Huge TAB Auckland Cup Day at Manukau Stadium this Sunday

2022 Auckland Cup winner Opawa Superstar was the fastest heat winner on Sunday.

The last two winners of the $80,000 TAB Auckland Cup will clash in Sunday’s final, following three-actioned-packed 527m heats at the Manukau Stadium last Sunday.

Action-packed, with the obvious discussion point being the failure of warm TAB NZ favourite for the Group 1 event Federal Infrared failing to advance after she suffered from an impeded early racing passage in her heat.

The 2022 Auckland Cup winner Opawa Superstar ($1.85 – TAB NZ Final Field) threw down the gauntlet to his rivals when delivering his strong 30.41 heat win. It was an impressive performance from the Dave and Jean Fahey-prepared multiple Group race winner, with this assignment being the first time he has raced since 10 August 2023.

“I’m happy with the way he has come through his heat, pulling up pretty good. His draw (3) should be okay, although there’s a bit of speed on his outside. Hopefully he can hold up on the rail for a fair way. Fingers crossed,” expressed Dave Fahey about his charge who produced a handy 4.65 heat first sectional.

Space Boy ($5.50) will return to defend his Auckland Cup title that he so stylishly won last year for Lisa Cole, when outfinishing his rivals and nailing his 30.72 heat win. Strength at the business end of his races characterises his races.

“He races really good at Manukau. He isn’t the quickest from the boxes; however, he has the track sense to take up a field position from where he can bring it home strongly like he did in his heat. He has pulled up in good order from his heat and he can repeat last year’s win,” advised Brendon Cole.

Cole will have a sound back-up contender in the rich final, with the current New Zealand Derby title holder and only Australian-bred finalist in the drawn field Blazin’ Master ($6.50), who resolutely stuck to his task when closing to within 1.25 lengths of Opawa Superstar.

“He has the ability to come away quickly, therefore he can negate his wide draw (7). I believe if he takes up a handy position going into the first turn, then yes, he can make his presence felt. He’s ready to go on Sunday,” said Cole.

Space Tron ($9) finished fourth in last year’s Cup final for Cole. On this occasion, the litter brother to Space Boy will be sighted wearing the green and white racing vest if he’s required after he also charged late for his 4.25 length heat third to Carlos Jewel.

Last year’s Auckland Cup third placegetter Carlos Jewel ($12) will return for this edition after his strong finishing 30.94 heat win for his conditioner Craig Roberts. He has developed into a consistent iron-dog, as evidenced by this being his 105th raceday outing.

“He’s as tough as they come. He loves racing in Auckland and the key for him will be getting himself handy during the early rush. His draw (1) can help him, as he will sit on the fence all day and hopefully he’ll be third or fourth going into the first turn.

“From there, he can bring it home strongly like he did in his heat. He has arrived home alright,” advised Roberts about his charge who raced through the $100,000 stakes earning barrier with his heat win.

The Sean Codlin-prepared Sweet Potential ($8.50) will carry the hopes of a local TAB Auckland Cup victory after she delivered a courageous race for her three-quarter length second behind Space Boy. She used her known early pace to cross the field from trap-eight to lead into the first turn.

She resisted the challenges that were thrown at her, and she only yielded late within the shadows of the post.

“She had an easy time going into her heat and she felt the pinch late. She has come through her heat in great shape and I’m happy with her draw (4) – away from the rail, while not being out wide.

“She has been a reliable beginner at Manukau for a long time and I’m hoping that at least she can get a drag along with Opawa Superstar,” outlined Codlin. 

The New Zealand Cup fourth placegetter Silky Adobe ($13) will return to Manukau next Sunday after Matt Roberts presented him to finish solidly from an early rear field position to snatch his 0.9 length third to Space Boy.

“He trialled pretty ordinarily up there prior to his heat. He was much better, although still racing a tad greenly in his heat. I believe he will be further improved for the final, with him being more familiar with the track.

“I would have preferred for him to have drawn a wee bit wider (6). He’ll need a bit of luck as he isn’t the fastest into stride, but he is capable of being right up there. He came through his heat as good as gold,” stated Roberts. 

Garry Cleeve will return north with his talented chaser Charley Horse ($9), who was sighted doing his best work at the business end of his heat when winding up three lengths astern of Opawa Superstar.

“He ran a competitive time in his heat, which says he will be competitive in the final, pleasing me with his first race up there. His draw (8) has made his job a wee bit harder for him in what is a very good field. He might be lucky enough to get a scoot around the outside around the first turn.

“He’s gaining experience with all of his travelling, which holds him in good stead, and he came through last week’s trip very well,” confirmed Cleeve.

Completing the drawn field is another Canterbury trained chaser Goldstar Brooks ($21), who was really bold in the manner that she set up the pace in her track debut outing for Riley Evans. She was gunned down during the run home by Carlos Jewel, when finishing her three-quarters of a length second to him.     

“I was happy with her heat run, especially with the way she crossed the field. I’m not bothered with her draw (5), as she has to pick the jump. She’s a chance for the minors if she leads early.

“She has come through her race and trip good and has been bouncing around back here. I’m happy to be contesting a Group 1 final with her,” said Evans.

Occupying the second position on the reserves bench will be Pryor Bale ($10) for Craig Roberts, who kicked on stoutly for his 3.5 length heat fourth to Opawa Superstar.

The TAB Auckland Cup is Race 10 on Sunday afternoon at 4:09pm.

By Peter Fenemor

Posted on 25 January 2024

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