The Premier meeting in Auckland this week has led to some interesting driver changes at Addington, none more so than in the featured free-for-all trot and pace.
John Dunn would have had the key drives in these with Harriet Of Mot and Alta Maestro, but with chances galore in the Auckland features, Matt Anderson and Gavin Smith have got the nod at Addington.
The small but classy field for the FFA pace actually sees each of the six runners with different drivers to what one would expect.
Ricky May’s suspension at Addington last week until after meetings on December 21 has resulted in A G’s White Socks being reunited with Matthew Williamson.
A G’s White Socks won his first start with Williamson driving, beating May and Missinmemate, and handled him again in the NZ FFA when May opted for Pat’s Delight and his better draw.
And with the All Stars resources stretched thin between Auckland and Melton this week, Blair Orange jumps back on a stable runner in Ultimate Machete and Nathan Purdon has the drive on another key runner in Funatthebeach.
Most will be expecting the latter to head off Zadaka and then take a trail home on Alta Maestro, but Smith is not so sure about that.
“I’d probably prefer to drive him from off the speed actually, although I still need to have a chat to either John (Dunn) or RJ (Robert Dunn) about that,” said Smith yesterday.
“As a young horse you really had to use his high speed from good draws and he copped some pretty hard runs, but this time in he’s had two races from 20m handicaps and last time he showed what he can do when he’s held up and you can use his speed at the end.
“The fact that he’s now settling in a trailing situation is a testament to his intelligence, and now that he’s back to a mobile, I need to check on what sort of tactics they’d like employed this week.”
Should Smith drive Alta Maestro for a sit, this could easily prove one of those races with a small field which doesn’t exactly go to script and proves more tricky than anticipated.
There’ll be no surprises if Matthew Williamson drives A G’s White Socks with a bit of aggression, but a question mark must remain over the form of Ultimate Machete, given he has not been nominated for the Auckland Cup.
Smith has a useful looking book of six drives at Addington and outside of Alta Maestro, he rates converted trotting mare Scarlet Banner as his best winning chance.
“She’s just had a horrendous run of luck in her last four races, including being late scratched in one after being knocked over both days at the Cup meeting.
“Last time she got away well, but then she got knocked over again (by Lightworkofit) in the second attempt at a start, and that got her upset and she started pacing in the third attempt.
“She’s actually in a very good space at the moment and going better than ever, and being in foal to Vincent hasn’t hurt either.”
Smith gave a lot of thought to which stallion to send Scarlet Banner to given she is a pacing-bred mare who trots just as well.
“She’s actually a better trotter than pacer and would have gone to open class, but we’ve chucked her in foal because there’s a chance she’s going to bow a tendon.
“But she’s such a brilliantly-bred mare from a pacing perspective and won over 50k doing that, that we figured we had to breed her to pacing sires in the first few years from a commercial standpoint.
“But I’d love to breed some trotters from her later.”
Meanwhile, Smith has just brought Great Things Happen back into work after a three-week break, following another incident of incredible bad luck in the Dominion.
“I was treating him for allergies since I think that was the problem last year, but that actually lowers their immune system and he’s picked up a lung infection in the days between the Monday when I last worked him and the Friday.
“Everything seemed to be falling into place just perfectly and I was still very confident starting the last half, but when Clint (Ford on Marcoola) launched there was nothing in the tank and he was coughing up snot for several days afterwards.
“So in trying to help him I wound up hindering him.”
Smith is now setting Great Things Happen for an Australian campaign, with a run of features either side of the Great Southern Star in late January.