By Michael Guerin
Brent Mangos got the proof he was hoping for in the City Of Auckland Free-For-All on Friday night.
Proof that when South Coast Arden draws to lead he can win any race in New Zealand, and that includes the $900,000 The Race at Cambridge in just over a month.
The giant pacer re-enacted his New Zealand Free-For-All triumph over Self Assured when he led early in the mobile 2200m at Alexandra Park and trainer-driver Mangos kept the hammer down over the last 800m in 54.8 seconds to just on.
But just like in the Free-For-All at Addington, Self Assured had looked to have South Coast Arden’s measure at the 100m mark before the equine mammoth fought back, showing his staying prowess.
It was the first time Mangos has driven his stable star to a major open class victory, missing his South Island campaigns last year and it helped make the win even more satisfying.
“It is great to have him back to that sort of form and I am not surprised he could do that because he is such a great stayer,” said Mangos.
“I knew it would take him a couple of runs to come to this level of form but it shows that when he is fit and can draw inside Self Assured he can beat him.
“Reverse the draws though and you probably reverse the result because Self Assured is a very good horse too.
“I actually held on to my horse a bit at the start so he didn’t get too fired up, which he can do, but he still has good early speed when I asked him to go.
“So that is a real strength for him.”
If anything their latest quinella was a warning sign to all others in The Race because both stars appear, at this early stage, to be right on target for the $900,000 new slot race and with one such a great stayer and the other so fast they present a formidable combo to try and down.
For South Coast Arden it was his 13th career success at start 29 and took him past $400,000 in stakes, a number that could easily double in the next three months.
Self Assured’s second sitting parked was so brave trainer-driver Mark Purdon was still thrilled while Hot And Treacherous continued to show he will be a worth The Race contender with his third.
Purdon’s also had to sit parked for part of Friday night’s $50,000 Alabar Classic but it mattered little to Akuta as he justified hot favouritism and returned to the head of the three-year-old pecking order.
He had a dab for the lead early but was held out by Magic Four, who also later held out Franco Indie when he came looking for the lead at the 1000m mark.
After such high pressure early the race looked set up for a swooper but Akuta, who has secured the one-one on the back of Franco Indie from the 1000m, exploded clear at the top of the straight and won far more like the superstar of last season’s Jewels.
“That was very good and just what we needed heading into the Derby (March 25),” said Purdon.
“He worked, settled and then sprinted so that was very impressive. You’d have to say he is back to being at the top of our three-year-old rankings after that.”
The huge improver was Bollinger, who stormed into second while Franco Indie was good in third, with the well-backed Beach Ball solid in the home straight after being involved in the early burn.
Most of the three-year-olds are likely to return to The Park for a Derby prelude on March 18 before the classic a week later.