Stratford set to start season in style
By Jonny Turner
Tony Stratford has the right team to start the new Southland harness racing season in style at Ascot Park on Thursday.
The Gore trainer takes three strong eachway chances to the seven-race meeting in Major Punter, Midnitetraintogeorga and Beauty Barry.
Major Punter will be out to turn around a shock defeat in his last visit to the same track in June when he steps out in race 7.
Stratford admitted he was at a loss to explain the performance but he has been very happy with his pacer since.
“I thought he would win, I told the owners to come down because he would win for fun,” Stratford said.
“I just put it down to a bad day for whatever reason.”
“He is a smart horse and he should be really hard to beat on Thursday.”
Stratford has taken Major Punter to the workouts ahead of his return to the races.
The three-year-old held out race rival Ivana Legacy in 3.06 for 2400m, running his last 800m in 55.9sec.
“They only flopped round, they ran a good half (800m), he ran better than 56sec and he had gears left.”
“He is pretty well and I will be pretty shocked if he didn’t perform this time.”
Beauty Barry goes into race 5 after being defeated by the narrowest of margins in his last outing at Forbury Park.
The four-year-old was bolting in the trail before the home turn and just missed out after being held up when desperate to get out.
“I know he got a good run but the leader was just coming back on him around the turn, then obviously the winner had the weigh on.”
“He seems well but he has just got a tricky draw, really.”
Beauty Barry follows out veteran and outsider Aveross Rustler from barrier 2 on the second row.
Aveross Rustler has shown gatespeed during his seemingly never-ending career but where he may take Beauty Barry in the middle and closing stages is a concern.
Stratford also lines up another Forbury Park runner-up in Midnitetraintogeorga in race 2.
The three-year-old was beaten in her last outing by Owes Me Dough who has gone on to run a nice second placing behind the smart Get Up N Dance at Addington.
Similarly to Beauty Barry, the only factor against Midnitetraintogeorga is her second-row draw, barrier 11.
“Ideally I would have liked to have drawn the front because she has got a bit of gate speed and she could have popped to the top and been hard to beat,” Stratford said.
“The second line is a wee bit different but she is as bright as a button and with any sort of luck I would like to think on her last two runs she would go close.”
All three of Stratford’s runners will be driven by Blair Orange.