Day At The Track

Stage set for Greatest Southern Star yet

12:15 AM 29 Jan 2020 NZDT
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Oscar Bonavena,Harness racing
Oscar Bonavena
Race Images photo by Peter Rubery

New Zealand rising superstar Oscar Bonavena opened $2.8 favourite immediately after the barrier draw tonight for the What The Hill Great Southern Star despite drawing outside of Inter Dominion champ Tornado Valley.

The Mark Purdon-trained Oscar Bonavena pulled barrier four at the barrier draw, which was conducted at the MCG, with Andy Gath-trained Tornado Valley securing gate three.

Purdon said Oscar Bonavena was underdone when he ran eighth first-up in Australia in last weekend's Dullard Cup.

“He trained well this morning but going back to the run, when he came over, he’s got a couple of issues. We decided to do a bit of swimming and I don’t think he got enough out of it. He went into Saturday night a little bit short,” Purdon said.

But this weekend will be a different story. Purdon was definitive. 

“He trained great this morning and I’m sure we’ll see a fitter Oscar Bonavena this week," he said.

“We’ll come out well but I don’t think you want to get into a speed duel early. He’ll cross to one off the markers and hopefully one out wide comes out with him and gives him cover, that’d be the best scenario.

"But he’ll be back to full fitness by Saturday."

Josh Dickie, who has picked up the drive aboard Gath-trained McLovin, said he was thrilled to be driving for such a respected trainer of trotters.

“It's great to drive for Andy, I’m sure he’ll have the horse in good order and hopefully we have some luck," he said.

“The first time I sat behind McLovin I was very impressed. I’d always seen him go well in Australia but sometimes it’s not until you drive them you think ‘he’s a bit better than I thought’. He gave me a lovely feel. It was a shame what happened to him at Auckland because I dare say Inter Dominion series would have been a bit different if he’d been 100 per cent."

But Dickie said he had a lot of respect for Oscar Bonavena and in fact said the Kiwi was "no doubt our top trotter going forward". 

“Oscar’s a special horse and with the wrap that’s been on him he’s probably been criticised a lot heavier than others would have been. He’s a four-year-old, so he’s a baby compared to the open-class trotters. From what I’ve seen and I’ve driven against him, his speed is phenomenal."

Reigning Great Southern Star champ Dance Craze drew inside the back row in barrier eight, which could suit the powerful sit-sprinter, while noted on-pacer Red Hot Tooth was a big winner, snaring barrier one for trainer Kari Males. 

Shortly after markets reopened following the draw Majestic Man was specked, $16 into $14. 

Meanwhile, Caduceus Club MC and noted trotting form student Bill Hutchison said this line-up was possibly the "greatest trotting field" assembled in Australian history. 

No driver has ever won two Great Southern Stars, but previous winners Kate Gath (who drove 2017 champion Glenferrie Typhoon) and Mark Purdon (who drove Dance Craze last year) look a good chance to break that tradition this year aboard Tornado Valley and Oscar Bonavena. 

GoodForm's Blake Redden described Tornado Valley as "the best leader we've seen in the trotting ranks for many a year" and says the local is the "horse to beat". His full comments can be read below.

 

GoodForm analyst Blake Redden breaks down the What The Hill Great Southern Star chances runner-by-runner immediately post-barrier draw

1: Red Hot Tooth ($7 with TAB) This mare has the speed to kick through early and given she’ll likely sit on one of the favourite for the race, she’s a genuine knockout chance.

2: Massive Metro ($13 with TAB) Had an outstanding Inter Dominion in his homeland and he is pretty tough so he’s hard to discount despite the potentially tricky gate.

3: Tornado Valley ($3 with TAB) Arguably the best leader we’ve seen in the trotting ranks for many a year. He has the gate speed to lead and while he never wins by big margins, he’s the horse to beat.

4: Oscar Bonavena ($2.8 with TAB) Disappointing at his first Australian start but he has a huge boom on him. He should settle handy and clearly one of the horses to beat.

5: Sky Petite ($61 with TAB) Quality mare at her best but even with all her gate speed she’s unlikely to lead which makes it hard to see her winning.

6: Sundons Courage ($101 with TAB) This fella has come back in great form but he’s unlikely to lead from out wide which makes things tricky for him here.

7: Tough Monarch ($35 with TAB) Hard to know exactly how this bloke is going, he’s probably going to have to do work at some stage which is a tough ask in this type of race.

8: Dance Craze ($13 with TAB) The nation’s most exciting trotting mare is unlikely to be any closer than three poles in transit but if the gaps open she’ll be roaring home.

9: Margaret Ruth (EM) ($151 with TAB) Lovely mare who will enjoy the staying trip if she gets a run but this is as strong a race as she’s ever seen.

10: Majestic Man ($14 with TAB) Established himself through the New Zealand Inter Dominion series and in any other year he’d be in this up to his ears. In this edition he will need everything to go right.

11: Mclovin ($16 with TAB) Quality trotter at his best. He’ll need a few things to go his way from out the back and he’s probably stronger than he is quick which may not be suitable the way the draws have fallen.

12: Temporale ($7 with TAB) A good barrier wasn’t required for his stunning win last weekend but he will need some fortune from out here.

13: Wobelee ($31 with TAB) Total excitement machine who measured up at his first crack at this level at Ballarat. He’s out of the draw but if they run along in front he will produce a booming finish.

 

JASON BONNINGTON AND ADAM HAMILTON ARE JOINED BY MARK PURDON, CRAIG DEMMLER AND JOSH DICKIE:

WATCH A REPLAY OF THE HUNTER CUP AND GREAT SOUTHERN STAR BARRIER DRAWS:

 

HRV Trots Media - Cody Winnell

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