Stars shine ahead of Diamonds Day

By Jonny Turner

If yesterday’s Winton meeting is anything to go by, harness racing fans are in for an incredible Diamonds Day at Ascot Park next weekend.

A string of outstanding performances by key runners in Diamonds Day’s feature races has only heightened the anticipation ahead of Southland harness racing’s signature race day.

The powerful performances started when Black Pearl produced a tough staying effort in the final heat of the Southland Oak series.

The filly worked hard in the running, with driver Jonny Cox holding the parked position when Carerra Sunset came around three-wide.

After hitting the lead on the turn, Black Pearl dug deep to score, showing the kind of staying qualities needed to win a Southland Oaks.

“She is a very determined little filly and it was a great effort,” trainer Cran Dalgety said.

“We have been looking forward to getting her up over a bit of distance, staying is her forte.”

“She’s got a great attitude and tries her guts out, so bring on the Oaks next week.”

Ohoka Connor was just as impressive when keeping his unbeaten record intact by winning the final heat of the Southern Supremacy Stakes series.

The Stonewall Stud pacer had to give a smart field a head-start when snagged back to last by driver Tim Williams.

Williams edged forward with Ohoka Connor in the middle stages before he reeled off a smart 55.1sec final 800m to score.

The pacer is now set to start the favourite in next weekend’s Southern Supremacy Stakes Final.

“That run was really nice and it works out well with the final in ten days, it should tighten him up nicely,” Williams said.

Franco Norton signalled he is going to take plenty of holding out in next weekend’s Southern Country Cups Final with his win in the Winton Businesses Cup.

The Steven McRae trained pacer unleashed an incredibly fast 54.1sec final 800m to fight back to beat One Change, who headed him on the home turn.

Franco Norton hadn’t started since winning on both days of the two-day Cromwell meeting in late February.

After being freshened, the pacer will only strip fitter for next weekend’s Southern Country Cups Final.

“That should be a good blowout next weekend, they didn’t look to be going that quick but that should blow the cobwebs out,” trainer Steven McRae said.

Joes Rock sprinted best to win yesterday’s Southern Belle Speed Series Final for trainer Brett Gray.

Though the mare is also eligible for the Southern Country Cups Final, Gray indicated the mare is likely to miss the feature and be aimed at mares features at Addington.

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