By Jonny Turner
It will be a case of the calm before the storm at Ascot Park on Sunday as the harness racing nation counts down with its final meeting before the New Zealand Cup.
Ryal Bush trainer Peter Hunter will head to the Invercargill track with three strong eachway chances on the 10-race card.
Hunter has a link to the New Zealand Cup through his brother Henderson, who trained and drove the 1978 winner, Trusty Scott.
Hunter’s father, the late Adam Hunter, part-owned the horse that downed fellow Southlander and favourite Sapling in the 3200m feature.
On Sunday, Hunter will seek more modest, but thoroughly deserved victories.
The trainer-drive will hand over the reins to Brent Barclay to drive his consistent pacer Glenledi Captain in race 5.
The four-year-old drops in grade in the 2200m event after clashing with quality types in his last start in a Nugget graduation final, won by Sentry.
“He is a pretty honest horse and he didn’t have much luck in his last start,” Hunter said.
“And it was a pretty good field.”
Drawing barrier 7 is not a concern for Glenledi Captain, with Hunter preferring he started there than too close to the markers.
“The draw should suit him more than if he’d drawn on the inside.”
“He is a big horse, so it just gives him a bit more room.”
“It will be up to Brent to make a decision on what he wants to do from there.”
Hunter will drive Port Au Prince, who starts from barrier 1 in his clash with Glenledi Captain in race 5.
The three-year-old has gone three solid races to start his career, with two of them coming in strong events won by Ragazzo Mach and Gayle Force.
Hunter is leaning towards Glenledi Captain as the stronger of his stable’s chances but said there was not a lot between the pair.
Though that is mainly because the learnings Port Au Prince has picked up from his three career starts have not yet made him the complete racehorse.
“There is not a lot between them, but I would say Glenledi Captain would be the better chance because he has been there and done that.”
“Port Au Prince is a little bit greener.”
“His first two starts were good then his last star was fair, but in saying that he was only a couple of lengths off them.”
“That is sort of where he is at, but he is getting close [to winning form].”
Hunter also starts Bunter’s Dream from the ace draw of barrier 1 in race 3.
The five-year-old comes into the 2200m event after running second to 15-race winning veteran Four Starzzz Shiraz at Forbury Park.
With three placings in her five starts this time, Bunter’s Dream is closing in on a win and she should go close to grabbing her elusive second career victory on Sunday.
“She holds her own out of the gate,” Hunter said.
“From one she should get every chance, it is the shortest way home.”
“There are a couple in there that go pretty good – Racing Minister and Hazer.”
Racing Minister freefalls back in grade after competing in the Southern Supremacy Stakes Final at Ascot Park last week.
Hazer comes into the race after running good placings in his last two starts.