All eyes will be on boom pacer San Carlo tonight at Melton as he further pushes his case for an Inter Dominion campaign in Perth in December.
His Shepparton trainer Steve O’Donoghue has been carefully plotting his course and it’s a bit of a moment-of-truth scenario when he steps out in a classy field in the Group Two $60000 Aldebaran Breeders Crown Graduate Pacers Free For All.
San Carlo will come from an ideal barrier two draw in the 2240m showdown.
O’Donoghue is naturally happy with that, but knows it’s his six-year-old’s biggest test to date with some talented and in-form rivals including Ameretto, Our Maxim, Tee Cee Bee Macray, Burnaholeinmypocket and My Kiwi Mate.
‘‘This will tell us whether he is up with the good ones, or two or four lengths off them. It’s a pretty good field and we will know where we are at with him,’’ O’Donoghue said.
A son of Mach Three, San Carlo will be shooting for seven successive wins and 18 victories in 20 starts when he faces the starter.
A top three finish would also swell his prize money earnings to more than $100000.
O’Donoghue also has fairytale pacer Glenferrie Bazaar contesting the opening event tonight at Melton.
Stable driver Bec Bartley will pilot San Carlo and Glenferrie Bazaar.
Keen to cash in
Apart from San Carlo district, trainers and drivers will be chasing the big money tonight and on Sunday as the lucrative Breeders Crown series draw to a climax.
Wahring horseman Daniel Jack is chasing the same race tonight as San Carlo with his comeback pacer Nowitzki.
Kyabram trainer Mick Blackmore has Claudys Princess contesting the $35000 Woodlands Stud Breeders Crown Graduate Trotters Free For All at the meeting.
In the same race David Abrahams has Fabrication and David Aiken will be represented by Maorisfavouriteson.
Blackmore will line-up Claudys Princess’ younger full brother Claudys Prince in the Group One $65000 Three-Year-Old Colts and Geldings Breeders Crown final at Melton on Sunday.
Another district trainer, Clive Dalton, is also chasing the $20000 Alabar Breeders Crown Graduate Cup at tonight’s meeting.
On finals day on Sunday huge prize money is up for grabs.
Aiken has seven runners and dual states trainer Amanda Turnbull will line-up four starters at the meeting which has a staggering $1.26million in prize money up for grabs.
Turnbull has two runners, Carter Bromac and Majordan, in the $50000 Breeders Crown Championship for four-year-old entires and geldings which the Wayne Potter-trained Itz Billy Hillis and the Aiken-prepared I Will Rock You are also contesting.
Majesty in regal form
Shepparton trainer-driver Laura Crossland has certainly ‘‘clicked’’ with trotting mare Sky Majesty.
Crossland has had the four-year-old daughter of Skyvalley for only seven starts and the mare has not finished further back than fourth in any of those outings.
There have been two wins, three seconds, a third and a fourth since Crossland took over the trotter’s training.
Sky Majesty followed up her win at Maryborough during the recent Redwood Carnival with another win at Melton last Friday night, causing a boilover in the process.
New Zealander Chevron Express was sent out a $1.60 chance in the race, but was run down in the shadows of the post by Sky Majesty who led early and then took the sit on the favourite.
Those who have been following the Crossland stable and Sky Majesty had a windfall as the mare paid more than $17 on the tote for the win.
‘‘She is going really well at the moment and if she keeps on improving we hope we can win a metropolitan class race with her,’’ Crossland said.
Crossland will be chasing a hat-trick of wins with Sky Majesty tonight at Melton when she contests the $30000 Group Two Breeders Crown Championship for four-year-old mares.
Kima home on bolter
Kima Frenning is likely to drive a lot more winners, but not many will be the price of her latest winner.
The Swedish reinswoman piloted the David Murphy-trained Shancurragh to victory at Ballarat last Saturday night.
Those who follow Frenning and have a flutter on the horses she drives had a decent windfall as Shancurragh paid $97.80 for the win on the tote.
Not too many winners start at that price.
Frenning was able to tuck Shancurragh, a BGs Folly three-year-old filly, directly behind the pacesetter and get an inside run in the home straight to claim victory by a head against another longshot Acacia Avenue.
Shancurragh’s liberal odds were quite understandable as in six previous race starts the best placing she could manage was a fifth.
Frenning also had a third placing at the meeting in the Monte race where she rode the Allison Alford-trained Glenferrie Belle.
Bewitched by Tabatha
Shepparton trainer Isabel Walsh is sure to prepare a lot more winners in her time, but most won’t win as decisively as one she produced to salute last week at Swan Hill.
Three-year-old filly Tabatha Bromac, driven by Mark Pitt, said ta-ta to her rivals in a C1 Only class race on the home bend and went on to win by nearly 30m after making the pace in the race.
By Rocknroll Hanover, Tabatha Bromac was having her 19th trip to the races which have now produced four wins and four minor placings.
She was coming off a win at her previous start at Shepparton when she accounted for Chans Girl, also in emphatic fashion with a winning space of more than 12m.
Tabatha Bromac also posted a PB mile rate of 1:57.6 for the 1750m trip.
Mister by a minute
While Tabatha Bromac smashed her rivals, another district-trained pacer won by an even bigger space at Swan Hill.
Undera horseman Glenn Freeman produced Mister Zhivago to win a C1 Only class race by a whopping 60.4m.
Also driven by Mark Pitt, Mister Zhivago cleared out from his rivals rounding the home bend and cruised to the finishing line.
By the Grinfromeartoear stallion Mister Big, Mister Zhivago put the writing on the wall for a coming win when he was runner-up at his previous start at Kilmore on August 9.
Punters reacted to that effort when he was a 25/1 shot by sending him out a $1.10 favourite at Swan Hill where he notched his fourth win from 46 tries.
Phirey shows strength
Kyabram trainer Mick Blackmore is happy his pacer Phirey Philtra has ‘‘toughened up’’ a bit.
The four-year-old Courage Under Fire mare won her fourth race when she sprinted past her rivals last Sunday night at Shepparton, clocking a PB mile rate in the process.
Reinsman John Caldow always had Phirey Philtra in a winning position and she was too good at the finish for Sixty and The High Roller, rating 1:57.5 for the 1690m trip.
Blackmore said Phirey Philtra was gaining more stamina as she matures.
‘‘She’s definitely got a bit stronger and is racing well at the moment,’’ Blackmore said.
Despite running a close-up third to He Can Fly at her previous start at Shepparton, Phirey Philtra was neglected by punters and paid $17.40 for the win.
He Can Fly won at his next start at Kilmore last week to make Phirey Philtra’s form even more enticing going into Sunday night’s race, but punters plumped for Pow Wow Bromac, The High Roller and Hot To Rock.
Phirey Philtra goes around from a pole-line draw again tomorrow night at Shepparton.
Punters back Black
Black Valley was backed to win the trotters race at Shepparton last Sunday night and did the right thing by his supporters to post his fifth win.
Having his third outing for Shepparton trainer Steve O’Donoghue, Black Valley, who came off the 20m strand over the 2190m trip, gave a flawless front-running display for driver Bec Bartley and comfortably held off the 40m marker Nica Macdonon and Starlight Storm in a district trifecta.
While Black Valley has now won five of his 43 starts there have also been no fewer than 14 seconds in his resume.
Punters ignored his runner-up record in his latest win, backing him into odds-on favouritism.
Slice is bread winner
Seven-year-old McArdle mare Slice Of Life broke a run of outs and showed she has a penchant for the Shepparton track last Sunday night.
Trained by Jeff Gledhill and driven by Ben Gledhill, Slice Of Life has won just the three races in 55 tries — with all three wins being recorded at Shepparton.
Prior to last Sunday, her previous win was 22 starts ago in October.
Slice Of Life was a 17/1 shot on the tote and from barrier one parked on the back of the pacemaker and short-priced favourite The Heat Is On who weakened in the straight to finish fourth.
A Special Dream and Ona Safari finished the race off well to grab the minor placings.
While Slice Of Life was one of only three district-trained horses to win at the meeting, district drivers also experienced success.
Avenel reinsman Mark Pitt partnered the Riverina-trained Point Danger to win at big odds, while Shepparton’s Nathan Jack scored on the Paul Gabriel-trained Spic And Sparkled.
The right Address
A pacer bred locally, and who started his racing career in Victoria, celebrated a milestone with a drought-breaking win at Newcastle last Monday.
No Fixed Address, who was bred by Euroa horseman Cameron Maggs, was having his 100th trip to the races and broke a run of 22 starts away from the winner’s stall with his win.
An eight-year-old by Saab, No Fixed Address has been a consistent money earner throughout his career with his 15 wins, 15 seconds and four thirds amassing prize money of more than $82000.
Big personality lost
Harness racing lost a stalwart — and a character — this week with the death of Kevin Innes.
Dubbed ‘‘Boofa’’ after a schoolyard fight, he was a larger-than-life personality who was a household name in harness racing through the 1960s and 1970s.
He trained some smart horses in his time including Lea Sands, Imatoff and Stormy Morn.
He got great pleasure from taking on tried horses and turning them around.
He trained horses for the likes of legendary Richmond player Jack Dyer and was also a hit at sportsman’s nights.
A non drinker, he was also a good cyclist, competing in four Herald Sun Tours, a Warrnambool to Melbourne and a Sydney to Melbourne race to name a few,
His funeral was held in his home town of Inglewood on Wednesday.
Today: Charlton (d), Melton (n).
Tomorrow: Shepparton (n).
Sunday: Melton (d).
Monday: Warragul (d).
Tuesday: Terang (n).
Wednesday: Geelong (n).
Thursday: Maryborough (d).