Aussie News - Jan 1

by Adam Hamilton

Former Kiwi pacer Cranbourne is impressing new trainer David Aiken.

The six-year-old was bought by Aiken on behalf of his friend and US-based owner Steve Finkelstein, but will race for at least a couple of months in Victoria.

“The plan is for him to head to the US in March,” Aiken said. “Steve owned Ultra Jet, who came across from the US and I had a lot of success with in the big races in the early 1990s. We became great mates and have been ever since.

“We found him a horse called Leonides a couple of years back and he’s done a great job in the US so they wanted another one.”

Aiken said Cranbourne would trial at Shepparton Thursday with a view to a possible start in the $75,000 Group 2 Shepparton Gold Cup on January 14.

“I like him a lot. He just feels like a really good horse,” Aiken said. “If he runs at Shepparton and goes well, we’ve got the Ballarat Cup the week after.”

Cranbourne raced 44 times in NZ for 12 wins, eight placings and banked $205,383.

His last NZ run was seventh to BD Joe at Addington on December 4.

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Memories of the great Golden Reign came flooding back when Captain Bellasario scored an upset Vicbred final win at Melton on New Year’s Eve.

The four-year-old gelding raced in the green colours of Golden Reign and is trained by Jayne Davies (and Noel Alexander), who put the polish on the 1995 Christchurch Inter Dominion hero.

“It’s our first Group 1 for quite a while,” Davies said. “But we haven’t had the number or quality of horses for a long time, I guess.”

Davies and Alexander sold their property near Cranbourne in recent times and now train from the Cranbourne training complex.

Captain Bellasario overpowered a brave Inter Dominion third placegetter Act Now to win by a half-neck.

“He’s so fast this horse. He’s had some issues, but it’s all coming together now and I think he can go right on with it,” Davies said.

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Dual Inter Dominion-winning trainer Jason Grimson will chase two Victorian Cups next weekend.

Grimson’s last-start Cranbourne Cup winner Major Meister will tackle Rock N Roll Doo and others in Saturday night’s Group 2 Bendigo Cup.

“I’m also leaning towards giving Sicario his first run for me at the Cobram Cup the next day,” Grimson said.

“I’m really happy with him so far and it looks a good starting point.”

Grimson had planned to trial Inter Dominion winner I Cast No Shadow and Majestic Cruiser, but has changed plans.

“There’s no trials this week, so I’ll bring both of them into Melton for a strong hitout and decide where they’ll race after that.” he said.

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Freakish pacer Captain Ravishing is closing in on a racetrack return.

The four-year-old is being set for the Chariots Of Fire on February 18, but looks set to race twice at Melton before heading to Menangle.

As canvassed after Captain Ravishing stunning Breeders Crown win on November 19, the 4YO Bonanza on Hunter Cup night (February 4) is his first major target.

The winner is guaranteed a berth in the Chariots.

Trainer Emma Stewart said it was likely Captain Ravishing would have a lead-up run before the 4YO Bonanza.

Given the terrific record of Chariots Of Fire contestants in the Miracle Mile, connections would logically head there on March 4.

Managing owner Hass Taiba has previously said the two slot races in April – The Race in Cambridge and Perth’s Nullarbor – were not on the agenda.

Captain Ravishing is a commanding prepost favourite for the inaugural running of the world’s richest harness race, the $2.1 million TAB Eureka, at Menangle on September 2.

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Talented former Kiwi pacer Ideal Agent put his hand up as a major player for WA’s upcoming features with a barnstorming free-for-all win last Friday night at Gloucester Park.

It took a superb Dylan Egerton-Green drive from three back on the pegs and just seeing room late to blast home and rundown the exciting Prince Of Pleasure with Minstrel third.

Ideal Agent has looked more of a stayer in his time with Team Bond so far, but his “ping” at the end of 2536m last Friday was very exciting.

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The Kiwis did their part at last night’s stellar Vicbred finals night.

There were main runners with deep New Zealand connections – Amore Vita and Joyful – and both won their Group 1 finals.

In the case of the Steven Dolan-owned Amore Vita, it was déjà vu after her win in the 2YO version a year earlier.

Amore Vita had been in the wilderness a tad by her own lofty standards with a nine-race losing streak, but turned it around with a powerhouse Vicbred semi-final win.

She was right back to her very best, maybe even a new high, when she sat outside and did what most thought impossible – beat $1.20 favourite and stablemate Encipher in last night’s $100,000 feature.

“We’ve liked her since came to us, but it’s taken time to get here to where we wanted her,” trainer Emma Stewart said. “The semi win was terrific and she was better again tonight.”

Despite sitting outside Encipher in a brisk 1min54.6sec mile rate for 2240m, Amore Vita kept finding for driver Chris Alford and gunned down Encipher to win by a half-neck in closing splits of 54.1 and 26.9sec.

Amore Vita led home a total dominance of the final by Stewart and co-trainer Clayton Tonkin, who had the first six fillies across the line.

Last night’s win took Amore Vita’s record to 27 starts for 13 wins, nine placings and $375,553.

Stewart and Tonkin also trained the other “Kiwi” winner when Joyful led throughout to win the $130,000 Group 1 2YO fillies’ final.

Joyful is half-owned by top Kiwi trainer Cran Dalgety, who races her with Harness Racing Australia’s Cam Brown and Darryl Brown.

They bought the filly after racing her on lease with an option to purchase from Alabar.

Joyful showed a glimpse of talent with Brent Lilley before being switched to Tonkin and Stewart where she’s won all five starts.

“That’s a big thrill,” said Dalgety, who watched on TV at home. “It’s great to get another big win with the Browns, who we raced Bit Of A Legend, Katy Perry and Bettor Joy with.”

Stewart and Tonkin finished the night with three Group 1’s, the most stunning coming from their outstanding two-year-old colt The Lost Storm.

The son of Captaintreacherous won by a staggering 36.7m in a 1min52.2sec mile rate for 2240m.

To give context, the time was just 1.1sec outside the all-aged Melton 2240m track record set by his stablemate Captain Ravishing in November.

“We love this colt,” Stewart said. “He had a couple of hard runs and wasn’t at his top for a while, but we got him back for this series and he showed how good he is tonight.”

Anthony Butt added to the Kiwi flavour of the night with a stunning drive on classy mare Dougs Babe to upset Tough Tilly in the $100,000 Group 1 4YO Mares’ final.

Butt escaped a tricky spot behind tiring leader Tay Tay just in the nick of time and ran down Tough Tilly to win by 1.2m in a 1min54.1sec mile rate for 2240m.

Butt and fiancé Sonya Smith bought Dougs Babe before the Vicbred semi-final with a view to on-selling her to trainer Nifty Norman in the US.

“That’s how it will play out. She’ll head there in February,” Butt said.

The other star power of the night came when gifted three-year-old Catch A Wave returned to winning form in the 3YO colts and geldings final.

Bouncing back from a fifth in his semi-final, Catch A Wave pounced on the front from gate three and won well in a 1min54.5sec mile rate.

The star of the trotting finals were the Yabby Dams team of Pat Driscoll and Anton Golino with two Group 1’s.

Quaker Jet filly Revelstoke thrashed her rivals in the 3YO fillies’ final, while Cravache Dor was similar impressively in the 3YO colts and geldings’ final. Both were driven by Nathan Jack.

Prince Of Pleasure was driven equally as well by Gary Hall Jr and looked the winner, before Ideal Agent nabbed him to win by a half-head.

The run of the race was Minstrel, who did the work outside the leader and was only beaten a neck. That’s now two big runs in a row since a short break for the proven topliner.

Another former Kiwi, Three Rumours, proved too strong for a handy field of mares’ when she sat parked and won at Gloucester Park.

The four-year-old mare has been a work in progress for trainer Barry Howlett, but two wins from her past three runs showed it’s all starting to come together for the daughter of Mach Three.

Earlier in the night, Team Bond’s Golden Nugget winner Himself won again and is another emerging player for the Fremantle and WA Cups in coming weeks.

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