Spellbound goes three from three

By Adam Hamilton

How far can former classy Kiwi mare Spellbound go in Australia?

That’s what most are asking after she stretched her unbeaten streak for Nathan Purdon to three with a tough effort after doing plenty of work at Melton on Saturday night.

“She certainly got in well under the handicapping system over here, but she’s really thriving,” driver Stewie McDonald said. “She’s been running time and doing some work from bad draws.

“She’s not just fast, she’s tough as well. She seems really suited over here.

“She’s certainly been great to me and thanks to Nathan and owners for giving me the drive on her.”

The other highlight of the Melton meeting was former NSW Derby winner Max Delight’s dominant Young Pedro free-for-all win.

Trained by David Aiken and driven by his son, Josh, looked a class above his rivals and won accordingly by 7.5m in a 1min54.1sec mile rate for 1720m.

With a solid campaign under his belt, Max Delight has the class and speed to be a Grand Circuit player later this year and early next.

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High-class pacer Ignatius is destined to continue his career in North America, but the longer he stays here the better for the depth of the Menangle free-for-alls.

Trainer-driver James Rattray drove with purpose and won with authority in a 1min50.9sec mile, beating the much-improved and absolutely flying mare Rubies For Tash on Saturday night.

Team McCarthy had a strong hand in the race, but Alta Orlando was just fair after leading, trailing Alta Orlando and finishing third, while Star Galleria settled well back and made no impact in when a well-beaten sixth,

It’s great to see Tiger Tara’s colorful trainer Kevin Pizzuto back with a few nice horses, including former Kiwi gelding Arden Messi, who looked terrific doing work and scoring strongly in the third race at Menangle on Saturday.

Raced by US pair Marc Hanover and Gordon Banks, Arden Messi won four of his 13 Aussie runs, but it’s been the past two wins which suggest he co go onto to bigger things.

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One of the big “wins” of COVID-19 in Australia has been the NSW Regional Championships.

The original idea was to run one huge $1 TAB Million Pace as a new race at Menangle in winter, but COVID forced regional racing and a change of mindset from Harness Racing NSW.

The result was four fantastic finals run in the Hunter (Newcastle), West (Bathurst), Riverina (Wagga) and Metro (Menangle).

Wolf Stride became the banner horse for the new series when he won the Metro final last year and went on to some fantastic wins and big runs in races like the Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile.

The emerging Western Sonador, who only ran third in the Western final last year, is another horse really going places.

Such was the success of the revised concept last year, HRNSW adopted it permanently.

After a few weeks of fantastic heat racing, we head into “finals” week this week, starting with the $100,000 Western final at Bathurst on Wednesday where talented young trainer Gemma Hewitt and top driver Luke McCarthy team with favourite Keayang Kreuzer from the pole.

Then it’s on to the $100,000 Hunter final at Newcastle on Friday night, the $100,000 Metro final at Menangle on Saturday night and then the $100,000 Riverina final at Wagga next Sunday.

The added and exciting twist this year is the stars of the regional finals do all come together for a “race-off” – that’s in the $100,000 TAB Super final at Menangle on Saturday week (May 29).

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No wonder Chris Voak is considered one of the rock stars of WA harness.

Voak’s daring and aggressive drive on Perfect Major was something to behold at Gloucester Park last Friday night.

Simply, it was a perfect balance of aggression from the “death seat” to beat the leader and $1.50 favourite Jack Farthing, yet hold-off star mare Balcatherine, who followed Voak everywhere from the one-one trail.

Voak hammered Jack Farthing through a 57.2sec middle half, but still kept enough to stave-off Balcatherine by a nose in 56.7sec last half at the end of a 1min53.5sec mile rate for 1730m.

Perfect Major has relished his move from Victoria to WA with his 13 starts for trainer Ross Olivieri netting eight wins.

The other free-for-all went to Gary Hall Sr and driver Dylan Egerton-Green with former Kiwi pacer Diego in a more comfortable 1min55sec mile rate for 1730m.

The feature of the night, the $30,000 Group 3 Pure Steel, went to Team Bond with the promising Parmesan, who returned to his best leading throughout from the pole in a slick 1min56.2sec mile rate for 2130m.

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The raiders are lining-up from everywhere for the huge Queensland Constellations, but they’ll be facing some seriously talented locals.

In what was a largely “locals only” entrée to the big winter racing, many of Queensland’s youngest and brightest stars strutted their stuff at Saturday night’s stellar Qbred finals night.

Chantal Turpin’s two contenders for the new $250,000 The Rising Sun (July 10) in Will The Wizard and Blacksadance ran the quinella in their Qbred final, with the former winning by 3.2m and the pair putting another 20m gap on the third placegetter.

Shane Fraser’s exciting Queensland Derby hopeful Manilla Playboy toyed with his rivals in the $102,200 Qbred final to win by 13.2m in a 1min55sec mile rate for 2138m. The son of Pet Rock has won seven of his 13 runs.

Then there’s the brilliant juvenile pair of Cat King Cole, the filly who has four wins from just five starts for Darren Weeks and Kylie Rasmussen, and Jack Butler’s Dangerzone, who is unbeaten in two runs. They both brilliantly won their finals.

Trent Dawson’s Talent To Spare made it seven wins from 13 starts coming from an outside back row draw to win her Qbred 3YO fillies’ final and looks a genuine Queensland Oaks player.

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Kate Gath made a rare trip back “home” to win South Australia’s richest and only Group 1 on Saturday night.

Gath continued her fantastic association with the powerhouse Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin stable to win the $100,000 The Allwood Final (1800m) with Encipher at Globe Derby.

The Captaintreacherous filly certainly had he earn the win with her only danger, Dougs Diva, sitting outside her and driver Dani Hill pouring on the pressure throughout.

But Encipher was up for the fight and eventually cleared right out in the home straight to win by 20 metres and go two wins from as many starts.

Remarkably, Encipher’s 1min54.9sec was just one second outside the all-aged 1800m Globe Derby track record.

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