Ventura could be "one to beat" at Geraldine

By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk

As long as he negotiates the start without incident, Ventura is the "one to beat" in today's Fresh Choice Geraldine Handicap Pace, according to driver Craig Thornley.

The smart four-year-old resumes on the grass at Orari after an eye catching second at the trials behind five race winner Wheels Of Fortune at Ashburton last Saturday.

He'll start off 10 metres and that Thornley says is the key to his chances.

"He can be a quick beginner but we wouldn't want him standing around too long - he can get a bit keen."

Safely away though and Thornley reckons the son of Gold Ace can be a major factor.

"He looks the one to beat all going well."

Ventura has one win and two placings from five career starts. He's currently a $3 favourite. 

After his Geraldine engagements Thornley heads south to Diamonds Day at Invercargill on Sunday where he'll team up with the impressive Franco Norton in the Regent Car Court Southern Cups Final.

He'll be well supported despite starting off 35 metres after winning his last three races but Thornley is wary of Wheels Of Fortune, the same horse that pipped Ventura at the trials.

"He's a sharp animal," Thornley said.

Crucially the John Hay trained and driven Wheels of Fortune gets a 25m headstart on Franco Norton.

Hay has also been taking care of Abacardi Hazel, who's likely to start a warm favourite in Race 5 at Geraldine today, the Geraldine Butchery Trot.

The five-year-old mare was sent north by Invercargill trainer Murray Brown to Hay's Ashburton barn and was a fast finishing second to Unico Vacanza at Methven last Sunday.

It was the horse's first start for Brown after previous stints with Coaster Howe and Bob Butt.

"She goes good on the grass so that's why Gary (Argyle, one of the owners) took her up to go to Methven and then Geraldine," says Brown.

"She'd had five months off but she had had two workouts and we thought she was ready."

Abacardi Hazel will again be driven by Sheree Tomlinson, with Barrytown and A Late Late Pressy among her main dangers.

"It'll be nice to get into the winner's circle."

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