Aussie news - February 12
By Adam Hamilton
Team Purdon is stepping up its Sydney raid.
Mark Purdon confirmed exciting three-year-old We Walk By Faith would cross the ditch to join stablemate and Chariots Of Fire favourite Don’t Stop Dreaming.
“There’s a race for him here (NZ) on Friday night, then he will head across for the NSW Derby,” he said.
The heats of the NSW Derby are at Menangle on March 2, the same night Don’t Stop Dreaming will tackle the $250,000 Group 1 Chariots Of Fire.
The Chariots will have the strongest NZ flavour any major Aussie race has had in many years.
Along with Don’t Stop Dreaming, Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan’s pair Merlin and Sooner The Bettor are also expected to tackle the feature.
Sooner The Bettor impressed when a close-up fourth behind Don’t Stop Dreaming in last Saturday night’s $50,000 Hondo Grattan at Menangle.
The run didn’t guarantee Sooner The Bettor a spot in the Chariots, meaning he will have to contest the next qualifier, the $50,000 Paleface Adios, at Menangle on Saturday week.
That’s when Aussie fans will finally get their first glimpse of Merlin.
On their NZ form, Merlin is at least the equal of Don’t Stop Dreaming, but the latter has seemingly gone to a new level in his three Aussie runs this campaign.
The $1 million Miracle Mile is already shaping as one of the best for many years, but the presence of one or two of this stellar four-year-old crop would add another exciting dimension.
Mark Purdon confirmed Don’t Stop Dreaming would contest the Miracle Mile if an invite came his way.
It makes sense given Leap To Fame is the benchmark and Don’t Stop Dreaming ran such a fantastic race for second to that pacer in the Hunter Cup last Saturday week.
Merlin’s connections have said it is unlikely he would run in the Miracle Mile if invited, given he is already confirmed for the Race By Grins at Cambridge on April 12 in the SENZ slot.
Leap To Fame will try to book his spot in the Miracle Mile via Friday week’s $100,000 Newcastle Mile where only the winner gets a golden ticket.
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Millionaire former Kiwi pacer Spirit Of St Louis has one last major target before continuing his racing career in the United States.
Aaron Bain Racing and Summit Bloodstock have confirmed they will again use their slot for the star pacer in the $1.25m Nullarbor at Gloucester Park on April 19.
Spirit Of St Louis, who boasts 28 wins and over $1.34m in earnings, is trained by Luke McCarthy and driven by Jack Callaghan. He ran second in last year’s Nullarbor behind fellow NSW raider Betterzippit, trained by Jason Grimson.
“He’s been racing really well in the best races without a lot of luck,” Bain said, “he deserves another crack at it.
“He’s locked in to head to the (United) States to continue racing straight from Perth after the Nullarbor. He’ll be paid-up for some of the big open-class races over there.”
Earlier last week, WA’s best pacer Magnificent Storm’s slot for the Nullarbor was locked in via Entain, who partnered with him last year when a desperately unlucky seventh.
Magnificent Storm is $5 early favourite for the race with Spirit Of St Louis a $9 chance.
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Trainer Jess Tubbs has reaffirmed her commitment to the inaugural $575,000 TAB Trot slot race with champion Aussie trotter Just Believe.
Despite renewed speculation Just Believe could return to Sweden mid-year, Tubbs said the TAB Trot was “an absolute definite.”
“When we commit, we commit,” she said, “we’re shaping everything around going across for it.
“His next run will be February 24 in the Grand Prix at Melton, but we won’t take him to Sydney for the (Group 1) Hammerhead (March 9). We’ll do his lead-up racing in Melbourne for the Cambridge race.
“As far as Sweden goes, it’s still a possibility, but it won’t impact our NZ plans.”
Tubbs is also hopeful of locking in a slot for her star pacer Better Eclipse to return for another crack at the $1m Race by Grins on the same Cambridge meeting (April 12).
“You might hear something soon, very soon,” she said.
“He’s never raced better and we’d love to take him after he ran so well (fourth) last year. He’s a better horse now.”
When Better Eclipse heads to Sydney, don’t be surprised if stablemate Fighter Command goes with him.
The three-year-old was stunning winning at Melton last Friday night, making it four wins in succession, and he would be worth a crack at the NSW Derby.
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Team Bond is really starting to flex its muscle as WA’s richest races draws closer.
Star stablemates Minstrel and Ideal Agent fought-out a stirring finish to the free-for-all at Gloucester Park over the weekend.
The pair must surely be fighting it out for Team Bond’s slot in the $1.25mil Nullarbor at Gloucester Park on April 19.
In a minor upset and sign he’s back in career-best form, Minstrel was able to sit parked for former Kiwi driver Stewie McDonald and hold-off a late surge from Ideal Agent, who stalked him everywhere.
McDonald was content to let leader Talks Up A Storm dictate terms in front and then dash home, which Minstrel did in 55 flat and 27.4sec to win by a head in a 1min56sec mile rate for 2130m.
It’s safe to assume whichever Team Bond doesn’t take in its Nullabor slot will be snapped-up by another slot holder.
Races like the Pinjarra Cup and Bunbury Cups loom large for Minstrel and Ideal Agent before the Nullarbor, which is followed by the $300,000 Group 1 Fremantle Cup a week later.
On the same card, brilliant form NSW mare Steno smashed the clock winning the feature, the $50,000 Group 3 Laurie Kennedy (1720m) for mares.
Taken straight to the front by trainer-driver Jocelyn Young, Steno just kept rolling for a blistering 1min51.9sec mile rate, including closing splits of 54.4 and 27.1sec. It was just 0.7sec outside Pinny Tiger’s track record.
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Class prevailed when former Kiwi trotter Mufasa Metro won the $50,000 Bruce Skeggs Trotters’ Cup at Cranbourne on Saturday night.
Trainer-driver John Justice changed his plans to spell the gelding after the Great Southern Star and was glad he did.
Mufasa Metro dug deep to beat high-class mare and favourite Im Ready Jet by a half-neck in a stirring duel. Third placegetter Kyvalley Hotspur was almost 20m away in third spot.
The win was Mufasa Metro’s 12th from 54 starts, with another 28 placings and he’s banked $372,855.
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Could the renaissance of former Kiwi pacer Mach Da Vinci see him grab a Miracle Mile spot?
Peter Hanson’s seven-year-old scored a narrow but impressive win in a strong 2300m free-for-all at Menangle on Saturday night.
He nosed-out the enigmatic but talented Bondi Lockdown by a nose in a 1min55.6sec mile rate.
It’s surely enough to get Mach Da Vinci a spot in either the Newcastle Mile (February 23) or one of the Miracle Mile qualifiers at Menangle on March 2.