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Finding a good position in the first 100m of today’s Southern Supremacy Stakes at Ascot Park will be crucial for home-town hero Pembrook Playboy.
The Southland pacer’s quest to win his province’s flagship race for 3yr-old colts and geldings got a little complicated when he drew barrier 1 on the second row of the mobile.
With no other horses on the second line, it may appear a simple case of trainer-driver Nathan Williamson having to angle Pembrook Playboy off the inside to avoid him getting stuck on the markers.
But Williamson is taking nothing for granted with group 3 honours and a $30,000 stake on the line.
"If John Morrison, on Racing Minister, is easing back from [barrier] 2, it might be difficult for me to come off the fence and come out," he said.
"He could get pushed to the fence by those better horses and even if I was on his back I could still get eased down.
"It is just going to be a little bit tricky over that first couple of hundred metres to get off the fence, because obviously I wouldn’t want to be five back on the inside."
Williamson has the pacer’s condition exactly where he wants it after Pembrook Playboy’s two brilliant recent wins at Winton and Ascot Park.
"I gave him a quiet trial on Saturday and I was really happy with him," Williamson said.
"He was second to Franco Santino, but he finished nicely and it was just a good blowout for him.
"He finished strong."
Stylish Memphis is fit and ready for her Oaks challenge.
The Mark Jones-trained pacer will attempt to match her New South Wales Oaks victory and go one better than her runner-up effort in the Victoria Oaks when the group 3 Southland Oaks Final takes place on Southland’s biggest day of harness racing.
Stylish Memphis’ staying qualities cannot be questioned leading into the 2700m feature, if the incredible times she ran in those Australian efforts are anything to go by.
And her fitness levels can not be doubted, either, after she helped set up a New Zealand record for Classie Brigade when clashing with open-class horses, before duelling with fellow star filly Amazing Dream in her latest run.
"She has shown over the 2600m when she led up in a New Zealand record and with her runs in the Oaks in Aussie that the 2700m definitely won’t be a concern," Jones said.
"She has had a couple of good hard runs the last couple of weeks.
"They have brought her on and they were definitely what she needed," Jones said.
"Last week against Amazing Dream we thought it might be a walk around and sprint home, but they went a 1.56 mile rate, so it was good to get a good run in to her."
Jones has been able to time his run into the Southland Oaks much more easily than his last-ditch effort to qualify her for the race in July.
"We had a foot problem about a month ago, but everything has gone good since then and she should have no excuses."
Plutonium Lady gives Jones a strong hand in the race. She has raced over distance of 2700m only once, but when she got to within three-quarters of a length of Amazing Dream in the Northern Oaks.