Awkward draw for Larry's comeback

by Adam Hamilton

The champ is back.

Leap To Fame takes the first step towards what could and should be an assault on the New Zealand Cup when he returns from a spell at Albion Park on Saturday night.

Trainer-driver Grant Dixon opted to sharpen-up the champion five-year-old with a 1660m mobile race before trying standing-start racing for the first time a week later in the Flashing Red at Albion Park.

The Flashing Red and the $100,000 Group 2 Redcliffe Cup on June 29 are the pivotal races where Leap To Fame needs to handle stand-start racing well to push ahead with NZ Cup plans.

While Leap To Fame has loads of class over his rivals on Saturday night, Dixon fears the worst possible draw – gate eight (inside the back row) – could be his undoing.

“It’s so hard from that draw over the sprint trip. You can’t pull right back and give them that big a start when there are horses capable of running a 1min50sec mile,” Dixon said.

“So, I’ll need luck to try and get away from the inside early or likely be three or four back on the inside and need a lot of luck.”

Notably, Leap To Fame has won 11 starts on end and his last defeat came from inside the back row over 1660m in the Be Good Johnny on November 4.

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Remember Aldebaran Zeus?

About this time last year he was finishing up a New Zealand campaign before embarking on an extended US raid where he ran fifth against some of the world’s best trotters in the $US1mil Yonkers International on September 9.

He stayed on in the US for another six runs and landed a second placing, but his form tapered-off and managing owner-breeder Duncan McPherson decided to bring him back home.

“Looking back, we gave him a few extra runs we probably shouldn’t have because he couldn’t get on the flight we wanted him on back to Australia in November,” McPherson said.

“His form went off and he got crook for a while, so we gave him about a month out over there before he eventually got on the plane back home.”

Exactly 14 months since he last raced in Australia, Aldebaran Zeus makes his return in Saturday night’s Lenin Free-For-All (2240m) at Melton.

And McPherson is tipping a big run.

“He’s had a good, long build-up and a couple of trials. Tracey (Cullen) and Brent (Lilley) are very happy with him,” he said.

“The best pointer was a strong trial at Melton on Monday night when he ran home well under his own steam and just got beaten by Hesallmuscle in a 1min55sec mile rate … he went terrific.

“He’s raring to go and he’s got a draw to use his speed and hopefully find the lead.”

Aldebaran Zeus, a five-time Group 1 winner, has drawn gate three with his two main rivals – Ollivici (eight) and One Over All (nine) – off the back row.

Champion driver Chris Alford, who made the trip to Yonkers last year to drive him, will be reunited with Aldebaran Zeus on Saturday night.

And remember, Aldebaran Zeus did lead throughout to beat Just Believe in the Group 1 Hammerhead Mile at Menangle last year.

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New Zealand Cup-winning trainer Jason Grimson should continue to build towards his huge Queensland winter raid at Menangle on Saturday night.

Fresh from Swayzee’s superb winning return last week, another of Grimson’s open-class stars Hi Manameisjeff returns from a break in the JD Watts Memorial (1609m) at Menangle.

It’s the Kiwi-bred pacer’s first run since galloping and losing all chance in the early stages of the Miracle Mile on March 9.

Hi Manameisjeff showed he was primed for a return just over a week ago when he beat Swayzee and posted a scorching 1min49sec mile in a Menangle trial.

“I’ll take him to Brisbane, too, but aim for the shorter races, especially the Sunshine Sprint, with him,” Grimson said.

Grimson’s open-class stocks for Brisbane will also include Nerano and Hot And Treacherous, while his Chariots Of Fire winner Frankie Ferocious will be aimed at the $350,000 Group 1 Rising Sun on July 13.

 

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