodstone   Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc  

Cruz Bromac, winner of the Len Smith Mile in 1.50.1 earlier this year, has joined All Stars with an eye on the New Zealand Cup in November for which he was  nominated last week. Cruz Bromac, raced by Danny Zavitsanos the owner of All Stars pinups, Enhance Your Calm and War Dan Delight, was to travel home with the Breeders Cup horses this week. His last racing outing was a disappointing effort in the Blacks a Fake in Brisbane but two starts earlier had caused an upset in the Smith Mile beating Field Marshall after hot favourite Soho Tribeca broke early and took no part. Prior to that Cruz Bromac had beaten a moderate field in the 2700m  Warragul Cup before switching stables to become a stablemate of Tiger Tara who is also bound for the New Zealand Cup. Cruz Bromac has generally battled in high class company though 4th in the G1 Sky Classic in Perth as a four year old in 2015 driven by Luke McCarthy. Last year he clocked a 1.50.7 mile rate over 1720m to win at Melton though was well beaten in the Victoria Cup when 8th behind Lazarus. In 2016 he won the Group 2 Casey Classic ($A50,000) at Melton in a  1.56.4 mile rate  Altogether he has won 15 of his 30 starts and over over $250,000  Chris Barsby

Graeme Anderson has proved as good as his word now that Eamon Maguire is back at All Stars and ready to embark on a NZ Cup preparation. Last season co-owner Graeme, an astute trainer in his own right, handled Eamon Maguire through his summer and early autumn preparation before transferring him to All Stars near the end of April for his northern campaign. But after the Harness Jewels win Graeme made the decision that the NZ Cup prep. would be entirely at Rolleston even if that was the more expensive option. He based that on the progress Titan Banner had shown when undergoing a full prep there for the 2016 Cup. That was ok with Mark and Natalie, especially Natalie who has a high opinion of the gelding.  Like Graeme she puts the horse first and it has paid in spades in 2018. And 2018 is not over yet **Lazarus is a 6/5 favourite for is US debut at Hoosier Park in spite of drawing the outside. The only real threat, McWicked, a 7 yo who has done stud duty is the 2-1 2nd fav.   Courtesy of All Stars Stables  

It is now just a matter of how and when Chicago Bull goes to the New Zealand Cup, not if. The pint-sized superstar made it four wins from as many starts and is as many weeks when he snatched a head win at Gloucester Park last night (Friday). It wasn’t his most impressive win, but it got a big tick from driver Gary Hall Jr. “It was a wet track, a really heavy track. I could’ve worked to the lead if I’d wanted to, but I actually spoke with the stewards before the race about the going being quite heavy near the inside and him being a little horse, I’d be happier to sit one-off,” he said. “It almost backfired on me, but he found a way to get the job done. I was trying to look after him, if that makes sense.” A rejuvenated Devendra led and Hall Jr allowed him to dictate with a 63.4sec middle split of the 2536m before they roared home in 55.1 and 27.3sec. Trainer Gary Hall Sr said he it was now all about keeping Chicago Bull “ticking along” until the Victoria and NZ Cups. “He’s going to both, the timing works,” he said. “I might stretch his races out to once a fortnight until between now and when we go to Melbourne. “Then, after Melbourne, we’ll get across to NZ as soon as we can to make sure we get a lead-up race in across there before the NZ Cup.” Hall Sr is also excited about the return of his WA Derby winner King Of Swing, who has his first run since that Derby win in April when he tackles a C0 (maiden) at Gloucester Park on Monday. “He’s underdone, but he’s so well graded over here we should grab these races between now and the end of the season (end of August),” he said. “I’m really pleased how he’s come back and it’ll be exciting to get him into those big races towards the end of the year.” Another winner of note at Gloucester Park last night was former top Kiwi filly Our Angel Of Harlem, who was impressive sitting parked and scoring easily in a 1min56sec mile rate for 2130m in the heavy conditions. The Mach Three filly has four of her 11 starts for Mike Reed with another four placings. Adam Hamilton

Chase Auckland’s New Zealand Cup campaign may be over before it really got started. The champion three-year-old pacer is almost certainly out of contention for November’s  $800,000 Addington classic as he is taking longer than expected to recover from a pulled muscle in his hind quarters. “It is not a major thing but it is costing him valuable work from a Cup point of view,” says co-trainer Mark Purdon. “He has been sidelined for 10-12 days now and I don’t see him coming back into work for at least another 10 days.  “And even then it could be longer. We will let him tell us when he is ready.” While the Cup is still over three months away the setback could cost Chase Auckland a full month of ground work and means at best he would be trialing by mid October, which makes the New Zealand Cup almost impossible. “I am not totally writing it off but I would say it is very unlikely he will be there,” says Purdon. “He is going to be a long away behind our other horses as well as the other open class horses from other stables. “For his first season in open class and his first Cup you would want a perfect build-up and a chance for him to get used to that grade. “So I think he might miss the Cup carnival and while that would be disappointing it was never set in stone for him. “Being a four-year-old he has a lot of other options this season and will get his chance at the Cup next year.” Chase Auckland was clearly New Zealand’s best three-year-old pacer in the season just finished, emerging from maidens to win the Sires’ Stakes, Sales Series Pace and the Northern Derby.\ He is listed as the $10 fourth favourite for the NZ Cupt, alongside last season’s runner-up Jacks Legend and Interdom runner-up Chicago Bull. The latter is looking more and more likely to became a rare West Australian-trained New Zealand Cup starter for a variety of reasons. Not only is Chicago Bull back racing and winning effortless, admittedly in moderate fields, in Perth but the New Zealand Cup has already lost another big name in the injured Soho Tribeca and it looking a more attractive target by the day. But perhaps most importantly Chicago Bull is being aimed at the Victoria Cup in Melbourne on October 13 and will therefore be halfway to Christchurch and trainer Gary Hall is planning to send him to New Zealand soon after before heading back for the Inter Dominion, which starts at Melton on December 1. While Chase Auckland is sidelined, a smaller than usual All Stars team left for Australia on Tuesday to contest the Breeders Crown on August 25. Both Harness Jewels-winning juveniles Princess Tiffany and Another Masterpiece have been flown to Sydney where they will race at Menangle next Tuesday before heading south to Melbourne. They have been joined by open class stablemate Cash N Flow, who faces a wide draw on his A$20,000 Menangle debut on Saturday night while the Regan Todd-trained Show Gait will travel with the All Stars team and also race next Tuesday before heading to Melton for the three-year-old Breeders Crown Trot. Michael Guerin

Chase Auckland’s New Zealand Cup campaign may be over before it really got started. A champion three-year-old pacer he is almost certainly out of contention for November’s  $800,000 Addington classic as he is taking longer than expected to recover from a pulled muscle in his hind quarters. “It is not a major thing but it is costing him valuable work from a Cup point of view,” says co-trainer Mark Purdon. “He has been sidelined for 10-12 days now and I don’t see him coming back into work for at least another 10 days. And even then it could be longer. We will let him tell us when he is ready.” While the Cup is still over three months away the setback could cost Chase Auckland a full month of ground work and means at best he would be trialing by mid October, which makes the New Zealand Cup almost impossible. “I am not totally writing it off but I would say it is very unlikely he will be there,” says Purdon. “He is going to be a long way behind our other horses as well as the other open class horses from other stables. “For his first season in open class and his first Cup you would want a perfect build-up and a chance for him to get used to that grade. “So I think he might miss the Cup carnival and while that would be disappointing it was never set in stone for him. “Being a four-year-old he has a lot of other options this season and will get his chance at the Cup next year.” Chase Auckland was clearly New Zealand’s best three-year-old pacer in the season just finished, emerging from maidens to win the Sires’ Stakes, Sales Series Pace and the Northern Derby. He was listed as one of the favourites Australasian-wide for the NZ Cup last night, alongside last season’s runner-up Jacks Legend and Inter Dominion runner-up Chicago Bull. The latter is looking more and more likely to became a rare West Australian-trained New Zealand Cup starter for a variety of reasons. Not only is Chicago Bull back racing and winning effortless, admittedly in moderate fields, in Perth, but the New Zealand Cup has already lost another big name in the injured Soho Tribeca and it looking a more attractive target by the day. But, perhaps most importantly, Chicago Bull is being aimed at the Victoria Cup in Melbourne on October 13 and will therefore be halfway to Christchurch. Trainer Gary Hall is planning to send him to New Zealand soon after before heading back for the Inter Dominion, which starts at Melton on December 1. While Chase Auckland is sidelined, a smaller than usual All Stars team left for Australia yesterday to contest the Breeders Crown on August 25. Both Harness Jewels-winning juveniles Princess Tiffany and Another Masterpiece have been flown to Sydney where they will race at Menangle next Tuesday before heading south to Melbourne. They have been joined by open class stablemate Cash N Flow, who faces a wide draw on his A$20,000 Menangle debut on Saturday night, while the Regan Todd-trained Show Gait will travel with the All Stars team and also race next Tuesday before heading to Melton for the three-year-old Breeders Crown trot. Michael Guerin for Trots Media

Chase Auckland may have has lost two weeks out of his NZ Cup preparation with a minor injury but that is by no means the end of the penny section as the Aussies say. "It's a muscle thing, something he has just nicked in  the paddock and is nothing serious" Natalie said "We have put him on ultrasound treatment and we expect that it will be all cleared up in two weeks tops" "If that is the way it works out it doesn't threaten a Cup preparation but any longer and it could be a problem from that point of view. But I doubt it will take any longer than that and probably not that long" Chase Auckland returned to the stable recently to begin his new preparation which is not guaranteed to end in a NZ Cup attempt anyway. With all the rich four year old features on both sides of the Tasman through the spring and summer it is being viewed as an option in a perfect scenario but nothing beyond that at this stage.    Courtesy of All Stars Website

Trainer Gary Hall Sr wants to set the record straight, on two fronts, Firstly, he’s aware of varying reports about NZ Cup plans with his stable star Chicago Bull. Bottom he’ll be there unless something unexpected happens between now and November. Secondly, the driving force behind the planned Addington raid is itch left to scratch after three aborted trips across with Hall Sr’s former champion pacer Im Themightyquinn. “No doubt, that’s part of the fire in the belly. The fact I’d set Quinny for race so many times only to have things go wrong,” he said. “I’ve been to the NZ Cup, it’s such a great event and raceday, and I’d always wanted to be part of it. Quinny would’ve been the perfect horse, but this little guy will give it a real shake if we can get him there at his top. “It’s just about arranging the travel. I want to get across early to have a lead-up run, they all say it’s crucial. “So it’s likely I’ll go the Victoria Cup at Melton a month before the NZ Cup then go across to Christchurch from there.” It’s pretty clear. This is no “possible” trip. It’s happening unless anything derails. Judging by Chicago Bull’s arrogant first-up win at Gloucester Park last Friday night, he’s come back as well as ever. And Hall Sr estimated he was “only about 75 per cent” wound-up. Chicago Bull settled back, buzzed around the field early to take the lead, and cruised home to win as he liked, albeit against B-graders. “It’s just the sort of run we hoped for first-up. He’s come through it well,” Hall Sr said. “I got a call last night asking if I’d whiz him across to Brisbane for the Blacks A Fake this week after all the drama of the Sunshine Sprint, but that’s a definite no. He’s not ready and it’s not part of the plan. “There are no feature races here for him. He’ll just go through the free-for-alls, there’s another one next Friday, then we’ll work out if the Victoria Cup fits the travel plans to get him to NZ.” The inevitable comparisons come between Chicago Bull and Imthemightyquinn, but Hall Sr shuts them down pretty quickly. “Put it this way, when I took Quinny to the races I expected to win most of the time, with this little guy I hope to win,” he said. “But, what I will say is that Chicago Bull is still on the up and he’s done more at this stage of his career than Quinny had done so it’s exciting to see where he can end up.” Adam Hamilton

Don’t let Chase Auckland’s place near the top of the early New Zealand Cup markets fool you. Because while trainer Mark Purdon has confirmed the superstar three-year-old will be nominated for the great race he is anything but certain to start. Chase Auckland was unheard of this time last year but has emerged as our best three-year-old pacer, winning eight of his nine starts for nearly $400,000 in stakes. A mid-season injury saw him robbed of his shot at the New Zealand Derby and Jewels but after winning the Sires’ Stakes, Sales Series and Northern Derby he will be crowned three-year-old of the season at the national awards on September 29. The silver lining to his post-Northern Derby problems are that he was in the spelling paddock earlier than a fellow three-year-old star like Sheriff so will be back racing in plenty of time to get the miles in his legs needed for the 3200m Cup on November 13. But Purdon says while the Cup is the first aim it is still a tentative target. “He will be nominated and then we will let him tell us if he is ready for it,” he explains. “Because of the rating he will be on he will have to race the best horses at some stage early in the season and that will give us a guide as to whether he is ready for the Cup that early or whether we wait to later in the season to target an Auckland Cup. “So he will start on a Cup campaign but if we think he is not ready he could do what Ultimate Machete did this season, miss the Cup and wait for the Free-For-All.” That strategy worked last year when Ultimate Machete wisely dodged stablemate Lazarus in the Cup and won the Free-For-All three days later but this year’s Cup is far more open without the enormous judder bar that was Lazarus in the way. The TAB has pleasingly opened their earliest ever New Zealand Cup market, with nominations not even taken until August 29 and the fact Ultimate Machete is the $5.50 opening favourite confirms how open this year’s classic looks. Purdon is happy with how Ultimate Machete’s issues which ruined the second half of this season for him have settled down and indicates the $800,000 Cup will suit him better than the four races of an Inter Dominion a month later. With him being set specifically for the race his $5.50 quote makes far more sense than the $6 for Chase Auckland, who is far from guaranteed to be there. Any punter eying the Cup market should be careful though as the bookies haven’t included Soho Tribeca, one of Australia’s best pacers, who has been set for the race and should be viewed as coming. And West Australian trainer Gary Hall confirmed to the Herald he will nominate Inter Dominion runner-up Chicago Bull and rates him a 70-30 chance of coming. If that pair make it to the race they will be among the favourites so until they are included in the market it is very much buyer beware. With so many high profile pacers exported or retired this year one of the few genuine Cup winners still in the hunt for Addington this season is Dream About Me, who is the most forward of the Purdon’s big guns. She pushed Lazarus to a half-neck in the Flying Stakes at Ashburton last season and as a former Auckland Cup winner would only need to hold together to be one of the NZ Cup’s major players. “She has had all sorts of problems with corns but they are good at the moment and she is not too far away from the trials,” said Purdon. “So if we can stay on top of those problems she is right up there with our best chances of winning the Cup this year. “But obviously we don’t have the same firepower as the last couple of years without Lazarus so the race looks a lot more open.” Meanwhile, the stable’s exceptional three-year-old filly Shez All Rock starts her Breeders Crown campaign in an easy non-tote heat at Addington on Friday and should headline a five-strong team for next month’s rich series in Victoria.   Michael Guerin

The pressure is on to find genuine open class pacers for Cup Week and the lead up to the November feature. So it's good news to hear that one of the real up and comers from last season Captain Dolmio is close to racing. Former trainer Matt Brinsdon jogged the horse up for six weeks before he was sent north to John Dunn at Woodlands Beach. “He’s been there near a month. There are no signs of any niggles at this stage,” he said. Last season the Grinfromeartoear gelding won three races including the Summer and Tuapeka Cups. In his last two starts of the season he ran third behind Lazarus and Heaven Rocks in the Superstars Championship. Lazarus’s winning time was 2-16.7 for the 1950 metres a mile rate of 1-52.8. He finished his season off by running second to Heaven Rocks in the Easter Cup which was won in 3-58.7. He then came back for the new season and won a workout and trial in August last year but unfortunately suffered a leg injury and his preparation towards the New Zealand Cup had to be scrapped. “His injury was a lot like bone concussion and shin splints on his hind leg, if you can imagine the top of your bone having a whole lot of pin cracks in it. Once we found the problem we injected the bottom and the top with pain killers. He was as sound as a bell. Never though we could have raced him, he could have ended up shattering the leg so we had to give him four months. But we ended up giving him the best part of eight months. He’s done very well during his time out. He’s strengthened and developed.” Brinsdon thinks Captain Dolmio may be at the workouts in a few weeks and says the aim at this stage is to have him back at the races in the middle of next month.   “John is happy. He’s jumping around so that’s a positive start.” The rising seven year old is raced by the enthusiastic and well travelled Captain Dolmio Syndicate. “She’s been a quiet old time for the syndicate.” The Dolmio Grin at Addington                              The Syndicate has bred from Captain Dolmio’s dam Kates Rock. They have an Art Major colt which is a weanling and the mare is in foal to Always B Miki. Brinsdon hasn’t started jogging his new seasons team which includes an Art Major mare, a Mach Three brother to Phantom Grin ‘that broke in pretty nice’ and an A Rocknroll Dance two year old out of the Pacific Rocket mare Shezza Duchess. “He just needs a bit of time. He’s a big gangly horse so he might be a late three year old or four year old. He paces along nice and wants to run. He had a few issues with steering when I got him back in the cart. He wasn’t playing the game but he’s come right.”    Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Addington bosses are on the hunt for Australia’s best pacers as the local open class stocks hit an all-time low for this year’s New Zealand Cup. And a series of factors appear set to play into their hands, with at least one of Australia’s biggest stars all but confirmed to be crossing the Tasman for the Cup and others set to follow. The Cup may be four months away on November 13 but it is already more attractive to Australia’s leading trainers for two very obvious reasons. Firstly with the new Inter Dominion series to have only a A$500,000 final, the $800,000 New Zealand Cup sits alongside the Miracle Mile in February as Australasia’s richest harness race. Add in the $200,000 NZ Free-For-All three days later and the elite pacers can race for $1million, making it the richest pay week in Southern Hemisphere harness racing. And perhaps just as important is who won’t be there, namely two-time NZ Cup hero Lazarus, who has been exported to North America along with Heaven Rocks and Waikiki Beach while Auckland Cup winner Vincent and champion mare The Orange Agent have been retired.  That leaves the New Zealand open class stocks looking the weakest they have been in a decade and while horses like Ultimate Machete won’t be pushovers, Addington racing manager Brian Rabbit admits some Aussie star power will be crucial. “The Cup is always a special race and a special occasion but we do look to have a bit of a shortage of big name locals at the moment,” says Rabbit. “So we will be very keen to get some of the leading Australians across and the early indications are we will. “We had Tiger Tara last season and would love to get him back while Soho Tribeca and Chicago Bull are two others we would really like and Soho Tribeca sounds likely. “With the stakes we have now it has become the richest carnival anywhere in Australasia.” While Aussie speedsters like Field Marshal, Jilliby Kung Fu and Hectorjayjay and almost certainly better suited at home, Rabbit looks set to get his wish with Soho Tribeca, who already has the Cup as his main aim for the remainder of the year, even though the Inter Dominion is in his home state of Victoria a few weeks later. “Everything we are doing at the moment is geared toward the New Zealand Cup,” trainer Michael Stanley told the Herald. “I qualified him from a stand a few weeks ago so we can start in the race and we intend coming for the week and racing in the free-for-all too. “And we will probably have a lead-up race over there as well, maybe somewhere like Ashburton. “We would be mad not to target it. The owner is very keen and its $1million in a week rather than four races in two weeks for a A$500,000 final at the Inters. “We might do both but we don’t have to decide that until after the NZ Cup.” With Tiger Tara a luckless third to Lazarus last season and second the year before he would seem a likely returnee and if you add those to locals like Ultimate Machete, last season’s runner-up Jack’s Legend, Star Galleria, former Auckland Cup winner Dream About Me and Jewels winner Eamon Maguire a potentially intriguing but far more open Cup than recent seasons comes into focus. Nominations for our greatest harness race close on August 29. Meanwhile, Addington could have a new distance in play for Cup week and more importantly for the Harness Jewels pending the outcomes of a trial this month. Starting from this Thursday the premier track will change 1950m mobile races to 1980m for a month-long trial at the behest of the horseman’s association. “It will give them a slightly longer run to the first bend and we are happy to trial it and listen to their feedback,” said Rabbit. “And we will then discuss if the 1950m races we usually hold now become 1980m races and if they do permanently then that will be the distance for the Jewels here next season too.” Michael Guerin

The forgotten challenger to Lazarus's third New Zealand Cup has taken a small step toward making the great race. And while trainer Brian Hughes isn't getting carried away with The Orange Agent's comeback, he says if he gets the glamour mare back to her best he won't be scared to take on the champ. The Orange Agent is on the third injury rehab of her career with a fracture in her cannon bone ending this season before it began but she had the hopples back on for the first time this preparation this week. "It was nothing serious but was good to give her a slow hoppled run and so far so good," says Hughes. "She looks good but very big so she is still a fair while away from racing." Hughes says a successful comeback would still not see The Orange Agent at the races until the middle of winter, when the only lucrative targets would be in Australia. "That might be one option but you would think she would need a race or two here first before throwing her in over there." But if the now six-year-old mare holds together she would ultimately be aimed at the New Zealand Cup, with the great race probably in need of her help. With so many big name pacers being exported this season, genuine group one rivals for Lazarus should he attempt to win his third Cup in November will be hard to find. This season's placegetters, Jack's Legend and Tiger Tara, would be likely along with the emerging Star Galleria and Addington officials would love to get Soho Tribeca to the race but after that horses who could be deemed even mildly threatening to Lazarus's three-peat are scarce. The forgotten challenger to Lazarus's third New Zealand Cup has taken a small step toward making the great race. And while trainer Brian Hughes isn't getting carried away with The Orange Agent's comeback, he says if he gets the glamour mare back to her best he won't be scared to take on the champ. The Orange Agent is on the third injury rehab of her career with a fracture in her cannon bone ending this season before it began but she had the hopples back on for the first time this preparation this week. "It was nothing serious but was good to give her a slow hoppled run and so far so good," says Hughes. "She looks good but very big so she is still a fair while away from racing." Hughes says a successful comeback would still not see The Orange Agent at the races until the middle of winter, when the only lucrative targets would be in Australia. "That might be one option but you would think she would need a race or two here first before throwing her in over there." But if the now six-year-old mare holds together she would ultimately be aimed at the New Zealand Cup, with the great race probably in need of her help. With so many big name pacers being exported this season, genuine group one rivals for Lazarus should he attempt to win his third Cup in November will be hard to find. This season's placegetters, Jack's Legend and Tiger Tara, would be likely along with the emerging Star Galleria and Addington officials would love to get Soho Tribeca to the race but after that horses who could be deemed even mildly threatening to Lazarus's three-peat are scarce. Michael Guerin

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