From Auckland to Melton to Addington

By Frank Marrion courtesy of the HarnessXpress

There were no surprises when Anton Golino trained a Group 1 double for Yabby Dam Farms at Melton last Saturday night.

The Pat Driscoll-driven operation has been dominating the Victorian trotting features for a while now.

But in what was a massive weekend all around, and somewhat outside the square, Driscoll also won the G3 Northern Trotting Stakes with Pretty Majestic in near record time the night before at Alexandra Park, and pacing mare Soundslikeart wrapped things up with her third win in recent months late in the day at Addington on Sunday.

The latter was quite brilliant in picking up the pace making favourite Woman In Gold after being badly held up three fence on the home turn.

It was a return to winning form after a double at Mot and Nelson back in the New Year, and while she had been placed a few times since, she had mostly been beating herself.

“If you think she is unpredictable at the moment, you should see her without Regumate,” said Driscoll.

A four-year-old daughter of Art Major and the New Zealand mare Sounds Alive, Soundslikeart won a couple of races as a two-year-old at Bathurst in June, 2018, but she became a notorious bad actor when Australia banned the use of Regumate for race horses.

She came to New Zealand late last year and has won $21,000 since, with the prospect of much more in store.

Pretty Majestic came over at the same time and she has been nothing short of a revelation, except to Driscoll and Golino.

“She won the Victoria Trotting Oaks and was one of the top three-year-old trotters going around two years ago, but then a shoeing mishap in an early trial pretty much wrecked her entire four-year-old season.

“We wound up sending her to Robert (Dunn) in Auckland because there wasn’t much here for trotting mares unless you are in FFA class and she is even better going right handed.”

Driscoll is always looking to off load horses where possible from the extensive Ballarat operation due to having great difficulty keeping good staff.

“You could say we’re always trying to reduce the number of horses in training rather than trying to increase the number of people employed here.

“As such we’ve leased a lot of horses out which have been doing very well just lately.

“Anton is not afraid to race a two-year-old if it’s got the natural ability, but mostly he’s about developing potential over time.”

Former Robert Dunn employee Jack MacKinnon has been helping out Golino for about a year along with Sweden’s Marica Erikson.

Since a very unlucky first up seventh at Alexandra Park at Christmas, when hopelessly blocked for a run in the straight, Pretty Majestic has raced six times for four wins and two seconds for stakes worth over $60,000.

She was beaten a neck by Tickle Me Pink second up on New Year’s Eve and by a head by Kenny’s Dream in late January.

She has pretty much been going from strength to strength and was unbeaten in three starts in February.

After beating Kenny’s Dream at Alexandra Park when they both came off 50m, Pretty Majestic showed she is not that bad going left handed either when also quite brilliant in coming from last on the home turn to win the Waikato Breeders Stakes from 50m at Cambridge.

When she handsomely won again last Friday night, Pretty Majestic was just .2 of a second outside of Pride Of Petite’s national 2700m record for mares set 23 years ago.

Driscoll is unsure what the future holds for Pretty Majestic now that she has reached a 93 rating, but clearly she is up to a crack at the Anzac and Rowe Cups in May.

“My focus is the breeding side of the game. When it comes to the racing side, I just let the trainers do their own thing and I haven’t even spoken to the Dunns since those mares went over.”

Pretty Majestic is a five-year-old daughter of Majestic Son and belongs to the Maori tribe and Driscoll will let her dictate when she is ready to be a broodmare.

“I think I’ll wind up leaving a few horses over there and have a boutique breeding set up, although I don’t know where yet.”

At one time Driscoll had most of his broodmares and racehorses in New Zealand and was looking at setting up a large showplace farm like the one he has near Ballarat.

But the red tape around overseas investment in farms in New Zealand precluded that and he was a big loss to the harness racing industry here, although still heavily involved in sponsorship and setting up new races for trotting fillies, and offering the French stallions along with newcomer Volstead.

Driscoll’s influence on Melton’s big night of Group racing, unbelievably held in competition with Menangle, was even more than it appeared on the face of it.

Orlando Storm was only just beaten in the G3 Breed for Speed Silver Series Final for trotting mares and the favourite Imsettogo was going to win that until clipping a wheel when angling into the passing lane.

Norquay, beaten a lip in the G1 Breed For Speed Gold Series Final for trotting mares after a tough early run, was bred by Driscoll and is raced on a lease by Chris Svanosio.

So too is Saturday’s Melton winner Just Believe, part of an extraordinary first crop of four-year-olds by Orlando Vici in Australia (10 winners from 11 foals including NSW Trotting Derby winner Xebec), and Travel Bug, the winner of Sunday’s Robert Coutts Memorial at Boort.

The latter is a four-year-old Dream Vacation gelding and the first foal from Tricia Powell (Sundon-Ella Powell).

These are examples of Driscoll’s desire to reduce the numbers in training under Golino and his small team.

And just to round things up, the last two races at Melton were won by Love You’s son Il Pirata, taking his stakes past $152,000 with his 12th win and fifth in Victoria, and Queen Of Love, a mare by Repeat Love.

Driscoll’s big Group I wins however came from the three-year-old Quaker Jet filly Im Ready Jet in the Need For Speed Princess Final and Dance Craze in the Grand Prix, where the Muscle Hill-La Coocaracha mare downed Tornado Valley and Temporale.

Im Ready Jet won the G1 Breeders Crown 2yo filly trot final at Melton in August and on this occasion, she outclassed them by 24m in a track record 1.55.6 mile rate for the 1720m.

This was faster than Elite Stride in the equivalent colts final and bettered the three-year-old trotting track record of 1.56.6 set by Blitzthemcalder in the same series seven years ago.

Recent New Zealand export Simone De Beauvoir (Love You) won the race for second over the winner’s stablemate Imamaorijet (Quaker Jet-Sumthingaboutmaori).

Imsettogo (by Used To Me) and Im Ready Jet are the first foals from the New Zealand mare Im Ready Set (8 NZ wins), a fast but head strong Monarchy mare from the Diedre family who won races at Menangle (1.56.6) and Melton before going haywire.

Glen Craven, Golino’s stable driver along with Jason Lee, had an armchair drive with Im Ready Jet but drove a superb tactical race to get Dance Craze home over Tornado Valley.

This was her third Group 1 success having won a Breeders Crown at three and last year’s Great Southern Star.

Dance Craze has now won 21 of her 37 races and $478,000, having also been third at the Jewels in one race here.

Rowe Cup winner La Coocaracha was bred to a variety of stallions including Christian Cullen and didn’t produce much before Driscoll acquired her.

But her first three foals for him have been Reina Danzante (G1 Vicbred, G1 Breeders Crown 3yo), Dance Craze and La Grange (G2 NSWSS 2yo & 3yo trot finals).

Clearly Driscoll does know a bit about his breeding. – by Frank Marrion

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