Tiny mare Sky Petite takes on the trotting big guns tomorrow night at Melton in the richest race for trotters in Australasia and her Shepparton trainer Dean Pattison is looking forward to the experience.
Regardless of the outcome Pattison is honoured to have the diminutive mare in the Group One $300000 Pryde’s Easifeed Great Southern Star.
‘‘She missed getting a run in it last year and that was a bit disappointing. She is feeling and working well, so we are hoping for the best,’’ Pattison said this week.
Sky Petite was recently scratched from The George Gath feature on Shepparton Gold Cup night after knocking a leg which caused some swelling, but she has made a full recovery from that setback.
A second row draw tomorrow night mightn’t be as bad as it seems for Sky Petite, to be driven by all-conquering reinsman Chris Alford, as she could find herself in a forward position in the 12-strong field if the horse she is following out off the front row, Daryl Boko, can make a reasonable getaway.
But this is royalty when it comes to trotting races with all of Australia’s elite trotters and two New Zealand stars, including a previous winner of the race, Speeding Spur, contesting the 2760m marathon.
Speeding Spur has drawn the car park on the second row and will need to be at his top and get a lot of luck to win from there, while the other Kiwi, the in-form Temporale, comes from barrier eight inside the second row.
Talented mare Red Hot Tooth has had solid support this week and should be in the action for a long way from barrier three, while Sparkling Success, despite a second row draw and a last start upset defeat, is still in the race up to his ears.
NSW visitor On Thunder Road could also give a lot of cheek from barrier four off the front if he brings his best manners, while Kyvalley Blur has also proven he is up to this company.
The Great Southern Star is just one of several mouth-watering contests on the 10-event card at Melton.
In the $50000 Group Two Casey Classic, district-trained superstars Lennytheshark and San Carlo have drawn barriers one and two respectively in their final hit-out for the $500000 Hunter Cup tomorrow night week.
The $200000 Victoria Derby, the $100000 Four-Year-Old Bonanza in which Shepparton’s Laura Crossland has Hashtag engaged, are Group One events in what should be a memorable night of harness racing.
Dial triple 9
The nines aligned when Shepparton pacer Provocator gave the Cobram track record for the 1670m trip a mighty shake last week.
The Geoff Martin-trained and David Moran-driven seven-year-old son of Kenneth J stormed over his rivals from last in the final 500m, clocking a sizzling mile rate of 1:54.5.
Only one pacer has gone quicker on the Cobram track — at the previous meeting the club staged on January 7 when the Emma Stewart-trained and Damien Wilson-driven Flying Moth slipped over the same journey at a 1:54.4 mile rate.
Provocator, a 17/1 shot on the tote, broke a run of 36 starts away from the winner’s circle with his previous win achieved at Shepparton in October 2015.
It also brought Provocator’s career wins to nine with nine seconds and nine thirds from 92 starts.
It also boosted the pacer’s earnings to more than $50000.
With much Bravado
The best backed runner at Cobram last week was the former Queensland-trained pacer Bangkok Bravado.
As much as 7/1 was secured at betting agencies on the four-year-old son of Mister Big who had three wins and six minor placings from 22 starts before venturing south.
But those who follow the form closely would have noted that in his last outing at Albion Park on December 22 he finished second, beaten 6.5m in a 1:54.2 mile rate over the 1660m trip.
So with the poleline draw over the short trip at his Victorian debut many punters warmed to his chances.
He proved too classy for his rivals with a 27.5 final quarter which gave him more than 12m to spare at the finishing line over the David Abrahams-trained and Nathan Jack-driven Extortion, with the Ian Ward-trained and Tania Ward-driven Krisney Symbol filling the minor placing.
Sleepy Hollow trainer Shane Fraser prepares Bangkok Bravado.
Brothers play roles
Riverina trainers snared two of three wins at Cobram courtesy of Goulburn Valley reinsmen brothers Nathan and Daniel Jack.
Nathan drove the Albury-trained Ismaha to victory for trainer Ron Calleja, while Daniel piloted Our American Princess to victory for The Rock trainer Shane Hallcroft.
Ismaha claimed the RACV Summer Cup for C1 Only class pacers with a strong performance, while Our American Princess saluted in a C1 only class race with a strong finishing burst.
Nathan’s win on Ismaha was the second leg of a driving double.
He brought up the first win on the Wayne Potter-trained Roll Along Styx who had run four seconds and a third in seven starts leading into the race.
The other winner trained over the border was Our Memphis Mac for Yanco horseman Shane Hillier and reinsman Blake Jones.
A five-year-old son of Mach Three, Our Memphis Mac had not saluted in his previous 11 starts and has won only four of 31 starts, but he justified the confidence in his $1.90 starting price, leading his rivals a merry dance from the start to win impressively.
Jack does it My way
Shepparton reinsman Nathan Jack upset the hot favourite when he partnered outsider My Tribeca to win the Group Two $30000 E B Cochrane Trotters Cup last Saturday night at Ballarat.
Close to a 20/1 chance the Anton Golino-trained My Tribeca was able to nab the odds-on favourite Sparkling Success in a last-gasp lunge after sitting on the back of the stablemate and pacesetter Vincennes throughout the 2200m trip.
Local hope, the David Abrahams-trained Fabrication, who Jack normally drives, finished fifth.
The win capped a couple of successful days in the sulky for Jack who drove a winning double at Cobram on the Thursday.
The David Aiken-trained champion Lennytheshark almost snared the Ballarat Pacing Cup, running second to the favourite and pacesetter Heaven Rocks to show he is on target for the coming Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile and tomorrow night’s Casey Classic.
Hay has winning day
A confident drive from Euroa horseman Cameron Maggs reaped dividends when Hayjoshandco claimed a C1-C2 class race at Maryborough on Monday.
Maggs was trapped wide early on the six-year-old Grinfromeartoear gelding, but confidently ushered him to the death seat, settling for a time on the back of the pacemaker in the back straight, before surging to an easy win in the home straight, creating a PB mile rate effort in the process.
The $2.30 favourite skipped over the 1690m trip at a 1:56.8 mile rate which slashed a whopping 3.4sec off his previous personal best time of 2:00.2.
Trained at Shepparton by Dave Farrar it was win number five from 34 starts for Hayjoshandco who had been knocking on the door in recent runs to suggest a return to winning list was imminent.
Farrar’s win with Hayjoshandco was one of three wins enjoyed at the meeting by Goulburn Valley horsemen.
Rochester trainer Mark Thompson continued his good run this season when smart three-year-old Jet Laag filly Weeks End ran her older rivals ragged in a C0 Only class race to vindicate her tote win price of $1.20.
The filly had won at her previous start and has now won five of 15 starts with seven minor placings.
The other GV winner at the meeting was reinsman Nathan Jack who partnered the Anton Golino-trained Parisian Chic to an effortless victory in T1 or better class trot with a dominant front-running display.
Prince not a pauper
I wish all the trotting horses I have had an ownership interest in during the years could win as easily as Claudys Prince did at Melton on Monday night.
Kyabram trainer Mick Blackmore had the Prince primed for his return to racing and driven by former Echuca horseman John Caldow he belted up a weak field, winning by a margin of 32m.
And I must stress that was not any of my money that made him the $1.80 favourite.
But my better half Eva and I, who bred, own and race the four-year-old, were just happy to get the win.
Claudys Prince is a full brother to the recently retired three-time Australian Trotting Mare of the Year, Claudys Princess.
He had trialled well against the pacers at the Shepparton trials last week to suggest a forward showing in his return to racing.
He has chalked up four wins from 19 starts
Like everyone in this game when you get a winner you hope it’s not the last time he will salute and, while he is no Claudys Princess, he has the ability to pay his way all going well — I hope.
Trotters up and about
You only have to look at the fields this week across Australia to realise the once maligned trotter is making his mark in a big way on the national harness racing scene these days.
On Monday night there were six races, including a Monte, for trotters on the Melton program and that same day there were two races for trotters at Pinjarra in Western Australia where a campaign, which ended up in court, some years ago saved trotters being abolished from that state.
On Tuesday the first three races on the Menangle program were for trotters — something that no-one in the industry would have envisaged 10 or 15 years ago — and the same day there was a race for trotters at Albion Park in Queensland.
At the end of this season, trotters are to make a comeback in Tasmania which can only open more doors for the breed with a presence in every Australian state.
There is always great interest in the first two-year-old race of the year and the pacer who had the honour of winning it this season at Geelong this week was the Sonya Smith-trained and Anthony Butt-driven Major Exclusive.
In what was another boost for sire Art Major, the winner and the runner-up and odds-on favourite Soho Thunderstruck are sons of the premier stallion.
Major Exclusive is certainly well named and with a stream of winners on his maternal side.
His dam, the Armbro Operative mare Saved A Corker is a dam of five winners including Aspiring Artist (20 wins), Our Little Artist (16 wins) and Rap Artist (20 wins) who are all by Art Major.
Major Exclusive’s second dam, the Tuapeka mare Uncork, is a broodmare gem who produced 12 winners including Hes A Corker (by Armbro Operative) who was a winner of 45 races, Save A Corker, also by Armbro Operative with 24 wins to his credit and Seel A Corker (by Falcon Seelster) a winner of nine races.
Exclusive Major won by more than 5m in 1:57.6 mile rate time for the 1609m trip which included a slick 57 last half.
Today: Stawell (d), Kilmore (n).
Tomorrow: Melton (n).
Sunday: Cranbourne (t).
Monday: Charlton (d), Melton (n).
Tuesday: Mildura (n).
Wednesday: Shepparton (n).
Thursday: Ararat (n).