The Queen is back ahead of Saturday's Group 1
By Adam Hamilton
Star former Kiwi mare Queen Elida is giving driver Chris Alford that “magical” feeling again.
And that’s a stark warning to her rivals heading into Saturday night’s $100,000 Group 1 Macarthur Mile – a race she won last year – at Menangle.
Punters have launched on the Brent Lilley-trained mare, backing her from $2.20 into $1.75 despite a back row (gate 10) draw.
“She felt so good winning last start,” Alford said. “That’s the mare I got so excited about through the middle of last year.
“Her speed and sharpness are back. I didn’t think she could win from where she was in the run last time, but she jogged in.
“She’s so fast. She ran her last half in 55.2sec.”
As good as Queen Elida through the Inter Dominion and Great Southern Star late last year and early this year, Alford said she wasn’t quite herself.
“If she’d been at her best, I think she’d have those races,” he said.
“She tried hard, but just didn’t feel as awesome as she does at her top.
“She gave me that feeling again last start. That’s the Queen Elida I said was the fastest trotter I’ve driven.
“It’s a good race this week and I know they think the world of Im Ready Jet, but if my mare runs up to her best, I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t win.”
Also in the field is the Barry Purdon - Scott Phelan trained Escape The Pace, after her second behind Springbank Mason at Alexandra Park last Friday.
Alford’s trip to Menangle Saturday night continues a whirlwind few weeks for the champion driver.
“Yeah, it’s been busy. I’ve had those three trips to NZ (driving Aldebaran Zeus)."
On top of that, Alford received Australian harness racing’s ultimate honour when crowned the Gordon Rothacker Medal winner last Sunday night.
Alford will also team with Lilley in Saturday night’s Group 1 NSW Trotters’ Oaks aboard $16 shot Kyvalley Amanda (gate 10).
She’s one of two runners for Lilley with Our Marvella (Jack Callaghan, gate six) the other at $12.
The Oaks sees the return of Australian champion two-year-old trotting filly of last season, Rockinwithattitude, who is a $1.60 favourite despite gate nine.
“It’s great to have her back. She hasn’t really grown since last season, but seems well,” trainer-driver David Miles said.
“She was a standout last season, but you’d expect some of the others to catch-up this season and new rivals to emerge.
“One of them could be Chris Lang’s filly, Glamour Stride. She really caught my eye winning last time and she’ll take some beating from her good draw (gate three) this week.”
Kiwi interest in the Oaks is with the Michelle Wallis-trained Melsadele, who has drawn the pole. Champion driver Luke McCarthy takes the reins.
It's another big night for McCarthy, who also has buzz pacer Bondi Lockdown resuming from a break in the build-up towards a Queensland winter campaign.
Bondi Lockdown is a $3 favourite despite an outside draw in the Coronation Cup (1609m) where Team McCarthy has six of the 11 in the field, including the emergency.
Their much-improved former Kiwi pacer Kingmaker (gate eight) has been backed into $3.20 to upstage Bondi Lockdown. Jack Callaghan takes the reins.