Spankem thriving as first cup race of season awaits

Spankem will attempt to add the Taylor Mile to his Miracle Mile title at Alexandra Park tonight....
The news for the connections of Spankem's big-race rivals is all bad ahead of the pacer's first race of the season at Addington tonight.

The Miracle Mile winner will take his first raceday step towards the New Zealand Cup when he lines up in the New Brighton Cup.

The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen-trained gelding had a stunning 4yr-old term, in which he went from obscurity to Grand Circuit star in just a matter of months.

He had been off the scene for 10 months with injury before his outstanding campaign.

"He is thriving and I think last season made him," Purdon said.

"He seems a little bit stronger this time around."

Spankem returns in a 2600m free-for-all standing-start race alongside his stablemates, Ultimate Sniper and Chase Auckland.

The trio trialled at Ashburton last week. Spankem dashed home to win impressively, with Ultimate Sniper running third after carting the winner around the home turn.

Chase Auckland also trialled well, putting in an eye-catching finish behind the leaders.

Purdon said all three were in similar order.

"They are pretty much on a level playing field, but if I had to favour one it would be Spankem. He is a horse that has raced well fresh, so you would probably lean towards him."

Both Ultimate Sniper and Chase Auckland will have their first standing-starts in the New Brighton Cup.

Both stepped safely in last week's trial and they are expected to cope well behind the tapes tonight.

Ultimate Sniper will start for the first time since having minor knee surgery after winning the New Zealand Derby in April.

"His preparation has been faultless and he has been no setbacks through it and everything has gone smoothly," Purdon said.

He expects Ultimate Sniper to measure up in open company.

"He was probably the best of the 3yr-olds of his year and the best one can generally come out and foot it with the open-company horses. And I think he has got everything he needs to be able to do it."

Chase Auckland returns to racing much earlier than he did last season.

A muscle complaint and a mixed run of luck on the track, and with draws when he finally made the races, meant the 5yr-old did not get to realise his potential last term.

Purdon said the horse may need racing before he shows his best this term.

"He is probably going to need the run a little bit. But I am sure Chase Auckland will go a good race."

The Purdon-Rasmussen trio will clash with two of trainer Robert Dunn's team in Classie Brigade and Henry Hubert.

Henry Hubert has had two trials in readiness for his 5yr-old season.

The Greg and Nina Hope-trained A G's White Socks and Paul Court's Hail Christian also contest tonight's feature.


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