Aussie News - 25th June
THE wait is almost over.
The most anticipated comeback in Australian harness racing for many years happens when Hectorjayjay steps out at Kilmore in the Popular Alm Sprint on Saturday night.
Now trained and driven by Gavin Lang, the multiple Group 1 winner hasn’t raced since going amiss in a suspensory ligament following his sparkling Group 1 Blacks A Fake win at Albion Park on July 15, last year.
Lang’s given him two trials and won them both, the latest in a privately-timed scorching 54.6sec last 800m against quality rivals at Melton last Tuesday week.
Now it’s time to race and, if it’s a winning return, talk will switch immediately to whether Lang takes Hectorjayjay back to Brisbane to defend his Blacks A Fake crown on July 21.
The timing would give Lang the chance to have two lead-up runs in Victoria before heading north.
The other option is to stay local and build towards the Victoria Cup in October and Inter Dominion at Melton in December.
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THE confirmation of stakemoney for the next three Inter Dominions was always going to spark controversy.
Yes the $500,000 pacing purse is way down on the $1.1 million purse from Gloucester Park last year, but before indulging the outrage it’s important to look more broadly.
There was a very big chance, however unthinkable, that the Inter Dominion could have died after Perth last year had Victoria, NSW and NZ not formed an allegiance to provide a lifeline.
Imagine that, the biggest race and broadest mainstream brand the sport has – gone.
So while it’s an obvious disappointment to see the stakemoney drop so much, the other option – no Inter Dominion – is far worse.
And, don’t forget the other upside of the next three year’s is the return of the trotters’ division of the Inter Dominion. Yes, it’s just moderate at $150,000 purse, but at least it’s alive again.
It’s easier to get on the front foot and be critical, but to those who keep referring to stakemoney of yesteryear, it’s time to face the facts the sport is struggling financially and can only spend what it has.
I sure as hell would give anything to have a horse good enough to tackle this year’s Inter Dominion – whether it’s worth $1.1 million or $500,000. After all, it is the Inter Dominion.
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EMMA Stewart has long been the dominant force in Victoria, but this past week has been next level stuff.
From the 22 Vicbred qualifying heats run across three meetings – Bendigo Tuesday, Kilmore Wednesday and Ballarat Friday – Stewart won an unbelievable 16 of them.
Just for good measure she also finished second in another four heats. So she’s either won or run second in 20 of the 22 heats.
Plus, Stewart has also landed the quinella in four of the heats she’s won.
At Ballarat, the most impressive of Stewart’s winners was without doubt four-year-old Rocknroll Icon, who led throughout and smashed the track record with a 1min53.7sec mile rate for 2200m.
It took 0.7sec off Ameretto’s track record and Rocnroll Icon left Chariots of Fire winner and Miracle Mile runner-up Jilliby Kung Fu weakening into a distant fourth place after he had to sit parked.
The mind boggles at the sheer numbers and dominance she will have at this Friday’s stellar Vicbred semi-final card at Melton.
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THE Harness Jewels form keeps standing tall back in Australia.
First it was two-year-old pacer Petes Big Jim return from the Jewels with his first run to easily and impressively winna Vicbred heat at Bendigo last Tuesday night.
Next it was gifted four-year-old trotting mare Dance Craze, who stormed around the field from last in a slick 1min56.9sec mile rate for 1720m to win at Melton last night (Saturday).
It’s certainly dispelled the myth some people held about it being hard to contest the Jewels and return to Australia and immediately show your best form.
Dance Craze, who ran a luckless third in her Jewels final, was privately-clocked to run a 56.3sec last half, highlighting she blistering speed she possesses.
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HECTORJAYJAY isn’t the only “big” comeback this week.
Another has already unfolded with former top flight Kiwi pacer Hughie Green returning from a year out with injury to win impressively at Albion Park last night (Saturday).
Trained and driven by veteran John Cremin, the Art Major six-year-old stormed home from off the speed to win easily in a 1min57.2sec mile rate for 2138m.
The timing is ideal with the Group 2 Sunshine Sprint (July 14) and Group 1 Blacks A Fake (July 21) just around the corner in his own back yard.
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A HUGE upset in the Menangle free-for-all helped Shane and Lauren Tritton further extend their big lead in Sydney’s metropolitan training premiership.
Former Kiwi four-year-old Gotta Go Ya Hu upstaged a crack field to win the fast-class as a $37.40 shot in a slick 1min50.5sec mile.
Gotta Go Ya Hu, driven by Lachie Manzelmann, sat behind the leader and stablemate My Alpha Rock and made the most of an inside run to beat a fast-finishing Celestial Arden in a slick 1min50.5sec mile.
Buzz pacer Majordan drew wide, did all the work outside the leader and wilted to finish last, taking a lot off gloss of his claims for next Sunday’s Group 1 Len Smith Mile.
The other watch runner was Kevin Pizzuto’s recent stablemate addition, Cruz Bromac, who needed a big run to push for a Len Smith berth. He just battled into seventh spot.
The Tritton’s also won with Miss Riviera Belle in the Group 3 Frith Stakes and veteran Lombo Kotakinabalu in the last race for a treble.
“That puts us 16 clear in the metro premiership. It was a really rewarding night and continues our big season,” Shane Tritton said.
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CHAMPION WA driver Gary Hall Sr snared yet another feature win at Gloucester Park last Friday night and finished the meeting just two wins short of a major career milestone.
Hall Sr won the Group 1 Westbred 3YO colts and geldings final with Bettors Delight gelding One Off Delight to give him his 2498thcareer win.
Shane Young, who drove runner-up Highroller Joe, had a night to treasure as he also trained and drove $25.10 chance Rosies Ideal to an upset win in the Group 1 Westbred 3yo fillies final.