By Jonny Turner
The clash harness racing fans have been waiting for will finally happen in the Ashburton Flying Stakes on Monday when Copy That takes on Self Assured and Spankem.
Punters will get the most crucial line on their fancies for the New Zealand Cup with Copy That stepping out in the South Island first time this season to take on the All Stars pair after setting Alexandra Park alight in the spring.
It will not just be a challenged for the northerner, as he is set to provide Self Assured and Spankem with their most serious tests of their campaigns in the race that is likely to decide which of the trio will start favourite in the New Zealand Cup.
Trainer Mark Purdon knows exactly what kind of Copy That will throw at challenge Spankem and Self Assured.
“He is a very good horse, Copy That, he is only young but he has been going great races and he is going to be hard to beat at Ashburton.”
The Ashburton Flying Stakes has come about at precisely the right time for Spankem.
The six-year-old produced a brilliant first-up run in the Canterbury Classic behind Self Assured turning the tables on him right on the line in the Methven Cup.
His improvement from those two runs has the Miracle Mile ready to defend his Ashburton Flying Stakes crown.
“He was really good first up and he improved from that run,” Purdon said.
“It was a great effort at Methven, we were really happy with him.”
“He would be getting towards 95% for Monday and then he should be spot on for the cup.”
Self Assured made his second good beginning in the Methven Cup in second start since transferring to the unruly.
The five-year-old was game in defeat, just being nosed out by his stablemate after being the only horse to make a midrace move.
“He went a great race, he made that mid race move and he had it won everywhere but the post,” Purdon said.
“I am really pleased with him going in to Ashburton.”
All Stars pacer Ashley Locaz joins Copy That and fellow northerner Mach Shard in having his first start in a South Island lead up to the New Zealand Cup in Monday’s race.
The six-year-old has returned to the All Stars stable after a brief Australian stint where he was sound, but not outstanding in five starts.
Ashley Locaz was in the care of Matt ‘Poi’ Bowden at the All Stars’ Pukekohe base before flying back to Canterbury on Thursday.
“He flew in on Thursday night, thankfully there weren’t any problems with his travel arrangements,” Purdon said.
“Poi was quite happy with his work before he came down.”
“I would expect him to go a nice race.”
Ashley Locaz was rated at $17 win odds alongside his former stablemate, Thefixer, when the fixed odds market for the Ashburton Flying Stakes opened.
Self Assured headed betting as the $2.30 favourite.
Spankem was rated at a $2.60 win price, ahead Copy That, who was at $4.80.