Tornado is Tip Top
By Adam Hamilton
TRAINER Andy Gath has dismissed suggestions his star trotter Tornado Valley is past his best.
In fact, Gath thinks the former Inter Dominion champion is “as well as we’ve ever had him” and the one to beat in a crackerjack $250,000 Group 1 Great Southern Star at Melton on Saturday night.
Gath’s confidence was naturally boosted by drawing gate three, which gives Tornado Valley the chance to bustle out and, most likely, get the leader from Red Hot Tooth (gate one).
Remembering Tornado Valley is unbeaten when he’s led in races during the two years he’s been in Gath’s stable.
“I’m not sure what they base it on, if they say he’s not as good as he was,” Gath said. “He won the Maori Mile well and had to chase really hard to catch them up after he galloped in the score-up at Ballarat and still nearly won the race.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but everything tells us he’s as well as we’ve ever had him and he’s got the opportunity to lead from that draw.
“There’s no doubt this is by far the hardest field he’s met, but we couldn’t be happier with him going into it. If he gets beaten, he’s just not good enough.”
Gath is also expecting improvement from stablemate McLovin, who will be driven by Josh Dickie.
“On face value his past two runs haven’t quite been as good as we’d have liked, but he worked well this week. In fact, it’s the best he’s worked since before he went to NZ,” he said.
“I’m sure he’s good enough at his best, but he’ll need the race run to suit from the back row.
“It’s a strange, but good situation to be in. If the race is run to suit Tornado Valley, then it won’t help McLovin and vice-versa. Hopefully the draws mean we’ve got both bases covered.”
Gath remains wary of Oscar Bonavena, despite describing his run as “plain” in the Dullard Cup last week.
“In 12 months he could be one of the best trotters we’ve ever seen, but people are forgetting he’s only four and hasn’t had many starts,” he said. “He’s taking on older horses, who have been racing at this level for two or three years.
“There’s no doubt he was plain last week, but he’s much better than that. And you have full respect for Mark and Nat’s ability to turn him around in the space of a week.
“He’s got such terrific speed, you have to respect him, especially if he can get the right sort of run.”
Oscar Bonavena has firmed slightly from $2.80 to $2.70 favourite on the Aussie TAB, but Tornado Valley is challenging at $3. Temporale ($7.50) and Red Hot Tooth ($8) are next in the market.