By Jonny Turner
Wins on and off the track mean New Zealand Cup favourite Spankem’s perfect spring preparation is set to continue at Addington tonight.
The Miracle Mile winner will start a short-priced favourite alongside three of his All Stars stablemates in the group 2 Canterbury Classic.
Away from the track, Spankem’s path to New Zealand Cup victory got a lot easier this week after his main rival, Tiger Tara, was withdrawn from the race.
The horse’s fortunes got even better when he secured a perfect barrier 3 draw in tonight’s standing start.
Spankem’s good fortunes continued on the track when he worked well at Purdon and Rasmussen’s stable this week, as he has done all spring.
Purdon confirmed the 5yr-old has improved his fitness levels since his emphatic Hannon Memorial win.
And in terrible news for his opponents, there is still plenty more to come.
“He is still doing very, very well and is working well, but I think a couple more runs will help him.”
Returning 5yr-old Ashley Locaz will be given a tough introduction to open class racing when clashing with Spankem and his fellow stablemates Chase Auckland and Ultimate Sniper.
Purdon is expecting the horse to measure up in the open class ranks when at full fitness.
“He has got to put his hand up and prove it, but I think the way he feels in his work coming back – he feels nice and strong and he feels like he will take the step into open company.
“He has come back good, he has had a couple of trials in moderate company.”
“Whatever he does on Friday he will improve on.”
Chase Auckland looks the main danger to Spankem following his excellent Hannon Memorial run.
The 5yr-old, who has already made a successful transition to open class in just two starts, powered home for fourth after galloping with a lap to go.
Chase Auckland was rated a $7.50 third-favourite behind Spankem ($1.35) and Ultimate Sniper ($6).
Ultimate Sniper has been sound, but not spectacular, in two new season runs.
The horse has looked in need of racing to return to the electric form he showed last season, which Purdon confirmed.
“He was off the scene for the longest time of our runners, and being a stallion he is carrying a bit more condition.”
“The first two runs have done him the world of good.”
A G’s White Socks was rated the hardest horse for the All Stars pacer to beat when he opened at $15.
The 6yr-old galloped away from the standing start for the third consecutive time in last month’s Hannon Memorial.
Though the Greg and Nina Hope-trained pacer is clearly up to pushing the favourites, he will not be able to do so if he botches the start again tonight.
In the Canterbury Classic, New Zealand Cup aspirant Henry Hubert starts for the first time this season.
The Robert Dunn-trained 5yr-old has had three prep runs to be readied for his resumption.
Henry Hubert ran in a soft trial and workout before looking good when winning a subsequent trial at Rangiora last week.
Dunn has a two-pronged attack on the Canterbury Classic, with Classie Brigade also entered.