U May Cullect faces toughest test of career to date

U May Cullect and driver Kirstin Barclay drew rapturous applause from the Ascot Park crowd on...
U May Cullect and driver Kirstin Barclay. PHOTO: KATIE SUTHERLAND
Like U May Cullect's legion of supporters, trainer-driver Kirstin Barclay cannot wait to see how her southern sensation measures up in the toughest test of his career at Addington tonight.

The unbeaten hero, whom Barclay trains in partnership with Paul "Tank" Ellis, will meet genuine open class opposition for the first time in the listed Uncut Gems Classic.

The stable staff are not approaching the race with any nervousness; instead, they are excited to see how their star will handle the challenge.

"I can't wait," Barclay said.

"It is his first chance against that type of horse, so I'm really looking forward to see how he will stack up against them."

The fast times and stunning sectional splits U May Cullect has produced in his six wins suggest he should have no trouble at listed race level.

Barclay is confident he will, but is not getting ahead of herself.

"I am confident he will be very competitive in that grade, without being over-confident.

"I have got massive respect for Robert Dunn's horse [Classie Brigade] and Triple Eight - they have already been in that grade for a long time."

U May Cullect comes in to his seventh start after destroying a much weaker line-up, that included race rival Franco Santino, in his last start at Ascot Park.

His nearly seven-length winning romp provided the pacer with a vital hit-out after a heel issue and tide trouble at Invercargill's Oreti Beach hindered his training regime.

Those issues have not troubled Barclay and Ellis ahead of tonight's race, which has made for a trouble-free lead up for U May Cullect.

"He has been really good - Tank has been really happy with him as well," Barclay said.

"Everything has gone to plan the last week, we have been able to get the work into him.

"The beach has been good, so we have been able to stick to our normal programme."

U May Cullect has shown a racing temperament as impressive as his natural ability in his six-start career.

That means Barclay is not stressed about tactics ahead of the Uncut Gems Classic.

"I will just actually leave it to the horse.

"It is 2600m, so I don't mind if I have to go back or go forward, because he relaxes so well.

"I will wait to see what he feels like behind the gate and if wants to go forward we will go forward. If not, we will sit in and work into it later.

"He is handling whatever way you drive him, so I am not too concerned."

Bookmakers opened U May Cullect at $1.40 favourite for tonight's $40,000 feature.

Comeback pacer Classie Brigade and North Island raider Triple Eight were the other horses at a single-figured price on market opening.

Minister for Racing Winston Peters announced yesterday that Wingatui racecourse had been successful in securing funding for two projects under the Government's Racing Safety Development Fund.

Seventeen projects are to receive $389,351 from the fund to improve safety at racecourses around New Zealand.

The Otago Racing Club is to receive $31,754 to improve the Wingatui course's southern bend and replace its track mower.


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