Kiwis clean up at Breeders Crown

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By Brad Bishop

Kiwis dominated the biggest day in Australian harness racing at the Tabcorp Australasian Breeders Crown day at Melton on Sunday, August 22, 2010. New Zealand had runners in five of the nine Group 1 finals and won four of them.

De Lovely created history in the three-year-old fillies final, Devil Dodger led home a Kiwi trifecta in the boys’ version of the same age group and Paramount Geegee and Miami H won their respective trotting finals.

De Lovely became the shortest-priced winner of a pacing final in 13 Breeders Crowns when she ran her rivals a merry dance in her $A188,000 final.

The Geoff Small-trained daughter of Falcon Seelster endured a nightmare first half of the 2240-metre event, sitting three-wide, much of it without cover, but still pulled out a 56.9sec last 800m to score as $1.10 favourite in a 1:57.6 mile rate.

The previous shortest-priced pacing champions were Changeover, Maffioso and Manifold Bay, who all scored at $1.30.

Her 9.5m win over Miss Trickin Lombo ($12) and Art Princess ($28) added the Breeders Crown to her Australian and New Zealand Oaks titles, prompting David Butcher to declare her possibly the best filly he’s driven.

“As a three-year-old filly she’s very, very good,” Butcher said. “I’ve been lucky enough to drive a few good fillies in my time and she’s right up the top of the tree.

“It’s another step up to the colts and geldings, but if she can get a little bit stronger there’s no reason why she can’t measure up. She’s just a lovely filly and it’s a pleasure to drive her.”

Brent Mangos is happy to be the partner of Devil Dodger after the Brian Hughes-trained colt gave him reason to celebrate his 47th birthday a day early with an upset win in his $A188,000 final.

The son of Mach Three atoned for semi-final defeat as an odds-on favourite when he relished being driven from behind to run down defending champion Smiling Shard in the final couple of bounds in a 1:56.6 mile rate.

Courage To Rule ($15) completed a dream result for the Kiwis to grab third, 2.2m from his stablemate, while New Zealand’s other representative, Franco Jamar ($4), was caught in traffic for much of the last 200m and finished seventh.

“Brian’s done a great job with the horse and it’s great for me to be a part of it,” Mangos said. “He’s a good horse on his day and he proved it here today.”

Devil Dodger ($14) was wide and near the rear on the home turn, but flashed home in a 28.7sec final split – which followed a 27.9sec third quarter – to get up by a neck from the $2.90 favourite who did a power of mid-race work.

The Kiwis also won the two trotting finals in which they were represented. Paramount Geegee did as he pleased in the juvenile decider, while Miami H cashed in on a Rostevarren gallop to claim the three-year-old final.

Miami H galloped himself at the start, surrendering around 25m, and looked destined to be racing for second place at the 150m when Rostevarren held a commanding eight-metre lead.

But last year’s two-year-old runner-up broke, gifting the $102,000 final to Derek Balle’s $2.10 favourite. Rostevarren ($3.70) got going again, but finished a head astern Miami H with Ninegrandsons ($12) 4.5m back in third.

Miami H’s 2:01.7 win – the first leg of a winning double for David Butcher – followed Paramount Geegee’s effortless 2:03.8 all-the-way win in the $162,000 two-year-old final.

The John Dickie-trained son of Pegasus Spur presented reinsman Robbie Holmes with his first Breeders Crown success when he coasted home by 8.2m from Chateau De Ville ($5.40) and Sir Pegasus ($46) as a $1.40 favourite.


By Brad Bishop

Evergreen reinsman Brian Gath rewrote the Tabcorp Australasian Breeders Crown record books when he combined with Royal Verdict to win Sunday’s 2YO colts and geldings final at Melton’s Tabcorp Park.

The legend from Longlea, near Bendigo, broke his own record as the oldest person to drive a Breeders Crown winner when celebrated victory at 66 years and 48 days of age.

Gath beat the record he set when he won the 2003 three-year-old trotters decider with Bad Boy Truscott at 59 years and 50 days.

“It’ll take a while for them to catch up now, won’t it?” Gath joked before suggesting he isn’t finished as a Breeders Crown force just yet. “I keep in pretty good health and these horses keep me young, so I’ll keep going.”

Gath called on all his guile to steer the Ian Dornauf-trained colt to victory in the $308,000 Group 1 over 2240 metres.

He won the battle for early supremacy with Mark Purdon-trained $2.70 favourite Our Major Mark, before handing up to semi-final winner Sushi Sushi down the back the first time.

Our Major Mark popped off the pegs not long after to lead up the three-wide line, but his race was over at the 600m when a loose tyre impacted on his chances and he dropped back through the field sharply.

Sushi Sushi turned with a commanding lead and looked to be travelling like a winner at the 150m, before a 28.4-second third quarter caught up with him and Royal Verdict exploded along the Express Post lane.

The $3.60 chance pulled away in a 28.3sec final quarter for a two-metre win over Sushi Sushi ($5.60) with $78 outsider Caesars Folly hitting the line hard to grab third. The mile rate was an impressive 1:56.8.

“(Handing up) was Ian’s plan, but he left it up to me,” Gath said. “He’s a bit vulnerable sometimes in front and Ian said, ‘if you’re trailing one of those good horses, they won’t hold you off’.”

“I backed his judgement because I know he knows this horse and he was right.”

Royal Verdict all but secured Australian 2YO of the Year honours with the win following earlier victories in the Australian Pacing Gold and Vicbred Super Series finals.


By Jason Bonnington

The Grand Final is over and a premier has been crowned following Make Mine Cullen’s breathtaking victory over arch rival Broadways Best in Sunday’s Tabcorp Australasian Breeders Crown 4YO Mares Final (2240m) at Tabcorp Park.

The $A100,000 Group 1 lived up to the hype as last year’s three-year-old fillies champion put her highly-rated rival to the sword in a brutal 1:56.5 mile rate to end speculation over the dominant female pacer in the land.

“I thought she was capable of it, I felt she would be just too good,” the mare’s Bendigo trainer Glenn Douglas said.

“A lot of people had us written off, that we were only running for second, but I kept saying that although Broadways Best is one of the best around over the short course, with the extra distance we always felt we could get her.”

The race went to script early with Broadways Best crossing to the top and Make Mine Cullen restraining from her awkward second line draw (10).

But when Daryl Douglas took off in search of the spot outside the leader during a 28.8sec second split – which followed a 31.1sec first quarter – it was clear the plan to outstay their chief rival was in full swing.

The daughter of Christian Cullen first worked Broadways Best over, then beat her into submission in a 56.7sec final 800m, relegating her to third, a neck from runner-up Queen Of Fire, who finished four metres from the winner.

“Daryl just drove her so well,” Douglas said. “Yes, he had to go for her first but that’s the way she goes. She’s just so strong and a lovely mannered horse to boot, so we love her.”

“We’ve had a lot of nice horses but she’s a bit better than nice. She’s a bit special and she’s just a total pleasure to train.”

Later in the program, Make Mine Cullen’s Chariots Of Fire conqueror Villagem further emphasised his status as Victoria’s top four-year-old male with an arrogant win in $100,000 final for the four-year-old boys.

Starting a prohibitive $1.30 favourite, the Lisa Miles-trained son of Village Jasper was never out of second gear winning his 20th race by 2.5 metres from top Queenslander El Padrino ($4.80) with Runaway Red ($41) a distant third.

“He’s an awesome horse and we couldn’t be happier after today,” trainer-driver Miles said. “He’s a true professional nowadays and he really does finish his races off super.”

“He’ll have a little rest now but fingers crossed we can keep him going and he can be a Grand Circuit horse next year.”  

Villagem’s 1:57.1 win was recorded from the front in splits of 29.7, 31.1, 28.5 and 26.8 and made it consecutive Crown-winning years for the Miles camp following Led Suitcase’s win in last year’s two-year-old fillies final.


By Jason Bonnington

He had to fight for it, but Let Me Thru officially announced himself Chris Lang’s next great squaregaiter with a second consecutive Tabcorp Australasian Crown title at Tabcorp Park, Melton.

After a tough run and stirring duel with fellow rising star Down Under Muscles in the $50,000 Group 1 4YO Trotters Final, Let Me Thru exploded at the top of the straight – unleashing a 27.5-second last quarter to amaze even his trainer.

“He is a horse of the future no doubt,” the Nagambie horseman said. “Sundons Gift is obviously considered Australia’s best trotter, but I think he’s our next best.

“Along with Down Under Muscles, they’re both exceptional horses those two, so to win as he did, I hope he’s the heir apparent.  He’s definitely the real deal.”

Pratted three and four-deep early from his wide front-line draw with Chris Lang Jnr in the cart, the hulking son of Muscles Yankee persisted to take up the running at the 1600m.

Finding the lead after a 47.1sec lead time, Lang Jr attempted to control the speed in a 62.8sec first half of the last mile, but when Chris Alford worked around the field with Down Under Muscles the race began in earnest.

Careering away from their rivals in a 29.3sec third term, the two outstanding prospects fought the race out with only 1.5 metres separating them in a two-minute mile rate. Aleppo Sunrise was 19m away in third.

Let Me Thru, now a winner of 11 of 18 starts and almost $202,000 in stakes, emulated former stablemate Skyvalley, who last year won the four-year-old Breeders Crown title 12 months after also scoring at three.

It also saw Lang extend his lead as the most success trainer in Breeders Crown history with seven wins.

It was a historic day for the family with Lang’s older brother Gavin becoming the most successful Breeders Crown reinsman when he teamed with Passions Promise to win the $308,000 2YO Fillies Final.

Lang broke the deadlock with Chris Alford when the Jayne Davies-trained filly provided him with his seventh Breeders Crown success to give him outright honours as the greatest reinsman in the 13-year history of the series.

It was “The Iceman” at his coolest, as he overcame the extreme front line draw to lob one-out, one-back within 800m aboard the filly who was $9 into $5.50 on track.

Favoured duo Lively Moth ($2.60) and Aussie Made Lombo ($3.30) led the way and after a moderate 62.3-second first half of the last mile, Passions Promise had to unleash a powerful finish to reel them in thanks to a 56.3sec last half mile.

The daughter of Modern Art prevailed by a head from luckless New South Wales visitor Sheezallattitude ($23) with Aussie Made Lombo a further head away. Lively Moth weakened after leading and finished in fourth spot.


By Jason Bonnington

Top New South Wales 5YO Rohan Home enhanced his standing as a potential Grand Circuit star with a dominant win in today’s $60,000 Group 2 Tabcorp Australasian Breeders Crown Graduate Free For All at Tabcorp Park

After getting under punters guards to be sent out at $12, Blake Fitzpatrick drove his horse like a good thing to win by 4.7 from the unlucky Benny Mac with Kiwi The Band On The Run a further 1.2 metres astern.

“We thought he was very well graded today and gave him a great chance,” Fitzpatrick said. “He might have been a touch disappointing last time, but the beauty of this horse is that he is versatile and he can do work to win.”

The pedestrian mile rate of 2:00.2 made the race for Rohan Home and made it impossible for those at the rear thanks to a 65.2–second first half.

That slow early tempo set the scene for a sizzling final half of 56.2, to give Fitzpatrick’s recent Winter Cup winner victory to close out Super Sunday.

The rank failure was polemarker and second favourite Standelle, who led them up easily but dropped out sharply down the back the final time to finish last.