The competition leader won’t be there, so the door is slightly ajar for someone to sneak in at the 11th hour and claim the Canterbury Country Cup championship from Airpark Flyer at Methven on Sunday.
Sunday’s Mt Hutt Trotting Club Cup is the final race in the Canterbury championship and therefore carries double points for those competing.
That means Airpark Flyer, who currently holds a 15-point lead over his nearest rival, Di Caprio with a further five points back to the third-placed Johnny Eyre has one hand on the trophy, but can’t quite grab the other just yet.
Both Di Caprio and Johnny Eyre are missing from the nominations for Methven as well, leaving just three horses who could beat him; Gore Bay, Mogul and My Wee Man. All three would have to win to outright grab the prize, although a second placing for Gore Bay on Sunday would see him draw level with Airpark Flyer.
The winner of the championship gets $6,000 and a dress rug while there are also cash prizes to the connections of those who finish second and third. Both the North Island and Southland championships won’t be decided until late in April.
The championship has been running in Canterbury since the Westport Cup on Boxing Day which, incidentally, was won by Airpark Flyer.
His trainer, Trent Yesberg had designs on being at Methven this week but after Sunday’s Waimate Cup he pulled the pin on those plans.
“It was going to be a bridge too far,” Yesberg said.
“Getting off those handicaps when they’re running along in front, it’s just too much to ask of him so he’s in the paddock for eight weeks.
“And I’m pretty excited about being able to do that with him because he’s been up for a long time and come a long way at the same time.”
Despite being well beaten on Sunday, Airpark Flyer still ran the fastest time of the race – adding credence to Yesberg’s comments about having to come off handicaps.
Since lining up first for Yesberg in September last year, Airpark Flyer has had 13 starts for six wins and three minor placings.
“He’s effectively gone from being a struggling one-win horse to all but open class in one campaign, he’s come a long way.
“And now, with a good break ahead of him, hopefully he can come back even better.
“We’re going to give him the best possible chance and also give him the opportunity to take on the good ones, too.”
Yesberg said the Methven Cup in October, a race in which Airpark Flyer appeared very unlucky in last season, would be the first main aim.