Champion Aussie driver primed for Cambridge return

By Adam Hamilton

Champion driver Chris Alford is buzzing about his return to Cambridge for Friday night’s huge Grins Night of Champions.

The 54-year-old has the drives on Aussie outsider Triple Eight in the $1m Race by Grins and exciting trotter Aldebaran Zeus in the Group 2 Waikato Flying Mile.

He's driven at Cambridge before though not regularly.

“The first was back in 1985 or ’86 as a junior driver, then I went back in 2018 when Wobelee ran in the Harness Jewels.”

Wobelee, Australia’s champion young trotter of the time, ran a terrific third in the Jewels 3YO Trotting final at Cambridge on June 2, 2018.

“It’ll be great to get back across. I’m heading over Thursday night,” Alford said.

New Zealand will always hold a special place for Alford given his first “mega” win and still one of the greatest of his stellar career came aboard Golden Reign in the 1995 Addington Inter Dominion final. 

Alford knows winning the $1mil Race by Grins will be a huge ask on the Jess Tubbs-trained Triple Eight, especially now he’s drawn barrier five (he will come into four if the emergency misses a start).

“He’s a lovely old horse and you know he’ll give his all, but he’ll need a lot to go right,” he said.

“I haven’t had a good chat with Greg (Sugars) or Jess (Tubbs) yet, but he can’t get across a few of those good ones inside him, so I’ll probably go back and look to get a ride home on one of the Purdon runners.

“He loves truly run races and this looks to have the potential to be that.

“I’ll sure he’ll finish the race off well, if it’s run to suit.”

Alford is more bullish about his chances with Brent Lilley’s classy trotter Aldebaran Zeus, who opens his extended Kiwi campaign in the $45,000 Group 3 Waikato Flying Mile.

“Don’t worry about him getting beaten last time,” Alford said. “He badly needed the run. He went from cruising to just running out of puff.

“I’m sure ‘Lil’ will have him ready for this and despite the wide draw, I’m sure he’ll be hard to beat. He loves mile racing.

“I haven’t gone through the form yet, but we’ve got Majestic Man outside so I’d think we’ll just keep pushing forward and see if we can find the front.”

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