Quality stayer Five To Midnight was beaten by the smallest of margins in last year’s Gr. 1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup, and he will return to Ellerslie on Saturday to try to go one better in the $500,000 feature.
The son of Domesday finished second in a head-bobbing finish to last year’s race, beaten by a nose by Ladies First.
Five To Midnight has won three races this season, all under big weights – 58.5 kilograms in an open handicap at Hastings, 60 kilograms in the Listed Feilding Gold Cup and 60 kilograms in the $100,000 Karaka Cup.
He was a last-start third placegetter under 59 kilograms in the Gr. 2 Avondale Cup, and he drops to 56 kilograms on Saturday under the set weights and penalties conditions.
“He’s going into the race in really good order,” trainer Lisa Latta said. “We put him out in the paddock for a couple of days when we got him home after the Avondale Cup. He’s been thriving since he came back in.
“The drop to 56 kilograms is going to be an absolutely massive help this weekend. We’re looking forward to it. Johnathan Parkes will ride him.”
The TAB rates Five To Midnight a $6.50 third favourite in its fixed-odds market for the Auckland Cup. Avondale Cup winner Glory Days heads the market at $3.50, while Charles Road is at $4.50.
The only others in single figures are the Nathans Memorial winner Gundown and the interesting runner Vengeur Masque, who has travelled over from Mike Moroney’s Melbourne stable. They are each rated an $8 chance.
-Richard Edmunds, The Informant