By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
Promising pacer Arden Messi will be vying to add another win to his tally at Addington Raceway on Sunday when he contests the Allied Security (Junior Drivers) Mobile Pace (1980m).
The Grant Payne-trained four-year-old has already tasted victory in his four career starts, and finished runner-up on two other occasions.
Tim Williams has done the steering on all four occasions, but junior driver Mikayla Lewis will hop in the cart on Sunday in the junior driver event.
Payne has been delighted with the way the son of Bettor’s Delight has been progressing in his first racing preparation and he said he was pleased with the gelding’s last start runner-up effort at the Christchurch track last week.
“He’s been going really good,” Payne said. “He is a horse on the improve. Every time I take him off the place he just seems to get better.
“He just got a bit lost in front (last start) I thought. It’s the first time he has been in front, he is a lot better with a bit of cover.”
All four of his starts have come after the COVID-19 lockdown period, however, Payne said he took plenty of improvement from the enforced break.
“I gave him a break when we had to and he came back much better,” Payne said. “I was really surprised with how much he had improved.
“I am sure after another break he will come back better again.”
Payne believes his charge is the one to beat on Sunday and he has every confidence in Lewis.
“I will just leave it up to Mikayla, I don’t want to put any pressure on her,” he said. “If he gets an economical trip he will be very hard to beat.”
Payne doesn’t have any set plans with Arden Messi at this stage, but he believes he can make his way through the grades.
“He will tell me when he needs a break,” he said. “At the moment he is just thriving on his work so we will just press on.”
Arden Messi is not the only southern-bred horse that is exciting Payne at the moment.
“I am working about a dozen at the moment,” he said. “I have got a very nice three-year-old by Rock N Roll Heaven that I really like from Joyfuljoy’s family.
“I bought him as a yearling from the sales. He is a lovely going horse and he has qualified.”
Reflecting on last season’s tally of six wins, Payne said he was pleased with his small team’s efforts.
“I only train a small team here, so I was pretty happy.”