Purdon tips Franco Indie over Akuta

Purdon tips Franco Indie over Akuta

Training star Mark Purdon concedes the barrier draws have changed his rankings for the race of the night at tomorrow’s inaugural Harness Millions at Alexandra Park.

Franco Indie is now the pacer punters want to jump on in the $200,000 Harness Million three-year-old race, even against freakish stablemate Akuta.

Akuta has been harness racing’s hype horse since a spectacular 10-length victory at the Jewels last June and he has done little wrong this campaign to suggest he won’t live up to his reputation.

But Franco Indie’s emergence, which includes winning the Sires’ Stakes Final in November, went to a new level when he finished second to open-class stablemate Self Assured, with a luckless Akuta fourth, at Alexandra Park last Thursday.

He was fast off the gate and taking plenty of ground off Self Assured late in that race, which could hardly have been a better trial for tomorrow night’s return to three-year-old company.

It confirmed Purdon’s opinion there is little between the pair and then Wednesday’s draw happened and the Millions market flipped for the first time in months.

Franco Indie drew perfectly at barrier two for tomorrow’s 2200m mobile and Akuta drew one on the second line so Purdon, who trains in partnership with Hayden Cullen, reacted by saying their stable rankings for this race have changed.

“It is going to be really hard for Akuta now, even as good as he is,” says Purdon.

“Franco Indie was so good last week that I can see him leading and being our best chance.

“I think he will be in front, especially after the gate speed he showed last week, while Akuta will have to go back and around.

“In a sales race field of this depth I think I’d have to move mid-race and can see me being parked outside Franco Indie the last lap.

“I think it would be very hard to beat Franco Indie under those circumstances.”

While the All Stars horses will dominate the market, the one who could change the game plan early would be Chimichurri, who has shown great gate speed in some of his races and is from the Steve Telfer stable, who are never scared to push forward early, so he could have a dab for the lead.

It is hard to envisage a scenario though where the All Stars don’t win with one of their two big names, and could dominate half the small card.

Their outstanding three-year-old filly True Fantasy is $1.10 for her $150,000 pacing final and with New Zealand’s next best filly Remember Me in Sydney it is impossible to see her beaten.

Self Assured gives them the favourite in the $50,000 Sprint and he is short considering he has drawn barrier four, outside two horses who might try to hold him out for the lead, most importantly South Coast Arden.

The pair battled during the spring and honours were largely shared, with Self Assured more explosive but South Coast Arden is incredibly hard to get past when he leads.

Purdon is adamant Self Assured is back to his best and he probably has more ways he can win than South Coast Arden.

He would look a certainty if he crossed to the lead or sat just off the speed.

The biggest concern for those taking the $1.55 price for him would be if he had to sit parked outside South Coast Arden.

The latter’s trainer-driver Brent Mangos is happy with the big horse’s work since his narrow fresh-up win at Cambridge but warns he is still not screwed down yet as The Race and Auckland Cup loom large as his autumn targets.

“He is going really well but he will continue to improve so whether we go hard early to lead or move into the race later I will decide at the time,” says Mangos.

As winner of the Harness Jewels and NZ Free-For-All after leading, South Coast Arden is to be feared in front but this race feels more suited to Self Assured’s talents and fitness level.

The other pacing race of the night sees unbeaten juveniles Merlin and Seve clash and the draws suggest Merlin will get more favours so he is the one to beat.

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by Michael Guerin

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