Italian Delight (left) winning at Alexandra Park last week. Photo: Trish Dunell
Favourable race conditions will see Italian Delight go out a short-priced favourite for the $17,000 Franklin Country Cup at Alexandra Park on Friday night.
A maximum back mark of 30 metres for the Rating 60-front race means the horse, a rating 93 and impressive winner on the track last week, is virtually ‘thrown in’ against grass track horses.
The race is restricted to horses that have raced at least once on the grass in the North Island this summer and that has seen just a seven-horse field carded with Manawatu racing on Thursday.
Italian Delight’s trip to Tauranga in late January made him eligible for the race and trainer/driver Tony Herlihy is more than happy to take advantage of the conditions.
“You’d like to think the race is his to lose; on paper he is the class horse of the field,” said the usually-understated horseman.
“You never know with racing, and he’s only had the one standing start before, but he stepped away reasonably well that time and is a pretty sensible horse.’
Herlihy expects a good night at the office with a quality team that also includes The Almighty Johnson, Gold Orchid and Revolver.
The latter was an impressive debut winner after some superb trial form, but will likely drop back at the start from a wide draw this week.
He was, in fact, a yearling sale purchase by Herlihy’s brother-in-law, Mark Purdon, and did his early education in Christchurch with him.
“Mark rung up and said the horse had taken a knock to the leg and it didn’t look great, but he just felt it needed a bit of time and he was pretty sure it would be fine.
“He knew Doug Donaldson from his time up here – Doug has a share in Temporale and a few others for me – and thought it would be good if the horse grazed on Doug’s farm up north.
“He said he had an abundance of horses and didn’t have the time to put in to this one that was needed.
“When he said he liked him that was good enough for me so he went up to Doug’s in Kaiwaka for six months.”
Fast-forward to now and Herlihy reckons you’d never know the horse had been injured.
“You wouldn’t even know where the bump was – I can’t see it, not that I look too hard.”
What he can see is a bit of a future for the horse now owned by Donaldson, his wife and Herlihy’s wife Suzanne.
“He’s got high speed and a bit of get-up-and-go about him.
“And he’s a big, gangly boy so I think time will only be his friend.”
He reckons the son of Auckland Reactor could lead on Friday night if asked, but he won’t do that, thinking to the future.
“He has a lot of gate speed, but I think if I used it every start it would be the downfall of him.
“It will be good for him to learn to come from behind this week.”
Gold Orchid may yet head south to Addington for the New Zealand Oaks and Fillies Series Final next month, but it’s not a given.
“She’s a very talented filly but is just a bit lightly-framed and I’m going to be a bit careful with her.
“With the Jewels on her back doorstep I don’t want to be tough on her.
“I haven’t had a good look at her field this week but she’s drawn well and will be in with a good chance.”