Racing: Franco Ledger to defend crown

Franco Ledger wins the $30,000 Central Otago Cup at Omakau in January last year. Photo by Tayler Strong
Franco Ledger wins the $30,000 Central Otago Cup at Omakau in January last year. Photo by Tayler Strong

He was the southern star of the spring, and Franco Ledger is back to defend his Central Otago Trotting Cup crown at Omakau today.

Not that it will matter massively to his owners.

Franco Ledger has taken the Whatever Syndicate - which is comprised of a bunch of mates, mainly from Otago and Southland - on a great ride over the past two seasons and the syndicate members are known for their exuberant celebrations.

''It'll be a big day win, lose or draw for them - they'll probably be there celebrating regardless,'' Hunter said.

Franco Ledger had a well-earned break after his two runs in New Zealand Cup week, to which Hunter gave mixed marks.

''I thought the [New Zealand] Cup run was slightly below what we had hoped for, but then again, that's group 1 racing at the highest level - it's all a part of being able to mix it with them,'' he said.

The draw and the unique mile start point at Addington made Franco Ledger's task in the New Zealand Free-For-All too difficult.

''I was very very pleased with him then. He didn't get a run. That type of race is luck on top of luck on top of luck,'' Hunter said.

''He's very well. He might lack racing, but other than that, we're very pleased with them.''

Sleepy Tripp is one of Franco Ledger's rivals in the cup, but is struggling to find winning form since his return from injury, running four straight seconds in his last four starts, while Four Starzzz Flash was excellent running under four minutes in the Ashburton Cup.

The Whatever Syndicate also co-own In The Kitty along with Hunter, and he is drawn to get a soft run behind Robyn's Raider.

The Falcon Seelster colt deservedly got out of the maiden grade with a one-and-a-quarter-length win at Winton on December 22.

''He's been a really nice 3yr old - he was placed in the Sires Stakes Silver, so that's probably his level,'' Hunter said.

''The horse in front looks favourable and it's 2000m so hopefully we're no worse than three back anyway.''

Hunter owns Highview Robyn, who is not too far from her first win.

''She's a lower-grade maiden, and she's been going around every week and funnily enough, she's getting slightly better,'' he said.

''She's drawn reasonably, too. The distance is right up her alley and the class of horse is right up her alley.''