On the gradual improve

By Matt Markham - Twitter: @MattMarkham07

Brilliant Strike went to Auckland a very good horse, but as far as Graham Court’s concerned he’s come back better.

And it’s for that reason that the West Melton horseman, who trains in partnership with his son, Paul, is confident that the Brilliant Strike who steps onto Addington over the next two weeks will be a better version of the one who was victorious in the Harness 5000 last on the track last month.

His seventh in the Northern Derby on Auckland Cup night might not look all that impressive on paper, but broken down his effort was classed as one of the best in the race – with his private sectionals backing that up. Brilliant Strike paced the fastest last mile of the race – recording 1:56.1, 0.2 seconds fastest than the winner Have Faith In Me – set up by the fastest opening 800 metres of the last mile which he paced in 59.4.

So while beaten, the tough stayer was far from disgraced.

“We all know how good of a stayer he is,’’ Court said.

“But I think he’s getting better and it’s actually scary how good he could become in time.

“I’m not talking Terror To Love category or anything like that, but he’s going to end up being a pretty special horse.’’

All factors considered, you would imagine that next week’s Derby over 2600 metres and run is what is sure to be break-neck speed would be the better option for the son of Shadow Play, but Court thinks he can give some of his more high classed rivals a fight this week in the Group Two Very Flying Stakes over 1950 metres.

With only six competitors, the final lead up to the New Zealand Derby should become a tactical affair, but Brilliant Strike’s tendency to like a tough run affair might just spice things up.

“He will make the race interesting, the Derby next week will be more his go – especially if they go hard.

“I’m pretty happy with him though, his work has been really good this week.

“I drove him myself early in the week and he really impressed me.’’

While the news is all bright and breezy for one Court up and comer it’s not quite so for Johny Rock.

The former American was to contest the Superstars Championship but has been struck down by illness this week.

“It’s a shame because the trip up North has done wonders for him.

“He’s not that one dimensional race horse now, we can tuck him up and he’ll come off the back of something a really let down which he wasn’t doing.

“Hopefully this isn’t anything too serious and we can press on.’’

Court intends on a short Australian campaign around Menangle with the pacer before bringing him home and aiming towards the New Zealand Trotting Cup in November.