By Michael Guerin
Self Assured’s defence of the Auckland Trotting Cup hangs by a thread and even that could be cut today.
Last month’s New Zealand Cup winner was the favourite to defend the Auckland Cup he won last December at Alexandra Park this New Year’s Eve but trainer Mark Purdon now fears he won’t get that chance.
The five-year-old developed a corn on Saturday that means he will miss the Lincoln Farms Franklin Cup at Alexandra Park this Friday and Purdon will decide tomorrow whether Self Assured can resume normal work any time this week.
If he can’t his Cup defence on December 31 will be over.
“He is more likely to not be starting in the Auckland Cup right now than he is to be starting,” Purdon told the Herald.
“The corn only came up on Saturday but the timing was bad because it means he misses this week’s race.
“If, and it is a big if, I can start working him again soon then he could race at Alexandra Park on Friday week and then still make the Cup.
“But if he can’t race there then obviously the Cup is gone because he hasn’t raced since the New Zealand Cup (November 10).”
While Purdon has pulled off more than his share of training miracles before he looks up against it this time, especially as rushing into a hard 3200m on a light prep could undo Self Assured’s Australian campaign.
Self Assured is being set long-term for the Miracle Mile at Menangle in March but if he misses the Auckland Cup the Hunter Cup at Melton in Victoria in February becomes an option on the way to Sydney, especially as Self Assured in owned in Victoria.
But Auckland’s loss could also be Cambridge’s gain because if Self Assured misses the Cup the Flying Mile at Cambridge on January 8 becomes a logical resumption point.
News the double Cups winner is doubtful soon reached TAB bookies on Monday and Self Assured was replaced at the head of the Auckland Cup market by stablemates Spankem and Amazing Dream, who now share the top line at $2.90, ahead of Copy That at $3.20.
Spankem will have his first Alexandra Park start in 19 months when he contests the Franklin Cup off a 30m handicap on Friday, with Purdon thrilled with his training on Monday morning.
New Zealand Cup beaten favourite Copy That is also in the Franklin Cup, with trainer Ray Green expecting him to take improvement from his surprise defeat to stablemate Tommy Lincoln in the Summer Cup last Friday.
There are likely to be 10 starters in the Franklin Cup and there may only be 11 in the Auckland Cup because while Triple Eight and Amazing Dream are likely to join those in Friday’s field come Cup time, Tommy Lincoln will not be asked to start over 3200m.
“I think he is better sticking to the shorter trips at this stage” says Green.
Amazing Dream will contest the Queen of Hearts this week against her own sex before stepping back into open class against the boys for the Auckland Cup but it is surprising she shares favouritism with Spankem when she has only had one open class start in this country.
Spankem won’t be the only open class star returning to Alexandra Park after a 19-month break as Sundees Son is in the Lyell Creek Trot this Friday and he hasn’t raced in Auckland since winning the Rowe Cup on May 3 last year, the same night Spanken won the Messenger in his last Auckland start.