Shepparton horseman Clive Dalton will produce the most interesting runner in tomorrow night’s $30000 Group Three Swan Hill Cup which kicks off the country cups circuit for the new season.
The Dalton-trained John Of Arc will be having only his second Victorian race, but boasts an impressive record despite being plagued by leg injuries throughout his career.
His only appearance in Victoria was in the Victoria Cup in January, but his record in Western Australia boasts 18 wins and 10 placings from 37 starts and nearly $300000 in prizemoney.
Dalton has had the pacer for his past 11 starts for two wins, but he was placed in all three Inter Dominion heats last season and was also was runner-up to arguably the West’s best pacer Chicago Bull in the Western Australian Pacing Cup.
Gary Hall Sr, who prepared him for many of his Western Australian starts, has always had a huge opinion of the pacer who has suffered consistent bouts of frustrating leg injuries throughout his career.
Dalton said the pacer had broken down several times, but at the moment was pleasingly sound for his return to racing after being on the sidelines for nearly 10 months.
‘‘The draw hasn’t helped him and he is probably a couple of runs short of being at his peak, but I still expect him to run well and be in it,’’ Dalton said.
John Of Arc, who will be driven by Greg Sugars, is one of two Dalton runners chasing the Swan Hill Cup.
He also believes his other starter, Hugh Victor, will be in the action for a long way.
‘‘He’s racing well and is race fit. It looks an even field, but I expect him to run well,’’ Dalton said.
Northern Victorian trainers are well represented in the Swan Hill Cup with David Aiken lining up former New Zealander Thereal Usian Colt for his first Australian start, while Colbinabbin mentor Graham McDermott has the in-form Lucky Lombo coming from barrier three.
He certainly San
Shepparton trainer Steve O’Donoghue needs no more convincing.
His rising superstar pacer San Carlo didn’t win the $200000 Victoria Cup at Melton last Saturday night, but anyone who doubted before the race he wasn’t in the top echelon of pacers in Australia should be convinced he is now.
O’Donoghue has been in the game long enough not to make any outlandish statements or predictions about horses he trains, but he did give San Carlo the tick of approval this time.
‘‘He couldn’t have gone any better. It was really exciting and a relief to know he can be competitive in this class and is up there with the best of them,’’ O’Donoghue said.
Driven by Bec Bartley San Carlo powered home stronger than any runner in the race and finished less the 12m from the winner after coming from last on the home turn.
Given Lennytheshark ran his last quarter in 27.7 and his last half in 55.8 to make ground on the winner was a watershed moment in San Carlo’s already impressive career which has produced 19 wins from 23 starts.
I fact San Carlo’s last mile was the quickest of any runner in the race.
O’Donoghue is now getting a little excited in what is ahead for San Carlo, which includes an assault on the Perth Inter Dominion which starts in a month.
‘‘He has moved to 33 in the rankings now and there will be two more rankings before the heats start on November 24. On what he did on Saturday night you will think he gets into the final 30 in the rankings which guarantees a start.’’
O’Donoghue is not even sure whether he will get to Perth, but it’s a safe bet he will do everything to try and be there.
‘‘It’s in the middle of the stud season so I’m pretty busy. It will be a great experience for Bec (Bec Bartley San Carlo’s driver).’’
Pretty penny for Lenny
With his second Victoria Cup win at Melton last Saturday night Lennytheshark clocked up win number 36 with the $114000 first prize swelling his prizemoney earnings to just on $2.9 million from 69 starts.
Lennytheshark and San Carlo are Perth bound next month for the Inter Dominion where they will bump into the New Zealand superstar Lazarus in what will be some of the most anticipated duels in the industry for a long time.
Owned by local breeder Kevin Riseley and his son Martin, Lennytheshark has not missed a top four placing in his last 37 starts.
He has won 21 of these starts with eight second placings, five thirds and two fourths.
Driven by Chris Alford Lennytheshark was always going to be the one to beat when he drew the pole and despite some trainers declaring there could be an early speed burn for the lead Lenny had no trouble in leading — and winning.
He had nearly 4m to spare over the runner-up Ameretto with the NSW visitor Tiger Tara filling the minor placing.
It proved another big night for Team Aiken as not only did it add the Victoria Cup to its building list of Group One races, but also produced another pacer who looks to have a big future.
Recent stable addition He Can Fly, who is being trained and driven by Josh Aiken, looks a pacer capable of going much further after winning his third successive race and his fifth win in his past six starts.
Nothing bad about it
Veteran mare Littlebadgirl is racing with plenty of spring in her step at the moment.
The eight-year-old daughter of Tarrawanna, trained by Shepparton horseman Geoff Martin caused a major upset last week at Shepparton when she lowered the colours of the hot fancy Flight Officer despite racing three wide for the last half of the 2190m event for C1 Only class pacers.
A 16/1 chance on the tote Littlebadgirl was coming off a second on the track to Modern Lebron on September 29 and prior to that had won on the track on September 21.
Byrneside horseman Damian Wilson’s only four drives on the mare have reaped two wins, a second and a sixth.
In 22 starts for him Martin has produced Littlebadgirl for three wins and two seconds.
Bendigo horseman Glenn Douglas quickly atoned for the defeat of Flight Officer by winning the following race with the $1.40 favourite Our Cleaver Green who beat the Craig Turnbull-trained Rhetts Jet who was having only his fourth start.
Farbio struts stuff
Moama horseman Tony Peacock has been a bit quiet of late, but returned to the winner’s circle last week at Shepparton with lightly race trotter Farbio.
A son of Aldebaran Yankee, Farbio was too good for the favourite Graciella Pinevale in a T0 Only restricted race.
Farbio was having just his sixth start and, although he had not been placed in his previous five starts, had always shown some encouraging ability and a flawless display at Shepparton showed what he is capable of.
Farbio goes around again tomorrow night at Swan Hill.
It’s Christisimo time
Wahring horseman Daniel Jack savoured a first-up win with four-year-old mare Mio Christisimo last week at Shepparton.
The daughter of Rocknroll Hanover was sent out a $1.80 favourite in a C0 Only class race despite facing the starter for the first time since June.
Jack was able to spear Mio Christisimo to the front from barrier three and was never in danger of being run down, accounting for the Glenn Douglas-trained and driven Radar Hill with the Donna Castles-trained and Doc Wilson-driven Emessgee finishing an eye catching third.
Mio Christisimo was placed in a Bathurst Gold Tiara Consolation in March and has always displayed she has had ability with her 57.9 final half verifying this.
Manassa kicks goal
It looked a race in two, but it didn’t turn out that way.
The final race last week at Shepparton looked a battle between the well-performed Steve O’Donoghue-trained Shakahari and the Elmore-trained Nonno Stride.
But the Deniliquin-trained Manassa Sky spoilt the party beating Lombo Idle Belief with Shakari third and Nonno Stride fourth in the five horse field.
Despite winning two of his previous three starts — at Newcastle and Bendigo — Manassa Sky was a 16/1 shot.
The Lis Mara six-year-old was having his first start for Wayne Gretgrix after being trained by Danny Curran and also leading NSW trainer Shane Tritton.
But it wasn’t the first time Gretgrix had produced a winner first-up.
He also won first-up with a pacer called Poppys Princess at Shepparton in November. Money from that win enabled Gretgrix and his two brothers — Andrew and Brendan — to secure Manassa Sky for $3000 out of a claimers race.
Manassa Sky has always displayed his share of ability and has now won six races with four seconds from 21 starts.
Victory is so Vice
Lightly raced All-American bred trotter Kyvalley Vice returned to the winner’s circle last week, scoring at the Thursday night meeting at Melton.
Kyvalley Vice, owned by Kyvalley breeder Jim Connelly, had not won since completing a quartet of wins in 2015, but has had only 11 starts since then.
He was second up since June last year after making his return to the track when sixth behind Imaheman at Bendigo on October 3.
Kyvalley Vice was driven by Josh Aiken in his latest win and it was only the second time Aiken had driven the son of Donato Hanover-Ms Naughty.
Now a seven-year-old and still an entire, Kyvalley Vice has had only 18 starts, but he has chalked up five wins and three seconds.
Owner Jim Connelly doesn’t have high expectations of the trotter.
‘‘He may get down to MTO class but he’s limited,’’ was Connelly’s frank appraisal of the trotter.
Connelly is more bullish about the future of another of his trotters Kyvalley Barney which he also bought in America and predicts he can ‘‘go to the top’’.
Congupna trainer Shane Gilligan is starting to enjoy his trips to Riverina meetings.
Gilligan had another winner over the Murray River last Friday night at Wagga.
He scored with four-year-old Big Jim gelding Grey Maverick who dominated his rivals after working to the front two laps out.
He was never in danger of being run down, sailing home nearly 6m clear of the runner-up Hardliner with the other fancied runner Son Of A Virgin filling the minor placing.
It was Grey Maverick’s second win in 20 outings, but some good recent form including a close up fourth at his previous start at Shepparton to the in-form Rockin In Memphis was sound form for the Wagga engagement and he was sent out a $2 favourite.
Gilligan also enjoyed a win at a September Leeton meeting with Radical Art.
In the frame
It was a big night for district trainers and drivers on Tuesday night at Shepparton.
Mark Pitt landed a driving double, while trainers Isabel Walsh, John Newberry, David Aiken and Tiana McMahon all produced winners on the nine-event card.
More about those wins will be in next week’s Sulky Shorts.
Today: Melton (n).
Tomorrow: Swan Hill (n).
Sunday: Hamilton (d).
Monday: Melton (d).
Tuesday: Cranbourne (n).
Wednesday: Kilmore (n).
Thursday: Shepparton (d), Mildura (n).