By Michael Guerin
Harness racing’s $900,000 slot race secured maybe its most important contender yet with Australian visitor Mach Dan already in Auckland to prepare for The Race.
Mach Dan is the second of two Australian-based pacers to secure slots in The Race in the last two days, with former Kiwi mare Spellbound also now coming to the April 14 race at Cambridge on a hit and run mission.
That means nine slots in the new race, based on The Everest concept, are as good as gone with one signing still to go.
Spellbound was secured by the Hole In The Wall Gang, a syndicate comprising several major industry players and trainer Nathan Purdon will bring the mare across with Tony Herlihy booked to drive her.
Mach Dan is already in Pukekohe and will be trained for The Race by Mark Purdon and Hayden Cullen after securing the slot owned by Ian Dobson’s Cullen Breeding. With Dobson also owning superstar three-year-old Akuta him using his slot for Mach Dan confirms Akuta, the one-time favourite, will not take on the older horses in The Race.
The two signings mean Self Assured, Pembrook Playboy, Krug, Hot And Treacherous, Mach Dan and the two mares Stylish Memphis and Spellbound have confirmed slots while South Coast Arden and Spankem’s connections both own slots so those two will be in The Race if they hold form.
South Coast Arden clashes with Self Assured at Alexandra Park this Friday but Spankem will miss that race with a respiratory infection but is expected to race next week and be fit for The Race.
Barring form loss, injury or other issues nine of the 10 slots in the race are as good as filled with the most likely other contender being former juvenile star One Change.
He has been in excellent form in the south, has gate speed and one of his owners Trevor Casey has a share in a slot syndicate increasing his chances of securing that slot.
If that field lines up over the 2200m mobile come April 14 the new race with have a fantastic launch, especially as other big names Aussies who could have added to The Race are unavailable, with King Of Swing retired and Spirit Of St Louis and Lochinvar Art spelling.
Mach Dan’s inclusion add a whole new dimension to the race as he is one of the fastest beginners in Australasia, as he showed when blasting past King Of Swing at the start of the Miracle Mile last Saturday.
He led and won the Newcastle Mile the start before and with a 75 per cent chance he draws the front line in The Race he could give the locals something to chase and dampen the enthusiasm of others with designs on the lead.
The two mares, Stylish Memphis and Spellbound, are guaranteed the two inside draws unless a three-year-old gets a slot, which looks very unlikely, but Mach Dan on the front line could get The Race alight.
“He is very, very fast, I was really surprised he crossed King Of Swing on Saturday,” said Purdon.
“So he is going to be a huge factor in The Race and we have him here for the new few months through until the Auckland Cup (May 27),” said Purdon.
“Then I am likely to take Self Assured to the Queensland winter carnival and Danny (Zavitsanos, owner) has told me he would like us to take Mach Dan too.”
No decision has been made on a driver for Mach Dan but champion reinswoman Natalie Rasmussen is likely to have the choice between him and Spankem should they both make it to the race.
The draw for the $900,000 The Race will be held at Cambridge on April 9.