Jack Hammers them in the Gr.1 Australian Trotting Champs

AUSTRALIA has a new trotting force, and trainer David Aiken predicted it would happen six months ago.

Just weeks after taking over training Big Jack Hammer, the decorated Aiken told owner Dominic Martello and many others he was sure the gelding had serious Group 1 potential.

Even back then, he said: “let’s see if we can get him into the Inter Dominion.”

They did that, but it came too soon. Big Jack Hammer showed glimpses with second placings in two heats before an overawed 10thbehind Tornado Valley in the final.

But the experience was gold.

Big Jack Hammer jagged his first open-class Group 1 in the Dullard Cup at Melton on Hunter Cup night (February 2).

Amazingly, it was to be first of a hattrick of Group 1 wins.

Next came a trip to Menangle last Saturday week to jag the Aquagait Mile on the Miracle Mile program.

But the best of the lot came in a strong line-up -  including Inter Dominion winner Tornado Valley and Great Southern Star winner Dance Craze - in last night’s $100,000 Group 1 Australian Trotting Championship (2240m).

It took his season record to 13 starts for four wins, three placings and $137,920.

“He’s always been a nice horse. Previous trainer Geoff Webster won a Group 1 with him as a three-year-old. Geoff looked after him and I’m sort of reaping the rewards. He seems to be getting better and better. He’s a nice horse. He’s good gaited and a he’s an opportunist.”

In a fascinating twist, Big Jack Hammer’s three Group 1 wins this season have come for different drivers. Kima Frenning won the first, Anthony Butt saluted at Menangle and Aiken’s son, Josh, won last night.

Josh, now Menangle-based with Shane Tritton, enjoyed the trip home.

“It’s fantastic, it’s always good to come back to Melbourne. I was just enjoying the night and the win made it really special.”

Big Jack Hammer trailed star mare Dance Craze home from the rear of the field and snatched a 1.9m win in a 1min58.1sec mile rate for 2240m.

Dance Craze was the run of the race after galloping at the start, losing 40m and settling last.

Tornado Valley’s five-month and nine-race unbeaten streak came to an abrupt end when he stopped badly after sitting outside the leader to finish 35m from the winner in ninth spot.

“He’s headed for a spell,” trainer Andy Gath said. “We hoped he had one big run left in him, but obviously not. He’s been in work 12 months and the longest he’s had out is 12 days.

“It’s been the most amazing year for him and he deserves a good break now.”

Tornado Valley’s emerging stablemate McLovin, unbeaten in his previous three Aussie runs, also ran miles below his best, albeit at his biggest test. He was 11th beaten almost 50m.

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