The Avenel big guns are set to fire tomorrow night when NSW launches its lucrative summer carnival at Menangle.
Trainer David Aiken floated his champion pacers Hectorjayjay and Lennytheshark to Sydney on Monday for vital engagements tomorrow night.
Both are contesting different Group One $100000 sprint races in a bid for Miracle Mile inclusion in two weeks’ time.
They have to win or run second in these features to book their spot in the Miracle Mile.
Lennytheshark has come up with a plum barrier two in the Canadian Club Sprint, while Hectorjayjay comes from barrier five in the Allied Express Sprint.
Lennytheshark will be driven by his usual reinsman Chris Alford, while Josh Aiken again partners Lennytheshark.
Both races are over the same 1609m trip as the Chariots Of Fire.
Lennytheshark has Hunter Cup winner Bling It On to contend with, but the John McCarthy-trained pacer has drawn wide in barrier eight, which has evened things up considerably.
Hectorjayjay has also drawn inside what could be his main rivals Smolda (barrier eight) and Salty Robyn (barrier six).
Aiken also has Sanna Cruza contesting heat two of the NSW Pacers Oaks from a favourable poleline barrier draw.
Shepparton trainer Russell Jack also tackles a heat of the NSW Derby at Menangle.
He will be represented by Wardan Express, who has drawn barrier five in the first heat with Amanda Turnbull to drive.
Merrigum trainer Brett Bunfield won’t forget his trip to Swan Hill on Tuesday night for a long time.
The hobby trainer prepared his first winning double in Victoria since moving south several years ago.
Bunfield took the final two races on the program with pacers Yerrington Bob and Space Junk, also providing a driving double for reinsman Josh Duggan.
Yerrington Bob notched his 16th career win and took his prizemoney earnings to more than $100000 with a tough win in a C5 or better class race.
Space Junk, who is out of the winning Wrath Of Pan mare Always Lacking, was on debut in a three-year-old race and the Dawn Ofa New Day gelding was impressive in a peeling off a 57.2 last half and 1:56.9 mile rate.
Canberra-raised Brett and his wife Janelle prepare a team of eight and with both having full-time jobs and with two young children, there is not much leisure time at the Bunfield property at the moment.
But neither Brett or Janelle are complaining.
Wins do not come much more satisfying than the one Shepparton horseman Peter Cormican achieved with giant trotter Imamenace at Shepparton last Sunday.
Having his first start for more than two years, the six-year-old, driven by Greg Sugars, stepped straight to the front and was up to a challenge from the John Hallam-trained favourite Scorching Along in a two-horse war down the home straight.
Imamenace did not break the clock with his win, but that was the least of Cormican’s worries.
Getting him back to the track has been Cormican’s main agenda with the massive son of Eilean Donon and any early wins could be classed as a bonus.
Imamenace was thrust into the limelight in 2014 when he claimed the three-year-old colts and geldings Vicbred Super Series final for three-year-old trotters at only his second start in a race.
But he has had more than his share of troubles since, which have thoroughly tested his connections, and Sunday was only the eighth time he had faced the starter.
No doubt the win was also a good tonic for Cormican’s wife Shirley, who races the trotter on lease from Kyabram breeders Peter and Carmel Shellie.
Shepparton horsewoman Laura Crossland’s recent winning streak continued at Bendigo last week when she drove Hashtag to victory in a three-year-old race.
And Crossland would have earned 11 out of 10 for her drive on the Shadyshark Hanover three-year-old gelding.
Hashtag was last, trapped four back on the marker pegs, at the bell.
But Crossland bided her time and as two of the pacers directly in front of her moved to a one-out line, she suddenly found herself behind the leader and ready to make her winning move along the sprint lane in the home straight.
Hashtag was having only his second outing as a three-year-old and showed with a first-up third at Shepparton on February 1 he was in fine fettle for his Bendigo engagement.
He won two races in seven starts as a two-year-old.
Hashtag was not the only three-year-old by Shadyshark Hanover to win at Bendigo.
Filly Shady Secret took on the older horses in a CO series and delivered a narrow win over the John Hallam-trained Zhukov.
Bred by local horseman Glen Daldy, Shady Secret, who is trained by Alan Tubbs, is out of the former extra smart racemare The Milky Way, who won 10 of her 23 starts.
Came up trumps
Connections of Colbinabbin-trained Justtentrumps have put a twist on the name of his sire to name him — and it could be a name well worth noting.
The four-year-old prepared by Graham McDermott was sent out a hot favourite in a TO only four-year-old or older race at Bendigo last week and did a nice job of destroying his rivals.
He dashed over 1650m at a 2:00.1 mile rate to spreadeagle his rivals, with the runner-up Copa Comaida nearly 16m astern.
Justtentrumps is a four-year-old by Tennotrump out of the Village Jasper mare Bonnie Cheval and was having just his third start, so he could be a trotter with a future and is in good hands.
Over the Moon
Three-year-old filly Moon Over Manhattan notched her maiden win at her sixth start when she saluted for Shepparton trainer Russell Jack and reinsman son Nathan at Yarra Valley last week.
Coming off a second at Wangaratta at her previous start, the American Ideal filly was a bit too good for her rivals, pleasing the punters who had supported her as she was a $2.40 favourite on the tote. She posted a positive mile rate of 1:58.3 for the 1650m trip.
Bred and owned by Lauriston Bloodstock, Moon Over Manhattan had three top four finishes from four starts as a two-year-old.
Pair lands double
There was certainly some difference in the prices the two winners Byrneside horseman Damian Wilson landed for Mildura trainer Scott Garraway at Mildura last week.
Articape mare Penny Snatcher, who took a CO only four-year-old or older class race was expected to win as a $1.30 chance and those who ‘‘bought’’ their winnings never had a moment’s concern.
But it was a different story with Garraway’s other winner Kearney Lane, also driven by Wilson.
The Mister Big mare was a 23-1 shot and friendless in betting, but got the job done in a C2-C3 mares race in recording her third career win in 33 starts.
Wilson, who has a property at Byrneside, is a regular driver at Mildura and has his share of success there.
Form not fleeting
Kyabram trainer Mark Watson should have a perfect win record with promising pacer Fleeting Grin, who notched his fourth successive win when he saluted in a crowded finish in a C2-C4 class race at Swan Hill on Wednesday night.
The five-year-old son of Grinfromeartoear, a $2 favourite, raced wide over the final lap, but rallied down the home straight to beat outsiders Dance Of Fire and Realy Under Fire, recording a PB 1:55.6 mile rate over the 1750m trip.
Watson has given the pacer only the five starts and the only time he has not been in the winners stall was when he had his first start for him at Mildura last August, when he finished second and was a certainty beaten.
Fleeting Grin is a full brother to the classy pacer Stunning Grin, a winner of 15 races so far with a PB mile rate of 1:53.7.
They are both out of the winning Walton Hanover mare Rosalee Hanover, who was a winner of eight races.
Just keeps winning
Smart pacer Its Just Kenny continued the recent run of success for Congupna trainer Scott Stewart and posted a PB mile rate when he saluted at Melton last Friday night.
Having his third run this time in, Its Just Kenny took the honours in a $10000 C2-C3 final courtesy of a dream drive from Stewart, who never left the inside running.
He settled the Kenneth J five-year-old three back on the pegs and then secured a free run at the leaders when the pacer following the pace switched to the outside turning for home.
Its Just Kenny then sprint-laned to victory, his ninth in 24 starts.
Its Just Kenny, who rated a career best 1:55.5 for the 2240m trip, also proved profitable for his supporters starting at tote odds of more than 12-1.
One of harness racing’s most enduring sagas is not over yet.
On Tuesday at Albion Park in Queensland, 13-year-old pacing marvel Destreos returned to the winners list to record his 93rd career win at his 420th start.
Dubbed the ‘‘King of the Creek’’, Destreos defeated Karloo Kix and Liberalitus in a time of 1:53.3 for the 1660m. This was well outside of his PB effort of 1:51.9.
It was the grand old pacer’s 69th win at Albion Park and took his career earnings to more than $760000.
Having his fourth run back following a let-up, Destreos wasted little time in working his way to the front and despite racing keenly throughout, he dug deep when seriously challenged by Karloo Kix over the concluding stages.
Destreos scored by a half-head.
Destreos will again be in action when he lines up tomorrow night at Albion Park in the Rio Meteor Sulky Open Pace over 2138m.
Hoofnote: Destreos would have to win 16 more races to overhaul the record of wins recorded by the legendary Temora pacer Paleface Adios.
In the 1970s and 1980s Paleface Adios had 240 career starts for 108 wins and 68 placings that yielded prize money of $535640.
It is the Bendigo Cup meeting tonight, which features the Group Two $60000 Bendigo Pacing Cup and the Group One $50000 Aldebaran Park Maori Mile for the trotters.
Shepparton stages a day meeting next Wednesday.
Today: Bendigo (n).
Tomorrow: Melton (n), Albury (n).
Sunday: Kilmore (t).
Monday: Maryborough (d).
Tuesday: Cranbourne (n).
Wednesday: Shepparton (d), Mildura (n).
Thursday: Hamilton (d), Bendigo (n).
- Gus Underwood