It's a Sunday sprint showdown
Impressive at trackwork, Pennywise and Nationality get set for battle
The seventh event on Sunday's card is shaping up to be a terrific contest between two up-and-coming youngsters.
In one corner, there's Pennywise and, in the other, we have Nationality.
One is a four-year-old. His name's Nationality and he trains out of the Lee Freedman camp.
The other is Pennywise. Just a three-year-old, he's under the tutelege of Ricardo Le Grange.
Yesterday morning - and separately - we saw both contenders kick up the dust on the training track and, as expected, both were in fighting form.
Nationality clocked 36.4sec for the 600m while Pennywise went a tad faster, stopping the clock at 35.6sec.
A four-year-old by Commands, Nationality has been off the board just once. That was when he blew the start on Nov 4. Installed the $12 favourite, he bounded in the air when the gates flew open, landed awkwardly and his race was run. All he could do was plod home among the tailenders.
That said, even if you lost a bundle that day, don't judge him on that performance.
Instead, remember the good times. Like when Nationality, with Daniel Moor in the saddle, gave his rivals a galloping lesson over the 1,000m on the Polytrack.
That day in mid-October, he took command at the turn and never surrendered the lead. He eventually coasted home - easing up - and with two lengths to spare.
It was only his second race start.
Last time out, Nationality put in a gallant effort when second to Whistling Wind. Obliged to race wide without cover for most of the journey, he still managed to finish just a half length behind the winner.
He would have trained on since then and, come Sunday, a big run is expected.
As for Pennywise, his credentials are impeccable.
Indeed, they cannot be faulted. Seven starts for four wins, a third and a fourth. How good is that?
Pennywise opened his account on debut when beating Makkem Lad by 21/2 lengths in a sprint for two-year-olds in May.
And we all know just how good Makkem Lad is.
Then, in his next start, when smashed on the tote to $10 favouritism, he showed fighting qualities - leading the field on a merry chase before brushing off a challenge from Autumn Assault.
It was in September that he beat another good one in Keepitup.
That was over the 1,200m and, to the delight of his fans, he made it an all-the-way affair.
On the same day - Nov 4 - when Nationality made a mess of things at the start, Pennywise padded up his own bank balance when winning for the fourth time.
It was in a different race from Nationality but again he made it look all too easy, beating Xiong Fong by almost a length over the 1,100m.
Pennywise has the potential to make it really big this year and a win at his first start in the new season won't be too much of a surprise.
Indeed, pound for pound, I'd say, he should floor Nationality on Sunday and bring up his fifth win.