By Jonny Turner
Canterbury mare Sweet Mary gets the chance to start her season in style when she free- falls down the grades at Forbury Park on Thursday night.
Just two starts ago, the Brad Mowbray-trained pacer was mixing it in group 1 company at the Harness Jewels, where she ran a creditable fifth behind Elle Mac.
Sweet Mary will not have to face nearly as daunting a task when she resumes in rating 53-70 company over 2200m.
”From a class perspective, from some of the races she was in last season, it is a drop in class for her,” Mowbray said.
While Sweet Mary will not give away a class edge to her rivals, she does lack a race fitness advantage, as all but two of her rivals have had the benefit of recent racing.
In contrast, Sweet Mary has just had one public appearance to ready her for her resumption.
But it was a good one.
She won a recent 2400m mobile trial at Ashburton in 3:01.9, reeling off a slick 55.5sec last 800m.
Mowbray feels that effort signalled his mare is ready to make an impact at the races.
”It was a smart overall time as well, as much as she ran smart sectionals.
”She is a naturally fit horse, she is not one to take too long to come back to her best – she doesn’t carry much extra weight.
”So, we have obviously thought she is ready to hit the race track.”
Sixteen-win veteran Aveross Rustler looks one of Sweet Mary’s main rivals.
The 11yr-old comes into tonight’s race following a fair effort at Oamaru, after taking on a strong intermediate field at Addington.
The Wayne Low-trained pacer won in his prior start at Forbury Park from the same outside of the front row draw he starts from on Thursday night.
Rollova also looks a strong chance in race 5. The David and Catherine Butt-trained pacer went to the line untested at Methven on Sunday after being denied racing room in the straight.
The 4yr-old was an easy winner of his prior start at Motukarara.
The Mowbray stable have two more runners entered at Forbury Park tonight in Wandering Star and Refine.
Wandering Star also resumes after impressing at the Ashburton trials recently. The 8yr-old was just a length behind Zsa Zoe, who trotted her last 400m in 27.3sec to win a 2400m hit out.
That signals the horse is ready to turn around his form in his first start for the Mowbray stable.
”I don’t think he would be 100% fool-proof, but if he put his best foot forward I am pretty sure he wouldn’t be out of it. He is a very good beginner, too.”
Wandering Star’s standing-start prowess should help him overcome his 30m handicap when he takes on a largely out of form line-up of trotters over 2700m in race 1.
Refine looks a solid place chance against rating 45-52 pacers in race 6.
The 4yr-old goes in to the 2200m mobile event after running third behind Highland Reign at Motukarara.
”She boomed home at Motukarara, she had a couple of days off after that and we have just worked her back up and she looks a million dollars.”