Stewart's surprise Vicbred clash
By Adam Hamilton
IN a shock twist, the three biggest stars of the rich Vicbred 3YO series will clash in a qualifying heat at Kilmore on Thursday.
Harness Racing Victoria’s decision to cease splitting stablemates opened the door for the three favourites for the final – Centenario, Hurricane Harley and Demon Delight – to all draw the same heat.
Prepost markets for the Group 1 final have the Emma Stewart-trained trio heading betting. Centenario is a hot $2.20 favourite from Hurricane Harley ($2.70) and Demon Delight ($5).
Next in line is David Aiken’s NSW Derby runner-up Malcolms Rhythm at $8.
In the glamour heat, which is race six at Kilmore, Centenario has the best gate (four) against Hurricane Harley (seven) and Demon Delight (9).
Aussie Rules star and part-owner of the emerging pacer Watch List, Josh Jenkins, called for HRV to seed the heats for such events going ahead.
His pacer Watch List has won eight of his 16 starts, including his past five, but faces a monstrous task to qualify for the semis against Centenario, Hurricane Harley and Demon Delight.
Sure it’s the luck of the draw under this new system, but the disparity in the qualify of the heats is stark and doesn’t seem to play to creating the strongest possible field for the semis and final.
“The seed events in tennis, NCAA sports, AFL/NRL finals and it works there, why not harness events like this?” Jenkins said.
Others argue the purely random system helps the battlers get a better chance.
While the Vicbred series hots up, the NSW Breeders Challenge gets to semi-final stage for the 3YOs and 4YOs at Menangle on Saturday night.
Best clash of the three year-olds sees Hardhitter from gate two against nominal favourite for the final, Lochinvar Art (gate seven) in the first semi.
The other key runner for the final, NSW and Tasmanian Derby winner Max Delight, should be too classy in the second heat.
The star of the four-year-old ranks is Ignatius, but he still faces a challenge in his semi because the preferential draws mean he starts from the outside over a mile.
All the NSW Breeders Challenge finals are part of the same card as the Len Smith Mile at Menangle on Sunday week (June 30).