Can Just Believe be beaten in ID Trotting Final?
By Adam Hamilton
Champion driver Chris Alford certainly isn’t conceding this Inter Dominion trotting final to defending champion Just Believe.
Alford, who teams up with star Kiwi-owned mare Queen Elida (gate five), remains very positive despite drawing outside Just Believe (four).
“He’s been fantastic Just Believe, he’s absolutely flying, and he’ll be hard to beat,” he said. “But all things being equal, I still think I’m a good chance of beating him.
“The mare has got better each run through the series and ‘Lil’ (trainer Brent Lilley) says she’s been fantastic this week.
“She felt really good last Saturday and she’s such a good doer, Lil thinks she’ll only be better again for the final.”
Queen Elida was raw and inexperienced when third as favourite behind Just Believe in last year’s Melbourne final.
Alford is adamant she’s considerably better 12 months down the track.
“She’s stronger and just a lot more mature. She can hold that great speed of hers longer,” he said.
“I know she’ll need to be right at her top and have a few things go right, but we’re right in there with a winning chance.”
A big talking point has been whether Alford will chance his arm and blast Queen Elida out in a hope to cross Just Believe at the start.
It’s a question Alford dodged a little and hedged his bets on.
“I don’t think we need to burn out, but I must say I haven’t put a lot of time into the race yet,” he said.
“I’ll have to chat with Lil and the owners and see what they think, but she’s been racing really well without being fired out at the start too often.”
Against that, Queen Elida showed the most gate speed she ever has when Alford asked to extend at the start of last Saturday night’s heat.
“The speed’s there, no doubt about that. It’s just a matter of whether it’s the best thing to do, burning her out like that,” he said.
“I think we could cross if we really wanted to. Just Believe isn’t that fast out, he’s been crossed a couple of times in this series already.
“We’ve got some thinking to do because we’ve got options,”
But co-trainer and driver Greg Sugars insists Just Believe will hold the lead if he wants.
“I expect Chris (Alford) will come out hard and have a look, you don’t get these races handed to you on a platter,” he said.
“I don’t think she (Queen Elida) can cross us, not drawn next to us. I can get out quickly when I absolutely have to.
“It’s a big advantage being drawn inside my main danger and I’ve got to make the most of it.”
Like Alford, Sugars has no doubt Just Believe is “much better” than he was winning last year’s final.
“It’s hard to believe, but he’s gone to another level since Sweden. He’s come back so well and that last (round) heat win of his was simply amazing.”
Just Believe is $1.15 favourite to complete a clean sweep of the Inter Dominion series for a second successive year. Queen Elida is $8 second elect.