Key runners secure ace draw in Interdom trotting heats
By Jonny Turner
All eyes will be on barrier 1 in both of Friday night’s heats of the Interdominion trotting series after key runners Big Jack Hammer and Marcoola secured the ace draw.
Clinching the sought after starting spot following Monday’s draw continued a nearly perfect lead up to the series Victorian trainer David Aiken is enjoying with his 7yr-old.
Big Jack Hammer has settled in well at John and Josh Dickie’s Clevedon property alongside fellow Australians Tough Monarch and McLovin.
“Everything is good — the horse has settled in good,” Aiken said.
“The three Aussies at John and Josh Dickie’s have all settled in well.”
The only thing that could be going slightly better with The Pres squaregaiter is his preparation for right-handed racing.
But, that got a big boost when Big Jack Hammer was handed barrier 1 for the first 2200m heat of the trotting series.
Racing on the inside of the track – the best place for a right-handed rookie — should give Victorian every chance to adjust to the Alexandra Park style quickly.
“It is fantastic, we couldn’t have asked for a better draw,” Aiken said.
“The first time around going right handed, it is probably going to work out pretty good.”
Big Jack Hammer’s right handed work since landing in New Zealand has not been perfect, but he has shown his trainer enough to suggest the direction will not cause a major problem during the series.
“It probably could be better,” Aiken said.
“When I worked him on Tuesday morning he was OK, he wasn’t 100%.”
“I think the barrier is going to help him.”
Big Jack Hammer’s gate speed and his record in group 1 sprints in Australia make him a big player in the first heat of the trotting series.
He proved he was key contender in last year’s series when producing top four finishes in each of the three Victorian heats before running ninth in the final after being shuffled back in the field.
It is precisely that kind of run that could hinder Big Jack Hammer’s chances of helping Aiken add an Interdominion Trotting title to the pacing championship he won in 2015 with Lennytheshark.
“He is one of those horses — when he won a couple of group 1s last year — that probably has got to get the right trip,” the trainer said.
“He can’t make his own luck.”
“He has got a bit of speed, but he has got to be handy at the right time.”
Big Jack Hammer should get the kind of run he is looking for on Friday night from his ace draw.
Decisions on which, if any, of his rivals could give the trotter a nice run in the trail will sit with leading reinsman Luke McCarthy.
McCarthy will jump back in the sulky behind the 7yr-old for the first time since he left Sydney two years ago.
Few horses drawn outside Big Jack Hammer look to have the gate speed to cross the Victorian immediately after that start.
The same scenario should play out for the horse many expect to lead from barrier 1 in heat two of the trotting series.
Marcoola looks the obvious early leader judging by the blazing beginning he made when smashing the national mile (1609m) record at Ashburton two starts ago.
The new arrival at Barry Purdon’s stable will need to hold out northern gate flyer Credit Master if he and driver Sheree Tomlinson are going to put in a repeat of their dazzling Ashburton display.
Credit Master looks capable of at least testing Marcoola early in their 2200m heat.
Though the 6yr-old has led after making fast beginnings in several of his mobile starts, he has also made mistakes from the gate.
The Andrew and Lyn Neal trained trotter comes in to Friday night’s heat after galloping behind the mobile in his last start at Alexandra Park.
Should Big Jack Hammer and Marcoola lead each heat it would hand a perfect run to the horses drawn behind them.
Series outsider Paramount King is drawn to follow out Big Jack Hammer in heat one.
Otago trotter Majestic Man tracks through Marcoola in heat two.