Racing: Big goals for Saveapatrol but first, Southland

Southland looms large in Saveapatrol's short-term future, but the impressive pacer may find himself campaigning at Addington or in Australia before the season is out.

The 3yr-old Christian Cullen gelding has given Burnham trainer-driver Mark Jones plenty to think about ever since he was given the horse as a weanling through owner Grant Hatton. He goes into tomorrow's assignment at Ascot Park unbeaten from two starts, even if Jones was not completely satisfied with the win at the same venue on January 17.

''He was too good for them, but I was a shade disappointed,'' Jones said.

''I probably had him a run short, too. I'd like to think he'll improve with the run because I thought he could have won a wee bit better, but it wasn't the best day.''

A $10,000 3yr-old mobile event programmed for the meeting failed to attract enough nominations which frustrated Jones, particularly as there was a Harness Plus bonus available for Saveapatrol if he won. Instead, he will line up in a 1-2 win pace from behind the tapes.

''He's had one [standing start] and began well, so it's well within his range, put it that way.''

Once Saveapatrol is safely through tomorrow's 2700m event, Jones will have to weigh up the potential talent in his compact pacer with the quality of his rivals. The Victoria Derby on February 2 will give Jones a good guide for Saveapatrol's short-term future, as he decides whether to send him to the New South Wales Derby on March 3, an option he describes as ''50-50'' at this stage.

''We'll probably watch the Victoria Derby to see how the Kiwis measure up to the Australian ones, as they look quite strong this year. Probably, the New Zealand Derby is the only realistic goal if he does race in a derby but he's got to step up, too.''

Saveapatrol's two starts in Southland to date have qualified him for a place in the $25,000 Autumn Futurity in March and the $40,000 group 2 Southern Supremacy Stakes in April.

Ohoka Texas will be back to his regular tactics when Jones takes him out on to the track for the group 3 Invercargill Cup.

Jones was slightly disappointed in Ohoka Texas, even though he finished a game second to Samuel James at Addington last Friday.

''He should have won that, but everything suits this week - two miles, not a big field and it's probably not the strongest Invercargill Cup field.''