- By Michael Guerin, NZ Herald
New Zealand's premier trainer of trotters says the national mile record could be smashed at Cambridge on Thursday night.
But Phil Williamson fears while his stable star Majestic Man may set up the record, one of the other two huge names in the race may benefit most in the Gr.2 Group 1 Turf Bar Flying Mile.
The sprint sees the first clash of Bolt For Brilliance with Sundees Son and Majestic Man, the latter pair having set national records the last two times they have raced.
On both occasions Sundees Son has been able to sit outside Majestic Man and outstay him but that was over a 3200m standing start and 2200m mobile whereas Thursday is a mile around Cambridge, racing which typically suits leaders.
With Majestic Man's blazing gate speed he should lead the small field and then the defining questions include whether Sundees Son handles the track, can put enough on the leader to puncture him and, if both those things eventuate, Bolt For Brilliance comes over the top of the older pair. It is a potentially delicious contest and one Williamson, the maestro of New Zealand trotting, believes could see the national mile record of 1:53.8 broken.
That time was set by a rampant Marcoola at the rocket-fast Ashburton track last year but Williamson says with the three big names in Thursday's race having trotted last 800m sectionals in sub 55 seconds recently, the record is in danger.
"If they go the first 800m in 57 seconds, or even 58, these horses can trot home in 55 seconds," he offers.
"So you do the math. If it is a warm day, the way these horses have been breaking records — it is on."
The connections of all three of the stars seem to concede Majestic Man will lead and Williamson realises this is his best chance of beating the other two but he is anything but confident.
"It is hard to be confident the way Sundees Son has beaten us the last two starts. But we will give them something to chase."
Sundees Son's driver John Dunn says being drawn barrier six of six doesn't worry him as he expects to settle early, work to the parked position as he has in his last two starts, and then pressure Majestic Man to outstay him.
"I think he will handle the track well enough because he actually trots bends very well," says Dunn.
"When you go back over his career almost all his gallops, apart from the one at Kaikoura three starts ago which wasn't his fault, have been on a straight. So I am not too worried about the track and as good a horse as Majestic Man is I think we can sit outside him and beat him again."
That does however raise the scenario of Sundees Son being a sitting duck for Bolt For Brilliance, who might just be a little special.
The fittest version of Bolt For Brilliance, if totally comfortable left-handed, might have been able to come off Sundees Son's back to beat him but it would seem unlikely that version can be on show with the 4-year-old not having raced for two months.
The flying trotters aren't the only reason to tune in to the twilight meeting as talented three-year-old B D Joe warms up for next week's NZSB Harness Millions against smart older rivals in race 10.
"It was actually my fault he got beaten at Alexandra Park last start because I don't think I had him ready enough," admits trainer Steve Telfer.
"But that race has brought him on a lot and he will be a lot fitter this week."
The two feature races John Dunn is chasing in the next few days could hardly be more different, but the astute reinsman says the recipe for success may ultimately be the same.
Dunn steers favourite Sundees Son in the mobile mile trot on the all-weather at Cambridge whereas on Saturday he will partner another likely favourite in Belmont Major in the 3200m standing start Westport Cup on grass.
"They might look very different races but Westport is a funny track and you need to get handy, like at Cambridge. And I think he (Belmont Major) is tough enough to do that."
Belmont Major finished second to an open-class horse in waiting in Bad To The Bone on New Zealand Cup day and Dunn was happy with how he trialled last week.
"I think he can do the work to get handy and will be hard to beat," he says.
Dunn's other Boxing Day tip for Herald readers is Tas Girl Bromac (R1, No 12), who was impressive winning a recent workout.