Aussie News - Dec 27

By Adam Hamilton

Dual Inter Dominion-winning trainer Jason Grimson has further boosted his stocks for the upcoming feature Cups in Victoria.

Classy veteran Sicario joined Grimson’s team following an ownership reshuffle.

“He’s a nice horse to pick-up. He’s had a few weeks off and I’ve just started working him,” Grimson said.

Sicario joins recent Inter Dominion winner I Cast No Shadow, multiple Group 1 winner Majestic Cruiser and last-start Group 1 Cranbourne Cup winner Major Meister as Grimson’s team for races like the Bendigo, Shepparton, Ballarat and Hunter Cups.

“Major Meister will go to the Bendigo Cup (January 7), but you won’t see the others until later. I’ll trial them before they race,” Grimson said.

Sicario started his career owned by Jean Feiss and with the All Stars barn in NZ.

He was sold to Australia and joined Brent Lilley’s stable in early 2019 before going to finish seventh in the Auckland Inter Dominion final on December 14, 2019.

The rising eight-year-old tackled the heats of the recent Victorian Inter Dominion, but struggled into 11th place in all three heats.

Sicario has raced 108 times for 23 wins, 26 placings and earned $522,846.

He follows the mould of some of Grimson’s best pacers – Majestic Cruiser, Boncel Benjamin and I Cast No Shadow - having raced in claiming races this year.

Grimson has remained in Victoria since the Inter Dominion.

“I’ve cut the team back and have them all down here with me. I won’t go back to Menangle until after the Hunter Cup,” he said.

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The challenges keep coming for mighty mare Tough Tilly.

Fresh off a powerhouse Vicbred semi-final win, the four-year-old will have to really earn her fifth Group 1 win from a back row draw in the final on New Year’s Eve.

Tough Tilly, who won the Vicbred 2YO final and missed last year with a setback, has to come from the back row (gate 10) in the final.

Anthony Butt will take the reins on main danger and probable leader Dougs Babe for fiancé Sonya Smith from gate four.

Dougs Babe, formerly trained by Geoff Webster, has been sold to the US and will head there soon to continue her career.

Tough Tilly is one of three huge drives for Kate Gath on finals’ night.

She will team with Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin and their star three-year-old filly Encipher in the 3YO fillies’ final.

Encipher ran second to the Kiwi-owned Amore Vita last year, but has won eight of nine starts since and looks the leader from the pole in the final.

Gath’s other marquee drive is on Catch A Wave in the 3YO colts and geldings’ final.

Crucially, he drew gate three compared to 12 in the semi-final when beaten in fifth spot as a $1.50 favourite.

Catch A Wave’s explosive gate speed should see him find the front from gate three and give him every chance to bounce back.

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It is the race that unearths the stars.

And this year’s Vicbred 4YO entires and geldings pacing final should be no different.

The past two winners have been Honolua Bay and Lochinvar Art. Go back a few years and Lennytheshark and Soho Tribeca are on the honour roll.

This year, the powerhouse Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin stable holds the key with five finalists, including big guns Major Moth (gate three) and Act Now (10).

Such is the class and strength of the final, three runners have come through the Inter Dominion final: Act Now, Better Eclipse and Narutac Prince.

The Jess Tubbs and Greg Sugars-trained Better Eclipse, already a dual Group 1 winner, looms as the major threat to Tonkin and Stewart from gate two.

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Gary Hall Jr showed why he’s as good as any driver in this part of the world with another “clinic” at Gloucester Park last Friday night.

Hall drove four winners, including two of the three features, and finished second with one of his best drives of the night in the other feature.

His major wins came on the Michael Young-trained pair Firerockfireroll in the Group 2 Christmas Gift and Eighteen Carat in the Group 2 Christmas Belles.

Earlier, Hall Jr gave the talented Gambit every possible chance with a midrace move to sit parked when second to stablemate Diego in the free-for-all.

Michael Young’s two feature wins continued a breakthrough season for the young trainer, who used to work for Hall's father, Gary Hall Sr.

“It’s been an incredible year,” Young said. “We’ve had great support from our owners and found some nice horses.”

Diego’s win was timely with not only the Fremantle and WA Cup just around the corner, but also slot holders looking to secure horses for their slots in the inaugural $1 million Nullarbor on April 14.

“He’d be a great pick-up for someone,” Hall Sr said. “Both he and Gambit are flying and went really well tonight. Diego is just hard to beat when he leads, but he’s versatile, too.”

Hall Jr’s partner, Maddison Brown drove Diego and rated him superbly, breaking the hearts of those chasing with a 26.5sec split down the back straight.

The key chaser from near last and out three-wide was WA’s standout pacer Magnificent Storm, who had to be content with a fighting third. He ran his own last half in 54.1sec off the track.

Back to Young’s success, Firerockfireroll was sent to him from champion Victorian trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin.

It’s a tough act to follow, but the gelding has been ultra consistent in 12 runs for Young with four wins and two seconds.

Firerockfireroll dug deep to fend-off former high-priced Kiwi Ragazzo Mach and win by a neck.

Eighteen Carat was bought from NZ and has been a revelation in WA with 13 starts netting eight wins, two seconds, a third and almost $230,000 in earnings.

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Former star Kiwi pacer Turn It Up keeps clocking-up the wins in Queensland.

Trainer-driver Shane Graham gave the injury-plagued seven-year-old a superb one-one trip and and he overpowered leader and favourite Uncle Shank to win last Friday night’s Albion Park 1660m free-for-all in a slick 1min51.8sec mile rate.

It was the son of Courage Under Fire’s eighth win this season and his 26th from 55 career starts. He’s banked $699,751.

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Chris Lang is happy to play the long game with his emerging trotting star Ollivici.

Lang bypassed the recent Inter Dominion with a long rage view and Ollivici returned from a break to win narrowly but impressively at Geelong last night (Monday).

The Kiwi-bred four-year-old escaped a tricky three pegs run to zip home along the sprint lane and nab main danger Im Ready Jet right on the wire.

It was his seventh win from just nine runs this year and took his career record to 11 wins from 20 starts.

He’s likely to meet Inter Dominion runner-up Majestuoso and others in the Group 1 Maori Mile at Bendigo on January 7.

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Father-and-daughter Steve and Amanda Turnbull combined with improving pacer Smooth Baht for an emotion-charged win in last night’s (Monday) $50,000 Shirley Turnbull Memorial at Bathurst.

The race is named after Steve’s mother, Shirley, and Smooth Baht was his first win in it since Slick Bromac saluted in 2009.

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