Start manners could make or break pacer

Can do better . . . but A G’s White Socks needs to kick his habit of stepping badly at the start...
Can do better . . . but A G’s White Socks needs to kick his habit of stepping badly at the start.PHOTO: RACE IMAGES SOUTH
Some say the older you get, the wiser you get, but that does not appear to be the case for Hannon Memorial contender A G's White Socks.

The Greg and Nina Hope-trained 6yr-old will attempt to go one better than his runner-up effort behind Dream About Me when he takes on this year's race at Oamaru tomorrow.

Twelve months ago, A G's White Socks pinged away from the standing-start tapes to lead, before narrowly going down in an action-packed finish.

The chances of the pacer making the same kind of beginning this year look bleak, if his recent manners are anything to go by.

The formerly brilliant beginner has developed a habit of putting in some rough strides after stepping off the mark.

And it is not only giving driver Ricky May a headache; it is giving a major advantage to his rivals.

That was evident when A G's White Socks began quickly before putting in some rough steps and had to settle three back on the markers in the New Brighton Cup last weekend.

``At the start he made a flyer, actually; he was in front and then he put some skips in,'' May said.

``It sort of cost him leading, really; the other horse [Chase Auckland] headed me off. If he had have been in front it would have been a different story.''

A G's White Socks was effectively out of play when Chase Auckland paced his last 800m in 54.5sec from the front to win.

Though he only looked to battle into fourth, A G's White Socks raced the last split in the same time as the winner.

That effort backed up the 6yr-old's 54.2sec last 800m in his first start for the season behind Classie Brigade in the Maurice Holmes Vase.

His fast finishes and the feel he has given his driver have May convinced the horse is thriving.

``He has got a lot of speed and he proved that at the end of last season. He is not far away; he has just got to stop putting a few rough steps at the start.

A G's White Socks trailed the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen-trained trio of Chase Auckland, Spankem and Ultimate Sniper home in the New Brighton Cup.

Spankem produced even more impressive sectionals when speeding home wide on the track to grab second place.

Like A G's White Socks, he was a stride slow to begin and settled back in the field.

If Spankem repeats the sizzling 54.0sec last 800m and 25.3sec last 800m he produced at Addington, he must be the horse to beat in the Hannon Memorial.

Chase Auckland boosted his New Zealand Cup claims in what was effectively his first taste of open-class racing against older horses with his good win in the cup.

A repeat of that effort, including the standing start manners he showed, will make him highly competitive again.

Ultimate Sniper could not match Chase Auckland or Spankem when they clashed at Addington.

The horse was presented in bigger condition than his stablemates and could be the biggest improver of the trio at Oamaru.

Arguably the biggest interest in tomorrow's event will be around how boom Southland pacer U May Cullect will fare in his first test in the big leagues.

The Kirstin Barclay and Paul Ellis-trained 6yr-old must firstly step away from the often tricky barrier 1 position.

Barclay said she was confident her pacer could do exactly that.

If U May Cullect does get away on terms, his fortunes could be dictated by which horses are able to cross him at the start and where he is positioned in the run.

With any clear air during the event, harness racing fans and U May Cullect will answer the question his legions of followers having been waiting to answer - how will he fare at the top level?

The pacer ran his last 800m in 53.3sec at Winton two weeks ago. That suggests his fans will get the answer they are looking for.

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