Turn it up! Ashburton the place to be

I never thought I would say this, but Ashburton is the place to be this long weekend. It has an excellent card of gallops racing on Saturday and the harness racing on Monday looks just as good.

Splitting those meetings is a little race called the Caulfield Cup.

Here are eight must-watch races for racing fans this weekend:

The Sires Stakes heat at Addington at 8.10pm tonight

This series has already provided two cracking heats, but tonight it goes to another level.

A blue wave of four smart Purdon-Rasmussen pacers look set to dominate this race. They are headed by Jesse Duke, who, on raw ability, looked the most talented 2yr-old male pacer racing last season. I am looking forward to him realising his potential this season.

The 3yr-old stakes race, Ashburton, 3.34pm tomorrow

The lead-up to the One Thousand Guineas and Two Thousand Guineas at Riccarton is really starting to heat up.

Xpression looks a class above her rivals and is a worthy favourite.

1400m looks perfect for her racing style and she will be extremely hard to beat.

A group of emerging 3yr-olds are also out to boost their group 1 prospects in the race and they will not make it easy for the favourite.

The open 1200m sprint, Ashburton, 4.09pm tomorrow

Speedy northern star Prom Queen is back in the South Island, where she loves to run and run fast.

She looks a massive winning chance, but to win she must take down two very classy sprinters.

And they have both won one of New Zealand's premier sprint races, the Telegraph.

Signify and Enzo's Lad have been handicapped with more than 60kg. They also have claiming riders and that weight relief helps set up an enthralling clash.

The Caulfield Cup, 6.40pm Saturday

The spring really is here - the first major cups race of 2018 has arrived.

As this paper is printed, first emergency and Otago hero Patrick Erin has not made the field.

Let's hope one of the many European horses in the race - preferably one that will be sent out only as a pacemaker - will be scratched to let our boy in.

If not, it will be up to Jon Snow to fly the Kiwi flag. He is capable of doing that and is a better chance than his $30-plus odds suggest.

Kings Will Dream is a former European, but trained by star Aussie trainer Darren Weir, and is my pick in the race.

The feature trot, Forbury Park, 3.23pm Sunday

First-up runs are rarely as impressive as the win Pres The Belle produced at Ascot Park earlier this month. She looks a standout in Sunday's field, though she does meet a tougher line-up than last time.

Playboy's Brother looks a sneaky each-way hope as he is dropping dramatically in class from his recent racing.

The Tuapeka Cup, Forbury Park, 3.58pm Sunday

This is of the most anticipated races on the Forbury Park calendar each year and it has drawn a nice little field.

Pat's Delight looks a standout on form alone. His recent trial, where he powered along in front of a really nice field, suggests he is ready to win. The best part of that was his clean standing-start getaway.

He faces his first stand under race conditions on Sunday. That task may be as tricky as the race gets for him.

The Ashburton Flying Stakes, Ashburton, 3.42pm Monday

The rising fitness levels of the New Zealand Cup favourites should put every horse on a level mark in this race.

Ultimate Machete and Star Galleria are sure to be improved after their slightly disappointing Methven Cup runs.

Dream About Me is a deserving favourite and, believe me, she has more improvement to come.

I think this could be the race Otago favourite Eamon Maguire can really stand up in. He will not be short of supporters, that is for sure.

The Ashburton Trotters Flying Mile, Ashburton, 4.53pm Sunday

A brilliant and even line-up of squaregaiters will scorch over the Ashburton Mile in this race, and I am looking at the proven sprinter-milers to lead the way.

Defending champion Great Things Happen has a great draw. Marcoola does not, but he has the gate speed to overcome that.

I am thinking Harriet Of Mot is much better suited over ground, but she is in rare form, so I will be watching her with interest.


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