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Unbeaten pacing star Millwood Nike ready to conquer open class

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Millwood Nike beating Mantra Blue in the Sires’ Stakes Final at Addington.

New Zealand’s princess of pacing is ready to return.

And trainer Nathan Purdon says unbeaten mare Millwood Nike is going to be aimed at the New Zealand Cup in November even after more than six months on the sidelines.

Millwood Nike is one of the great Down Under pacing fillies of all time, having won all 17 of her starts with her Sires’ Stakes Championship victory in November one of the most dazzling performances of either code in the recent history of New Zealand racing.

She sat three wide almost the entire 1980m race yet won the Group 1 by six lengths.

Millwood Nike won her next start before injury on the eve of the NZ Oaks ruled her out of her last race of the season and initially put her career in doubt.

But co-trainer Purdon says while Millwood Nike hurting herself in her paddock and costing her an Oaks was hard to take at the time, the nature of the injury has been a blessing.

“She tore her tendon but she did in mucking around in the paddock and we saw it only an hour or two after she did it so we able to get straight to work on it,” explains Purdon.

“So it is not like a trackwork or race accident where it can happen under stress and be damaged more.

“She has had the best care since and in her latest scan our vet said if she didn’t know to check that exact area she wouldn’t have even detected where the wear was.”

That means Millwood Nike will start work again this week but as a Rating 90 pacer when she does resume racing she will have to dive straight back into open class, taking on the likes of Merlin and Don’t Stop Dreaming.

That is a hard enough mountain to climb for any mare coming out of age group racing but it will get steeper if Australian pacing hero Leap To Fame crosses the Tasman for the New Zealand Cup in November, which is his plan at this stage.

Purdon is relaxed about that scenario.

“The New Zealand Cup is her logical aim and clearly our biggest race left this year so that is what she will be aimed at, at least initially.

“The way I look at it she will either stay sound and healthy in which case she should be able to make the Cup easily enough or she won’t and she will rule herself out.

“The scans suggest she will be all right but if she isn’t and needs a month on the water walker at some stage to take pressure off her legs then we won’t be going to the Cup.”

Millwood Nike of course has the option of mares’ races both here and in Australia if the open class ranks prove too intense a return to racing but her most logical target should she fulfil her potential is the Race by Grins at Cambridge next April.

The stake of the slot race could even increase in 2025 from its $1 million this year and if Millwood Nike makes it that far she would appeal to any slot holder because of the advantage mares get in being guaranteed the inside barrier draw.

While Millwood Nike is ready to return Purdon says the stable’s other injured superstar Akuta is further away even though his prognosis has also improved.

“Because he hurt himself on the track he did more damage and suffered more bruising and it didn’t look good for him racing again,” explains Purdon.

“But the latest scans are a lot better and we are far more confident now he can make it back to the track.

“He is further away than Millwood Nike though and he won’t be in the New Zealand Cup this year.”

Purdon is in Brisbane campaigning two three-year-olds and has Major Hot in a very winnable last race at Albion Park on Saturday before he contests the Derbys there.

Stablemate Treacherous Love will kick off her Queensland campaign next Tuesday before chasing the Oaks races.

Michael Guerin wrote his first nationally published racing articles while still in school and started writing about horse racing and the gambling industry for the Herald as a 20-year-old in 1990. He became the Herald’s Racing Editor in 1995 and covers the world’s biggest horse racing carnivals.

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