Pacer turned trotter on the rise

By Jonny Turner

What was to be a regular training run during lockdown has again paid dividends for Mosgiel trainer Craig Buchan, who produced Top Pocket Chance to win at Ascot Park on Thursday.

The 4yr-old pacer turned squaregaiter continued his rapid progression in his new gait when powering to his second consecutive trotting victory in race 3 for driver Brad Williamson.

What was to be just another piece of trackwork has proven to be the starting point in the then 22-start maiden pacer propelling himself towards trotting’s middle grades.

Buchan set out to give the Washington VC gelding some galloping work, but the horse only wanted to be in one gait.

“It was during the lockdown, I don’t use galloping pacemakers or anything like that, but I took him out and tried to give him a gallop.”

“All he wanted to do was trot.”

“He is a pretty natural trotter, he has only got pretty light shoes on all around.”

Top Pocket Chance produced an excellent first up run as a squaregaiter when second behind the talented Madrik.

After a third behind Arc De Triomphe the horse’s form dropped away for three starts before he scored a brilliant front running win at Ascot Park two weeks ago.

“He was starting to feel his feet a bit, I think,” Buchan said.

“But when he won last time Brad said he could win his next start straight away.”

Though he looks to have a good future as a trotter, Top Pocket Chance’s pacing career is not necessarily over.

“He could still win a race as a pacer, he could line up straight away if you wanted to,” Buchan said.

All of sire Washington VC’s trotting 10 wins have been produced by Otago trainers.

Top Pocket Chance accounts for two of them and the former Phil Williamson trained gelding, Blazing Under Fire, winning the other eight.

Blazing Under Fire has gone on to win another 12 races in Australia.

There was plenty of fallout from former Otago horseman Rory McIlwrick producing outsider Mr Olympus to win in race 1.

The 4yr-old trotter left punters reeling after he strode to his maiden victory at $60 odds.

His win also left owner, Carol Graham scrambling to leave the course.

Graham, who is a nurse, was due to clock in at work as her horse was striding around the home turn.

“Carol was due at work when we were in the back straight, but he was looking pretty good so she stayed and watched him,” McIlwrick said.

Graham races the trotter with her father, Owen Lawrence, who trains the horse.

McIlwrick now lives in Southland with Graham and helps her and Lawrence with their racing team.

“Getting a win should help pay for my tea,” McIlwrick quipped.

“He is a nice horse, he is pretty untapped and has a lot to learn.”

“It has been a good run for Owen and Carol after Miss Auckland ran second last week.”

“I am rapt for them.”


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