Racing: $220,000 Thorndon Mile a nightmare puzzle for punters

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Racing: $220,000 Thorndon Mile a nightmare puzzle for punters

A lack of tempo threatens to turn the mile race of the season into a nightmare puzzle for punters at Trentham tomorrow.

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The $220,000 Thorndon Mile is the highlight of Wellington Cup day, especially after hot favourite Waisake was pulled out of the Cup on Wednesday, leaving it devoid of star power.

The Thorndon was already going to be the vastly superior race though, with late entries to the field in Two Illicit, Concert Hall, Mali Ston, Coventina Bay and The Chosen One making it clearly the hottest mile in New Zealand this season.

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But considering the undoubted depth of the Group 1, it lacks many natural leaders to bring out the best in a field, with plenty of horses probably closer to their peaks at 2000m or even further.

In a strong run 1:34 or faster mile horses such as The Chosen One, Concert Hall and Two Illicit could be ridden midfield or worse and still demonstrate their strength, while a sensational swooper like Coventina Bay would also appreciate a bunny to chase.

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But there aren’t many to be found, with few in the race having a natural jump and run style and one of the potential leaders in Wild Moose stepping up to this grade for the first time and not well weighted with 55kg, so perhaps unlikely to open the field up.

The other most logical leader is Vigor Winner, who is also not well suited by the weights and has appeared vulnerable at a mile so he is also unlikely to want to set up a fast gallop.

With Trentham being so vast, even those who do get back will still get the chance to run home hard and the track has been oddly biased to those coming down the middle on the first two days of this carnival.

Put all that into the mix and it suggests a far trickier race to work out because even the high-class favourites could be in trouble if they settle one spot too far back or are forced back to the inside.

“We would love tempo in the race, we always want that because then the best horses usually win,” says Roger James, who co-trains both Two Illicit and Concert Hall.

Two Illicit won the Captain Cook Stakes at Te Rapa over this trip two starts ago and was a luckless third in the Zabeel Classic last start so is James’ top tip of his two mares.

“They are both well and we were happy with their gallops on Tuesday but the draws make it niggly. It is a good race and won’t be an easy one to win,” he says.

As a Caulfield and Melbourne Cup placegetter, The Chosen One may seem the horse most looking for a solid mile but he has won over 1700m and finished third at a 1600m Group 2 to start his seasons the last two years, both times settling handier than you might expect from an elite stayer.

After a good trial last week he looks an each-way chance, while the impressive Mali Ston is not well off with 57kg but is a proven miler in super form.

The race may come down to initiative and Prise De Fer is one horse with the ability and jockey to go forward and control while Harlech’s best spring mile form gives him a bolter’s chance.

But the horse with the fitness, weight and form that might prove the perfect punting package is Coventina Bay.

While a wicked swooper, she has shown the ability to settle handier more often in the last year and if she is three pairs back on the inside from barrier 1 she will need only luck late to unwind a dazzling last 400m.

The question may be how much of a head of steam the proven Group 1 staying horses wider on the track have up by then and whether the inside again proves to be a disadvantage, or whether the track plays more evenly this week.

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