Aussie News : March 14

Former Kiwi pacer Alta Orlando is the gift that keeps giving.

The now 10-year-old made it two-from-two this season, both helped by gloriously superb drives from young gun Jack Callaghan.

Alta Orlando’s won 23 races, been placed another 42 times and banked $968,280. Gee he deserves to top the $1 million.

He ran third in last December’s Inter Dominion final and has also been placed in a Miracle Mile and Hunter Cup.

And he’ll always have a special place in Callaghan’s heart.

“I just love him. He’s given me some amazing opportunities and he’s back doing it again,” he said.

Alta Orlando blasted to the front from the outside draw, took a sit on favourite I Cast No Shadow and then peeled-off his back and nabbed him late to win by a half-neck in a 1min50.2sec mile.

“As I said last week, it’s a bit of a shame we ran out of time to get him back for the better races up here, but at least he’s back and firing again,” Callaghan said.

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The big offers having been flying around for last week’s stunning NSW Derby winner Leap To Fame.

But he’s not going anywhere.

That’s despite two offers of at least $1 million.

“Kay and I thought about it, but we’ve waited 50 years to get a champion and he could be the real deal,” owner Kevin Seymour said.

“It’s big money, but there are lots of great racing options with him over the next 18 months and that’s without taking into account he could develop into a Grand Circuit horse.”

Leap To Fame has returned home to Grant and Trista Dixon’s Queensland property for a break before chasing further riches in the huge Queensland Constellations Winter Carnival.

“He’s got the Queensland Derby, but we’d love an invite to The Rising Sun as well,” Seymour said. “Then he’s got the Breeders Crown and Victoria Derby this season, too.”

Surprisingly, Leap To Fame is yet to be invited to The Rising Sun. The only official invite so far is Bondi Lockdown.

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Classy former Kiwi pacer Vintage Cheddar remains unbeaten and continues to impress since joining Team Gath in Victoria.

The seven-year-old gelding showed his versatility when he dropped back to a sprint race – The Geelong Rocket last Friday night – and was simply too classy after sitting parked and pulling clear to win in a 1min54.5sec mile, capped by a 55.4sec last half.

Vintage Cheddar had gone winless in 11 months in NZ before being bought by Team Gath’s major owner, Norm Jenkin, and joining the stable in late January.

His four Aussie runs have netted wins at Terang, Ballarat, Melton and now Geelong.

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Majestuos is Australia’s best trotter, but star mare Im Ready Jet is right up there with him.

So, with the drop back to racing her own sex, Im Ready Jet was expected to win and did, albeit in quirky circumstances at Melton last night.

Driver Jason Lee drifted back to last on Anton Golino’s mare, while main danger and classy former Kiwi mare Vacation Hill ambled to the front for Kate and Andy Gath.

Lee made his move to sit parked and chase Vacation Hill from the 700m.

Vacation Hill skipped away with a big lead and looked the winner on the home bend, but she really wobbled in the last 100m and Lee switched back to the inside to win, holding off stablemate Hopeful Beauty to win by a half-neck in a 1min59.3sec mile rate for 2240m.

It took Im Ready Jet’s record to 39 starts for 18 wins, 11 placings and $374,000 in earnings.

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It's been a big few months for NSW horseman Jason Grimson.

Back in December the former Riverina trainer won the Inter Dominion final on protest with Boncel Benjamin.

It capped a fantastic move to basing himself at Menangle where he has become a major force.

But Grimson got almost as much satisfaction returning “home” to dominate the Young Cup meeting last Friday night.

Grimson had three runners in the Group 3 Cup and snared the quinella with recent stable addition Ideal Dan beating Egodan. His other runner Doubtless Bay ran sixth.

“I’ve tried to win this race for so long, it was a huge thrill,” he said.

The race also iced the new partnership between leviathan owner Danny Zavitsanos and Grimson. The first two placegetters were recently transferred to Grimson by Zavitsanos.

Grimson also won the Young Derby with the lightly raced Sweet Lou colt Sugar Apple, who led throughout to win by over 25m.

Ideal Dan and Sugar Apple were both driven by outstanding young driver Cam Hart.


NSW’s other young gun driver, Jack Callaghan, won the Young Oaks aboard Cam Ross’ exciting filly Steno, who like Sugar Apple, won by a huge space and ripped home in a 56.2sec last half.

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Repair works continue after extensive flooding to Queensland’s home of harness racing, Albion Park.

Images went around Australia of Albion Park and its surrounds being completely flooded at the height of the disaster in Queensland.

“Workers and volunteers have been going flat-out for over a week,” Racing Queenland’s harness chief David Brick said. “We’ve got the track and stabling very close to ready, but getting the power back on and then assessing what damage has been done to fuses, etc which is the next big challenge.

“We’ll know a lot more by the end of the week.”

Hopes are for racing to resume at Albion Park by the end of the month.

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Ryan Bell deserved a change of luck.

Bell trains WA’s top pacer Shockwave, but setbacks have seen him spend more time on the sidelines than racing over the past 18 months.

So, it’s great to see Bell unearth another exciting pacer in Alta Christiano three-year-old Swingband.

The gelding showed promise with three wins from five starts last season, but looks to have matured well and boasts three wins and three placings from his six runs so far this term.

Swingband completed back-to-back semi feature wins in the Caduceus 3YO Classic at Gloucester Park last Friday night. It came two weeks after he won the Group 2 Sales’ Classic final.

Michael Grantham, who mixes training gallopers with his harness driving, produced a gem to land the one-one trail and overpower leader and favourite The Miki Taker late to win strongly in a 1min55sec mile rate for 2130m.

“I thought he should’ve put the leader away even better than he did, but he’s still learning. He’s showing signs of being the real deal, which is exciting,” Bell said.

Shockwave is due for his nine-month scan for a tendon injury and if cleared he will step-up from walking to jog work.

“The last scan looked good so hopefully this one is good, too. We’re in no rush. We’ll take our time and hopefully he comes back as good as where he left off,” Bell said.

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