New Zealand’s richest harness race, The Race by Grins (2200m) takes place at Cambridge Raceway this Thursday night.
Carrying a stake of $900,000 it is the richest harness New Zealand has seen. It’s also the first harness slot race in Australasia and the first major slot race in New Zealand.
The innovative feature race has attracted the best of the best when it comes to equine talent, from both sides of the Tasman.
Four of the nine horses in the event have travelled from Australia: the only mare in the race Stylish Memphis, veteran gelding Alta Orlando, February’s Gr.1 Newcastle Mile winner Mach Dan and late ring in Majestic Cruiser.
Despite drawing un-favourably it’s Pukekohe-based Self Assured that is being tipped as the horse to beat.
Champion trainer Mark Purdon concedes that he will have to produce the performance of his career to win The Race By Grins from barrier 8 (the outside of the front line), but he takes comfort in knowing the superstar pacer is in the right form to do that.
Purdon says that will mean pulling back, maybe all the way to last before making a mid-race move, hoping the speed merchants Alta Orlando (barrier 2), Spankem (3) and Mach Dan (5) set up a tempo that allows the backmarkers into the contest.
"It really wasn't the barrier we wanted," said Purdon.
“He is going to have to go back but there does look to be huge speed early so hopefully they go hard.
“I think Brent (Mangos, driver of South Coast Arden) might take it easy early too so we could end up coming into the race later.
“While the draw isn’t great for us it had really made the race and there should be a lot of talk now.”
Purdon says Spankem’s barrier three aids the former Miracle Mile winner while his recent stable addition Mach Dan will have Ricky May aboard and Purdon will give him the licence to launch early.
Gates open for The Race By Grins evening race meeting at 5pm, with eight races from 6.05pm to 9.20pm including the feature event at 8.55pm.
Popular Kiwi music duo Jupiter Project will be kicking off the after party from 10pm till 11.30pm. Tickets and more info are available at therace.nz – Cambridge Raceway