Aussie news : Sept 8

It is hard to believe a rising nine-year-old is one of Australia’s most exciting pacers, but that’s just what General Dodge is.

A series of injury and illness setbacks have limited the son of Courage Under Fire to just 19 starts, only four of them in the past three years.

But General Dodge’s 14 wins and a stunning recent Melton trial have everyone brimming with excitement about his return to racing in the $100,000 Group 1 VHRC Caduceus Classic (1650m) at Bendigo on Saturday night.

In that August 23 Melton trial, General Dodge showed such stunning speed, it moved rival trainer Andy Gath to declare him “as fast as any horse I’ve seen.”

General Dodge easily won the trial, leaving proven Group 1 performers like Wolf Stride and Out To Play in his wake.

Subsequent impressive workouts at home and the fact the Victoria Cup is only a month away has prompted trainer Mick Chircop to throw General Dodge into the Group 1 deep end for his first start since a Melton win on May 1.

“He needs racing now. I know this is a Group 1, but he’s got the (Group 2) Kilmore Cup (September 23) and then the main target, the Victoria Cup (October 9),” Chircop said.

“The short distance suits first-up and he’s so versatile. He’s drawn the front and even though he’s out wide (gate six), he’s so quick out, he’ll be in the firing line early.”

Chircop said a parasite called Liver Fluke, which is very rare in horses, was the reason General Dodge was sidelined for 20 months between June, 2018 and February, last year.

“It really knocked him around and took a long time to diagnose, but once we did, he turned the corner straight away,” he said.

“I know time isn’t on our side at his age, but I honestly think this is the soundest and healthiest I’ve ever had him.

“I’d just like one full year to give him a crack at the big races without any setbacks.”

General Dodge has already been crunched from $5 into $2.10.

It’s a strong race with rivals including Group 1 performers like Wolf Stride, Out To Play, Max Delight Western Sonador, Triple Eight and Boots Electric.

Ride High holds the Bendigo 1650m track record with the stunning 1min49sec he posted winning on August 1, last year.

The other Group 1 at Bendigo sees exciting trotter Majestuoso trying to defend the Australasian Trotting Championship crown he won last year.

This time he goes back to a 10m handicap as he tries to protect his unbeaten record in four starts at 2600m or further.

His main danger looks to be another budding star, Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin’s Cover Of Darkness, who has drawn outside the front line (barrier seven).

The other key players are Anton Golino’s exciting young mare Im Ready Jet (inside back, barrier eight) and rejuvenated veteran Maori Law (barrier one) for former Kiwi father-and-son, Richard and Emmett Brosnan.

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