Aussie News : October 15

Bring on the New Zealand Cup. That’s the message from trainer Jason Grimson after his latest stable star Swayzee returned from a break with an arrogant Menangle win last night.

As Grimson watched Swayzee’s return win on TV at Melton, he was buzzing with confidence about the upcoming NZ trip.

Instead of chasing last night’s Victoria Cup, Grimson opted for a lower key build-up and Swayzee resumed in the 2300m Les Chant free-for-all at Menangle.

Despite sitting parked for much of the race, he cruised home by 5.6m in a blistering 1min52.4sec mile rate.

Swayzee is unbeaten in seven runs since joining Grimson’s stable and he was first-up since beating Leap To Fame in the Blacks A Fake at Albion Park on July 22.

In further good news for the NZ Cup, Spirit Of St Louis would have gone close to winning last night’s Victoria Cup with any luck.

Instead, he was blocked for runs late and finished little more than a length from winner Act Now in seventh spot.

And the connections of Captain Ravishing, who was scratched from the Victoria Cup with an elevated temperature on the afternoon of the race, are also very keen on chasing the NZ Cup.

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Mighty trotting mare Queen Elida will target Cambridge’s new slot race rather than head to Sweden’s famous Elitlopp.

Trainer Brent Lilley confirmed so after she posted her seventh Group 1 win in last night’s Bill Collins Trotters Sprint at Melton.

“We might look at Sweden the year after, but with the addition of the new slot race, we’ll be staying closer to home next year,” he said.

There was no better drive on the night that the magic Chris Alford weaved to be in front after JUST 400m of the race from an inside back row draw.

And from there it was a matter of how far for Queen Elida, who made it 11 wins from her past 12 starts and 29 wins from 47 lifetime starts. She’s now banked $626,565.

Owners Tony Barron and Gordon McKenzie were trackside for the win.

“She’s just unreal,” Barron said.

Alford added: “She’s a freak. I’ve been saying for a while now she’s the best trotter I’ve driven and she’s still got upside.”

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A big plunge on Kiwi raider The Real Sherlock in the Group 1 Victoria Derby went astray when he suffered atrial fibrillation.

Crunched from $4 into $2.70, driver Greg Sugars worked forward to find the lead and things looked good in the middle stages.

But it was clear coming to the final bend something was amiss and The Real Sherlock dropped out sharply to finish 60m away in last spot.

The race was the first of three Group 1 majors Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin won on the night. They snared the quinella with Petracca edging out Perfect Class, who was brave after sitting parked.

Top NSW drivers Cam Hart (Petracca) and Perfect Class (Luke McCarthy) made the most of their pick-up drives.

It was young gun Hart’s 11th Group 1 win.

Stewart trumped her Derby quinella by training the first five across the line in the Victoria Oaks.

Sweet Bella, owned by Bruce and Vicki Edwards who also race Act Now, dived right on the line to beat a very gallant Major Delight and win by a head. Perfect In Pink, Elysian Jay and Joyful were next across the line.

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Just a month out from WA’s biggest race and champion trainer Gary Hall Sr is flexing his muscle again.

Hall Sr has won a staggering 13 Group 1 WA Pacing Cups, most recently early this year with former Kiwi pacer Diego.

Officials have moved the Cup forward in the calendar to coincide with the big WA thoroughbred races. It’s worth $450,000 on November 10.

Diego returned from a form slump and showed the importance of racing on the marker pegs when a close second to stablemate Jumpingjackmac in last Friday night’s $100,000 James Brennan Memorial (2536m) at Gloucester Park.

Former Kiwi driver Stewie McDonald got Jumpingjackmac out quickly enough to hold the front from the pole and Diego followed him everywhere before getting clear late and flashing home to go down by just a neck in a slick 1min56.4sec mile rate for the long trip.

Team Bond’s Brisbane Inter Dominion nominee, Tenzing Bromac, ran a terrific race for third.

On the same card, Hall Sr’s exciting former Kiwi three-year-old Mister Smartee returned from a break to make it three wins from as many WA starts. His only other run was a second at Addington before being sold to WA.

It was also good to see last year’s WA Derby winner, the Justin Prentice-trained, Tricky Miki return to his best with a runaway win given WA’s big four-year-old features are just around the corner.

Prentice also trains WA’s most exciting pacer, three-year-old Never Ending, who made it 12 wins from 13 starts when he thrashed his rivals in last Wednesday’s WA Country Derby at Bunbury.

Champion driver Gary Hall Jr has declared Never Ending the best three-year-old he’s driven and one of the fastest pacers he’s been aboard.

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Former Kiwi mare Rakero Rebel set the trend for upsets on Victoria Cup night when she used the sprint lane to shock champion mare Ladies In Red in the Make Mine Cullen.

Just when it seemed Ladies In Red, who was returning from 11 months out with injury, was going to win, her condition gave out and Rakero Rebel nabbed her to win by a neck.

“She was cruising coming around the final bend and I thought I might be able to run a place, which I’d have been thrilled with, but to beat Ladies In Red is amazing,” driver Greg Sugars said.

Just an hour later, another superb Sugars drive gave he and wife, Jess Tubbs, the first Group 1 of the night with Shes Ruby Roo in the Victoria Trotters Oaks.

Kiwi raider Shez Bella ran a fighting fourth after sitting parked in very windy conditions.

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Emma Stewart described it as the best night of her career.

It’s hard to argue with when you consider she and Clayton Tonkin the three big pacing Group 1s at Melton last night, headlined by $72 outsider Act Now’s breathtaking Victoria Cup victory.

Stewart and Tonkin also snared the quinella in the Group 1 Victoria Derby with Petracca edging out Perfect Class, but trumped that by training the five fillies’ home in the Victoria Oaks, won by Sweet Bella.

“That’s the best. In fact, it’s easily the biggest night we’ve had … a real highlight,” Stewart said.

“I thought winning the Eureka a few weeks back was incredible. It was such a great night, but to win our first Victoria Cup, a race which means so much, and the Derby and Oaks as well … you can’t ask for anything more.”

The Victoria Cup looked a tremendous race on paper and it delivered in spades.

Just 6.2 metres separated the first 10 across the line and it wasn’t until the last 50m when Act Now and eventual runner-up Catch A Wave looked like being in the finish.

Big guns Rock N Roll Doo, who mustered enough pace to drive through and take the early lead, and Leap To Fame locked horns from a long way out.

Just as he’s done in his recent Blacks A Fake and TAB Eureka defeats, Leap To Fame was parked outside the leader in sizzling times.

Mick Stanley drove Rock N Roll Doo to beat Leap To Fame by really rolling along in splits of 28.8 and 27.3sec for the second and third quarters respectively.

Just when it seemed Leap To Fame was going to haul in Rock N Roll Doo, they both started to tire the dive-bombers came from all angles.

It was Act Now who snatched victory by a head over Catch A Wave, who would have won in one more stride, and just only another head away to Leap To Fame in third spot.

Rock N Roll Doo was in front 80m from home, but ran fourth, beaten less than a metre.

Act Now gave 48-year-old Jodi Quinlan the equal biggest win of her career. 19 years earlier she drove Sokyola to win the Miracle Mile.

The Victoria Cup drama started long before the race itself.

Not long after arriving at the track, Act Now lashed out with a hind leg and got it stuck over a rail. It took six people and some rope to lift the leg back over.

He grazed all the hair off the front of his back leg.

“When I saw him, I didn’t think he’d run,” Quinlan said.

“It shows what a wonderful horse he is. To go through that and still be absolutely trucking when I pulled him out and come from so far back, it’s just incredible.”

Quinlan has driven Act Now in 40 of his 43 starts and won 21 times. He’s banked $887,285.

Kate Gath, who was in awe of runner-up Catch A Wave, said she was first to tell Quinlan she’d won.

“That was a crazy old race. I knew I hadn’t got there, but I looked across and thought Jodi had won. She wasn’t sure when we spoke after the line and I said I’d thought she’d grabbed them,” she said.

“I can’t believe how close my horse got, especially after he was wide early, did that work and then I had to drag right back to last.”

There were hard luck stories aplenty. Former Kiwi Spirit Of St Louis was badly blocked for a run while flashing home late and ran seventh.

TAB Eureka winner Encipher ran into a complete dead-end and only beat two home, but driver Luke McCarthy told connections she would have won clearly with any luck.

It was a Victoria Cup for ages, even if it was one most punters would rather forget.

 

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