Star Aussie trotter heading to NZ
By Adam Hamilton
Top trainer Brent Lilley is planning some time back home.
The former Kiwi horseman, who has built a stellar career in Victoria, will chase some of NZ’s biggest trotting races with one of his stable stars, Aldebaran Zeus, in coming months.
The five-year-old returned to his best form with a dominant win over Australia’s top trotter, Just Believe, in last Saturday night’s Group 1 Hammerhead at Menangle.
“He’ll head to NZ soon,” Lilley said. “There is a mile race at Cambridge on April 14, the same night as the Race By Grins, and that’s his first aim, but we want him to get him across nice and early to prepare for it.
“He’s back to his best and we just thought with Sundees Son retired and Bolt For Brilliance out, we had to have a crack at these races.”
After Cambridge, Aldebaran Zeus will head to races like the Lyell Creek, National Trot and the Anzac and Rowe Cups in May.
“There are so many good options for him and I’m sure he’ll be very competitive,” Lilley said.
“It didn’t surprise us when he came out and beat Just Believe like that the other night. He finally got a good draw and we didn’t think Just Believe would be able to sit outside him and beat him.
“He’d been going well before it, but from bad draws and without much luck.”
Aldebaran Zeus’ return to peak form has him challenging glamour mare Queen Elida for the stable star tag in Lilley’s barn.
But Queen Elida returns to racing and gets her chance to shine again in the Group 3 La Coocaracha Trot (2240m) at Melton on Saturday night.
Lilley said Queen Elida was the stable’s original target runner for the Rowe Cup.
“But when we put some time into it and look at the racing options for her, it makes more sense to keep her here and send Aldebaran Zeus across,” he said.
“There are some really nice mares’ races here for Queen Elida over the next couple of months.”
Beyond this week, she has the $75,000 Group 1 Sumthingaboutmaori at Melton on March 25 and then a race she won last year, the $100,000 Macarthur Mile for trotting mares at Menangle on May 6.
Lilley said Queen Elida’s recent 28-day ban from racing following a fourth in the Great Southern Star had been a blessing.
“They stood her down after finding a small trace of blood in a nostril, but it was nothing serious,” Lilley explained.
“Just before the Great Southern Star she must have reared-up in her box and cracked her head because we found some blood.
“They went right over here and said she was fine, but we did miss a bit of work and she didn’t quite run up to her top in the Great Southern Star.
“She might only have been 95 per cent right and you have to be 100 percent again the very best.
“The break has been good for her. She seems great and it’ll be terrific to get her back to the races.”