Three strong chances for Court at Ascot Park
By Jonny Turner
Thursday’s meeting at Ascot Park could be the starting point for an Australian mission for smart 3yr-old Total Diva.
The well performed 2yr-old of last season is one of three horses Canterbury trainer Paul Court lines up at the meeting that features the annual North versus South drivers competition.
Total Diva showed consistency and a touch of class, placing in five of her six starts last term.
Two of those placings came in group 3 company, chasing home Harness Jewels placegetter, Spellbound.
The filly will get a shot at more group race riches if she starts her season well.
Court plans to take Total Diva to Sydney if her form warrants it.
“I’m thinking I might take her to Sydney when I got over with Hail Christian.”
“Maybe not right away, when he goes in November, but maybe in the New Year.”
“She is part owned by one of my owners in Sydney – so that is probably the plan with her.”
Hail Christian will return to Menangle, where he enjoyed an excellent summer campaign last season, following the New Zealand Cup carnival.
Total Diva has been prepared for her return in maiden grade in race 8 with two trials from behind the mobile.
The Terror To Love filly won her first attempt in a 2400m heat in 3-10.4, before running second in a 2000m hit out in 2-31.6.
“She will obviously improve off this race, as she is lacking race fitness, but in saying that she is a pretty nice filly,” Court said.
“She won her first trial but they didn’t run much time.”
“So in her second trial I took her to the front and ran her along so she could have good run.”
“But, she had an open bridle on and she was just hopeless.”
“So, I put the blinds on her when I got home and she has seemed a lot sharper.”
Total Diva will have those blinds on when she lines up from barrier 5 on Thursday.
The 3yr-old will have first starter Swell Time beside her in barrier 4.
The 4yr-old has impressed in winning two trials leading in to her debut for trainer Steve Baucke.
Bookmakers opened Swell Time the $2.50 favourite, just ahead of Total Diva at $2.60, on Wednesday.
Like Total Diva, Stavros The Terror was good enough to race smart 2yr-olds last season.
And also like his stablemate, Court has tinkered with the horse’s gear following two trials.
“He has come up well,” the trainer said
“He trialled really good at Ashburton, but Blair was just a passenger out of the gate.”
“So, I took the blinds off him in his next trial at Rangiora and he was much more tractable.”
“Even though he ran last it was still quite a nice trial by the watch.”
Stavros The Terror, who will start from barrier 1, opened the $1.95 favourite for race 2, on Wednesday.
Undercover Mac, who was third in his last start in a very strong maiden event won by See Ya Write, was rated the $2.90 second favourite.
Court also starts Stun Gun in race 5, Thursday’s 1700m feature pace.
The 4yr-old produced an eye-catching third behind the talented Spirit Of St Louis in his last start at Forbury Park, after charging around the field in the final lap.
“It was a super run,” Court said.
“I am picking he ran a 55sec last 800m.”
“He is going really good, he is a horse that has got to be cuddled up a little bit and saved for one run.”
“That is his go – he has got a tonne of gas.”
“He can be used earlier, but I just think he is better being cuddled up.”
Stun Gun opened the $5.50 fourth favourite in a highly competitive and even affair.
Mach’s Back opened the $4.50 favourite ahead of Lawrence and Nota Bene Denario, who were both at $5.