By Jonny Turner
Southern sensation U May Cullect is one several horses ready to put it all on the line in a last ditch play to qualify for the New Zealand Cup at Kaikoura on Monday.
The Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis trained pacer steps out alongside Step In and On The Cards, who will also be out to propel themselves in to a top-15 New Zealand Cup starting spot by winning the Kaikoura Cup.
U May Cullect goes in to the 2400m feature ranked 23rd on the order of entry for the great race, after starting his spring campaign with three below par performances.
So far this time in, the Southern hero has yet to produce the kind of sensational performances that saw burst on to the harness racing and gain a cult-like following.
But the feeling among his camp is U May Cullect is ready to show his best at Kaikoura.
“He has been staying up at Benny Hill’s and he is really happy with him,” owner Tom Kilkelly said.
“We have had the farrier and the vet to him and we think we have got him pretty right.”
“Kirstin went up to work him, because she knows the horse and she would be able to tell just how good he was going.”
“She worked him with one of Benny’s horses and said to me that when he sprinted up he went straight past the other horse and pricked his ears.”
“And she said she was worried she was going that fast she might not make it around the bend.”
A run of unpredictable Southland weather is the main reason U May Cullect has remained in Canterbury since his last start.
The seven-year-old’s work suggest that move is already paying off.
“With the weather we have had down home you wouldn’t want him here,” Kilkelly said.
Even if he is in the best form of his life, U May Cullect is not going to be a factor in the Kaikoura Cup if he can not step away.
The pacer goes in to the race after stepping away nicely in the Canterbury Classic, a much improved effort on his wild early gallop in the Hannon Memorial
“He has got to make a good beginning, that is main thing,” Kilkelly said.
“He didn’t have shorteners in at Oamaru when he galloped, so he had excuses there.”
“He had them in in his last start and Kirstin is going to pull them up another hole at Kaikoura.”
It will not just be those outside the New Zealand Cup’s top 15 that need to impress at Kaikoura.
Heisenberg (12th) and Nandolo (13th) will both need to put in good performances to avoid being leapfrogged by the trio rated below them.
Qualifying positions for the Dominion are also up for grabs in the South Bay Trotters’ Cup at Kaikoura on Monday.
Majestic Lavros is rated the 10th favourite for the 3200m feature, above many of the current top 15 for the race, but needs a good ranking bump to get a start.
The Mark Jones trained six-year-old effectively needs to win on Monday to have any chance of qualifying for the Dominion from his current ranking of 21st.
Midnight Dash is in a similar position going in to the South Bay Trotters’ Cup, ranked 22nd.
Matua Tana looks the horse most in need of a good performance to cement his spot inside the Dominion’s top 15.
The Greg and Nina Hope trained seven-year-old goes into the 2400m feature ranked 13th.
The out of form Destiny Jones looks well placed in her 9th position, but is at risk of sliding down the rankings after disappointing in two runs this time in.