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Kate Gath already boasts her best season, but hopes to take it another level on Breeders Crown night at Melton.  Gath has smashed her PB with 152 wins and there’s been plenty of quality amongst them, most notably an Inter Dominion and string of other Group 1’s aboard Tornado Valley.  But the extra dimension of this season has come as a bit of a surprise to Gath.  “It’s been the outside driving opportunities which have been the pleasant surprise,” she said. “It’s been great to get drives for a few different stables, obviously Emma (Stewart) and Clayton (Tonkin) being on some fantastic horses.  “That’s been a big part of what’s certainly been my best season. Not only have I driven more winners than ever before, but I’ve been in more big races as well.  “I think that says some great things about our sport … that at 36 years of age I’m having by far my best season and getting more opportunities than ever. In so many other fields, it gets harder for women as they get older.”  Gath has drives in three of the Group 1 Breeders Crown finals on Saturday night: Majestuoso (Race 6, 3YO colts and geldings trot); Demon Delight (Race 7, 3YO colts and geldings pacing final) and Pacifico Dream (Race 8, 2YO colts and geldings pacing final). She’s also down to drive Jo Dina in the 2YO pacing fillies’ final if the first emergency gains a start.  Gath will also take the reins on major players Maraetai in the Group 2 4YO entires and geldings final as well as Nostra Beach in the Group 2 4YO mares’ final.  In a sign of the career shift for Gath, only Majestuoso is trained by her and her husband, Andy.  “It’s a great book of drives on a fantastic night of racing,” Gath. “It’s terrific to be part of it, especially with so many good drives.”  Majestuoso gave Gath her latest Group 1 win in the Victoria Trotters’ Derby at Maryborough last month and is a $2.20 favourite to win his Crown final.  “I was probably a tad easy on him after the Derby win because he’s had to the two staying races back-to-back. Even though he was beaten, he still got very close and fought it out well,” Gath said.  “It’s a good field, but thankfully most of our main dangers, including All Cashed Up who beat him in the heat, are drawn the back row with us.  “The shorter 2240m trip compared to the Derby distance is a bit of a leveller, but he’s so fast this guy. He’ll be very hard to beat.”  Gath can’t wait to drive Demon Delight for Stewart and Tonkin again.  “He’s got everything this horse. He’s so versatile. We knew he was tough and then he comes out and shows that sort of speed to win from back in the field last week,” she said.  “He never seems to draw well for me, but it’s great to have options and be able to drive him according to how the race is run. He’s such an exciting horse.”   Adam Hamilton

A RETURN to winning form and gun barrier draw has restored Kiwi filly Our Princess Tiffany as a dominant favourite for next Saturday night's Breeders Crown 3YO fillies' pacing final. Punters were very wary of the All Stars filly after an inglorious unplaced heat run and she eased from $1.30 to $1.80 favourite in last night's semi, but stand-in driver Luke McCarthy weaved his magic. McCarthy surged through from the back row and took Our Princess Tiffany to the front after 500m then dictated terms before ripping home in 55.3 and 27 flat to beat No Win No Feed and another Kiwi raider, Best Western, in a slick 1min54.8sec mile rate for 2150m at Bendigo. The other fillies' semi was much weaker and won in considerably slower time (1min56.3sec mile rate) by Our Road To Mecca, beating former Kiwi Buzinga. The biggest shock of the semis came when Emma Stewart's star, Two Times Bettor, flopped badly behind Our Princess Tiffany and didn't qualify for the final. Our Princess Tiffany has gate three in the final at Melton and has already firmed from $1.20 to $1.15 on the Aussie TAB. Buzinga is $9 second elect from gate two. The other Kiwi winner on semis' night at Bendigo was Ray Green's Perfect Stride, who led throughout and just held-on by a head over Star Hunter in by far the weakest of the two semis for two-year-old colts and geldings. "That's sort of what he's like. He just does what he has to," Green said. Perfect Stride's final hopes were boosted with the prized pole draw for the final, but he will need to step-up again to beat Emma Stewart's young star Be Happy Mach ($1.70) despite drawing outside the back row (gate 13). Be Happy Mach was dominant in the stronger semi, even though he was able to wok around and final the lead from stablemate Mirragon (who ran second) in his semi. Be Happy Mach won easily in a 1min55.8sec mile rate, while another Kiwi visitor, Zachary Butcher's Zeuss Bromac, grabbed the eye in third spot. Zeuss Bromac drew gate four in the final and has already been backed from $11 into $6.50. The best of the pacing finals will be the 3YO colts and geldings pacing division after two stirring semis last night. The final will be without nominal favourite Hurricane Harley after he mysteriously flopped and missed qualifying. But Emma Stewart still holds the key with the emerging Demon Delight, who produced a monstrous run from last to win the stronger of the two semis in a scorching 1min53.8sec mile rate for 2150m. Emerging stablemate Brevity led, copped plenty of pressure from NSW Derby winner Max Delight (fourth) and ran the race of his career for a fantastic second. The other semi won strongly in all-the-way fashion by David Aiken's improving Malcolms Rhythm, who beat a brave and seemingly always luckless Lochinvar Art after blazing home in 26.2sec and the end of a cosy 1min56.2sec mile rate. The All Stars' runner Jesse Duke couldn't lift of a poor heat run and missed making the final after battling into eighth in his semi. Max Delight drew best of the big guns in the final and is a $2.60 favourite from gate four, while Demon Delight (gate 10, $3.60) and Lochinvar Art (gate 11, $3.80) look the other key players despite back row draws.   Adam Hamilton

YOUNG Kiwi trotter Ultimate Stride has another Group 1 at his mercy. Off the back of his dominant Group 1 Redwood win, Phil Williamson’s colt strolled home in his Breeders Crown qualifier at Maryborough last Thursday. And, most significantly, he thrashed Powderkeg, the trotter considered his main threat in next Saturday night’s final at Melton. Ultimate Stride is a $1.65 Aussie TAB favourite from outside the front row (gate seven) in Saturday night's Melton final. In the qualifier, Powderkeg whizzed to the front, but in an obvious show of respect for Ultimate Stride’s talent, trainer-driver Lisa Miles was content to surrender the front to Anthony Butt when he challenged at the 1600m with Ultimate Stride. Instead of it being a contest, Ultimate Stride surged clear without being extended in the run home to win by 11.1m in a slick 2min0.5sec mile rate for the 2190m. The other heat when to emerging local Is That A Bid. Although he won by a big space, his time was a much slower 2min3.8sec mile rate. Is That A Bid has the pole in the final and is $3.20 second elect. Powederkeg is a $8.50 shot from gate three. Williamson’s other raider, Liberty Stride, ran a terrific second in quick time (1min59.9sec for 2190m) in her three-year-old trotting fillies’ heat behind Brent Lilley’s former Kiwi, Sunnys Little Jestic. Despite being out of the draw (so starting from outside the back row), Liberty Stride is still $2.80 Aussie TAB favourite for the final. I Am Pegasus is $3.40 from gate nine, while Emerald Stride is next at $6.50 from barrier 10. The highlight of the trotting heats was a star-studded first heat of the 3YO colts and geldings division. Breathtaking Victoria Trotters’ Derby winner Majestuoso was beaten but still went like a jet when a head second to speedy All Cashed Up, who led throughout for trainer Anton Golino and driver Glen Craven. All Cashed Up zipped home in 57.2 and 28.5sec, while Majestuoso came from near last and clocked to run a 56.1sec last half. But his chances for the final were hurt when he caused a false start in the heat and was placed out of the draw. Kiwi raider Kratos had to do the work outside All Cashed Up, but they didn’t go hard and he disappointed slightly by tiring for an 11.9m fifth. Majestouso starts from outside the back in the final, but has already firmed from $2.50 to $2.20. Xebec drew the pole and is $4 as likely leader, while Kratos' final hopes were boosted by gate eight, meaning he should trail Xebec. He's also $4. _______________________________________________________________________________ THE buzz continues to build around Gary Hall Sr’s latest young Kiwi import Wildwest. He’s raw and green, but boy he’s got some talent. Wildwest toyed with a moderate field and didn’t run much time, but it was more the arrogant way he did it again at Gloucester Park last Friday night. The son of Raging Bull is unbeaten in three runs and ranked right up with stablemate and WA Derby winner Major Trojan as Hall Sr’s best Golden Nugget hope for later this year. It was also great to see potential Grand Circuit player Vampiro returned to form with a win in the August Cup at the Gloucester Park meeting. The five-year-old, having his third run this campaign, did a terrific job to sit outside and snatch victory from favourite and leader Our Corelli in a slick 1min58.8sec mile rate for the long 2536m trip. _______________________________________________________________________________ HOW often to touted “match races” unfolded very differently? That was the case at Melton last Friday night in the Minuteman free-for-all where proven topliner Buster Brady and emerging star Born ToRocknroll were tipped to fight it out. Instead, both missed a place and the race was won narrowly but impressively by the underrated Jilliby Bandit in a slick 1min54.5sec mile rate for 2240m. There was plenty to like about the runs of classy Berisari, who was beaten a nose into second spot, and the promising Rackemup Tigerpie, who was another a neck away third. Born To Rocknroll and Buster Brady both burned out of wide gates and set-up a blistering 42.1sec which left them vulnerable late. While Born To Rocknroll held on quite well for a close fifth, Buster Brady was spent before the home bend and dropped right out to be 25m away in last spot. The run was too bad to be true, albeit Buster Brady was first-up, and stewards ordered vet tests be taken.   Adam Hamilton

Star pacer Soho Tribeca has returned to Perth in a quest to resurrect his career. And today he was back with Kim Prentice, the man who took him through the grades to become arguably the best pacer in Australia. “I didn’t expect to see him again, I’m very, very excited,” Prentice said. Soho Tribeca won a Golden Nugget and Vicbred 4YO final at Group 1 level for Prentice, but their biggest win together came in the 2018 Group 1 WA Pacing Cup. A year earlier Soho Tribeca ran second in the Fremantle Cup and third in the WA Cup. Owner Rob Watson transferred him to Mick Stanley in Victoria to chase the eastern states major races like the Hunter Cup (he ran 2nd to Lazarus in 2018) and Miracle Mile (he ran third to My Field Marshal last year) before a Queensland campaign was derailed by a broken leg just over 12 months ago. Stanley nursed Soho Tribeca back to the races, but his first run in 11 months was an inglorious seventh at Melton on June 15 when found to have had a virus. He hasn’t raced since. Prentice said the plan was to have Soho Tribeca back racing by early December with a view to chasing the Fremantle and WA Cups again at Gloucester Park in January.  The timing and move back to Perth obviously rules out any chance of an Auckland Inter Dominion tilt.   Adam Hamilton

IT was a most unusual week for the All Stars barn as the Breeders Crown series heats unfolded across Victoria.  Staggeringly, both Our Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke were well beaten as hot favourites in their respective heats. They both missed a place!  Our Princess Tiffany was first out at Kilmore in horribly cold and wet conditions last Thursday night.  Stand-in driver Luke McCarthy could only suggested the megastar filly didn’t handle the bog track conditions when she laboured into third as a $1.04 favourite in a heat won so dominantly by Emma Stewart’s Two Times Bettor, who sat parked throughout.  Our Princess Tiffany was crossed at the start, but got clear air from the home bend and looked a shadow of herself.  Obviously she can improve a mile for the semis and final, but purely on what we saw in the heat, Two Times Bettor will be a serious threat in the final.  Jesse Duke was crunched into $1.40 favourite from gate two in his Ballarat heat last Friday night, but gave nothing in the home straight after having the perfect one-one trip throughout. He finished a well-held fourth.  The standout of those Ballarat 3YO colts and geldings heats was the classy Hurricane Harley, who led throughout in freezing conditions and ran his last mile in a flying 1min52.5sec for an 11m win over a gallant Lochinvar Art, who sat parked.  Hurricane Harley’s 2200m mile rate of 1min54.2sec was way ahead of the other two heat winners: Crime Writer in 1min57.4sec and Demon Delight in 2min2.5sec.  Emma Stewart dominated the earlier Crown heats last week, winning both 2YO fillies qualifiers with Maajida and Jemstone. She also won both 2YO colts and geldings heats at Shepparton last Wednesday night with Be Happy Mach and Pacifico Dream.  With Australian Gold winner Jilliby Nitro sidelined after surgery, Be Happy Mach can cement Aussie 2YO of the Year honours with victory in the Crown final.  Kiwis Zeuss Bromac and Perfect Stride both ran well, but were well beaten seconds in their 2YO colts and geldings heats.  _________________________________________________________________________________  INTER Dominion champ Tornado Valley has picked up just where he left off.  Two runs back from a well-deserved spell have netted two easy wins, the latest at Melton last night in the Group 3 Aldebaran Park Melton Trotters’ free-for-all.  All Tornado Valley’s customary gate speed was on display as he ran to the lead from the outside draw (gate seven) then driver Kate Gath dictated terms through a soft 63.4sec middle half.  The classy Big Jack Hammer trailed Tornado Valley throughout and ran second, just as he did when they clashed six days earlier at Maryborough.  Trainer Andy Gath reaffirmed plans to keep Tornado Valley in Victoria because of he’s such a bad traveller. McLovin is set to be the stable’s Auckland Inter Dominion runner.  _________________________________________________________________________________  WA Derby winner Major Trojan continued his long build-up to the Golden Nugget with another easy Gloucester Park win last Friday night.  The son of Art Major is two-from-two this campaign and has won his past four on end.  Last Friday was little more than trackwork with Gary Hall Jr leading from gate three, dictating through a 61.3sec middle half then really only quickening for a 27.6sec closing quarter.  In the other highlights of the night, trainer Debbie Lewis continued her fantastic form by combining with husband, Chris, and One Off Delight to win the $50,000 Channel 7 San Simeon.  And former WA Derby winner Handsandwheels was superbly driven by Aiden De Campo to win the free-for-all out of a one-one trail over leader Convert Denario in a 1min55.6sec mile rate for 2130m.  _________________________________________________________________________________ EMMA Stewart looks to have a budding Grand Circuit horse in Maraetai.  The son of Somebeachsomewhere has always showed plenty of potential, but his three runs this campaign indicated he’s taken the next step.  Last night’s powerhouse Melton win – his 12th from just 21 starts – was fantastic after sitting parked in quick time and finishing-off in 54.8 and 27.4sec to win very impressively.  It was another big night for Stewart, who also trained former star juvenile filly Nostra Villa to easily win the $30,000 Group 3 Alabar Vicbred Championship final (2240m).  Chris Alford took the reins as the daughter of Art Major worked to the front and roared clear to win by 9.7m in a brisk 1min55.1sec mile rate.  It’s been a terrific training performance with Nostra Villa having a year away from the track and returning to her best form, including wins at her past three starts.  _________________________________________________________________________________ SHANE Tritton has high hopes for his lightly-raced former Kiwi pacer Gods Spirit.  The son of Tintin In America turned around a frustrating trio of seconds placings to open this campaign when he won easily at Menangle last night.  Two runs back he chased home the immensely exciting Commander Kirk in 1min49.7sec.  Last night it was his turn to win by a big space, leading throughout to score by 9.9m in a 1min52.5sec mile.  “He’s done a fantastic job since coming across and he’s getting better all the time,” Tritton said.  Gods Spirit’s raced 10 times for Shane and Lauren Tritton for five wins, four seconds and a third.  _________________________________________________________________________________ IN a stellar juvenile season, Expensive Ego is right up there with the best of them.  Sure Be Happy Mach and Jilliby Nitro have been the standouts through our biggest juvenile races, but Expensive Ego has made his mark late.  Trained by David Thorn in NSW, Expensive Ego won his first two runs in his home state before heading to Queensland to chase Group 1 glory.  He’s won two Group 1’s at Albion Park over the past few weeks.  First came the Qbred Triad final, then came last night’s phenomenal 29.5m win in the Group 1 Albion Park Australian Gold final.  Despite drawing the back row and sitting parked, it was an armchair drive for Jimmy Douglas as Expensive Ego powered clear in a brisk 1min54.4sec mile rate for 1660m.   Adam Hamilton

The indecision is over and superstar pacer Tiger Tara will chase NZ Cup glory again this year. Trainer Kevin Pizzuto had refused to be drawn on plans with his reigning Inter Dominion champion, but today confirmed the NZ Cup was again his major target. “Everything now is about having at his top for NZ Cup Day,” Pizzuto said. “He’s back and going well and I’ll just take him through the free-for-alls here before we head back across to Christchurch. “He’s an older horse and I need to keep him in work, even though there aren’t any big races for him for a while.” Tiger Tara has won two of three runs back from a spell, the latest in a slick 1min53.9sec mile rate for the longer 2300m trip at Menangle in cold and very windy conditions last night. “I know he didn’t win by much, but it was a big win because the wind was so strong,” Pizzuto said. “I’m sure he’s going as well as ever and I’m still hurting over getting so close in last year’s NZ Cup without winning it.” Pizzuto has the option of heading to Melton for the $200,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup on October 12 – a race Tiger Tara won last year – but he said it’s more likely he would go across to NZ earlier than last year and have his final lead-up race over there. “That’s what I’m thinking, go over there earlier than last year. Maybe a race like Ashburton,” Pizzuto said. “If I do that, I wouldn’t take him to Victoria.” And what about defending that Inter Dominion crown in Auckland from November 29? “It’s likely, but I won’t say definite yet,” Pizzuto said. “I’m only looking as far as ahead as the NZ Cup. If he gets through that well, then I’ll look at staying over there.”   Adam Hamilton

Balraj crossed the ditch without much fanfare, but it hasn’t taken long for him to become one off the buzz horses of Australia. The lightly-raced Art Major three-year-old is unbeaten in four Aussie starts and made one heck of a statement scoring at his first Menangle run yesterday (Tuesday). Balraj won by 22.4m, but it was his time which did most of the talking. The gelding’s 1min49.1sec mile was an Australasian record for a three-year-old, slicing 0.5sec off Muscle Factory’s record. Just as he did winning by what seemed the length of the home straight at Newcastle a few weeks ago, driver Robbie Morris crushed his rivals with a 26.1sec split from the 800-400m.  It’s the second time in as many starts the Shaun Simiana-trained pacer has smashed a record. His 1min50.9sec mile win at Newcastle two starts back on July 15 was an all-aged record for the track which has hosted some off the sport’s greats in the Newcastle Mile. Balraj raced just five times in NZ for trainer Steven McRae, missing a place in first three runs then showing a glimpse of his potential winning back-to-back Forbury Park races on February 21 and March 7. He was sold to Australia soon after and won his Aussie debut at Penrith by 7.1m on June 6. Since then he’s won by 25.7m at Newcastle on June 14, 55.9m again at Newcastle on July 15 and now Menangle by 22.4m   Adam Hamilton

PHIL Williamson has put his name alongside Mark Purdon as the only Kiwi trainer to win Australia’s treasured Group 1 Redwood Classic. Purdon has trained and driven two winners of the juvenile trot at Maryborough – High Gait (2015) and Daenerys Targaryen (2013) – and Williamson won yesterday’s renewal with the exciting Ultimate Stride. It was a truly Kiwi affair with Anthony Butt making the trip down from his NSW-base to take the reins on Ultimate Stride. “It’s a time-honoured race and one I’ve always wanted to win. It’s great to finally get it,” Butt said. “It’s been a hard race for the Kiwis to win, so all credit to Phil for coming across and winning it.” The Aussie flavour from the win came through owners Emilio and Mary Rosati, who not race Ultimate Stride, but went back-to-back in the Redwood after Emerald Stride scored last year for trainer-driver David Miles. Butt said he was also confident in the run even when he had to make his move earlier than he wanted. “He was almost going to too, I couldn’t hold him any longer,” he said. “I was happy to make it a staying test anyway, I had faith in his staying ability.” Ultimate Stride was backed into $1.60 favouritism and won by 3.4m over Is That A Bid with Im Daddy Warbucks third in a 2min4.1sec mile rate for the 2190m standing start. His task was certainly made easier when second favourite Powderkeg galloped his way out of contention. Williamson’s hopes of a Group 1 double were dashed when his Victoria Trotters’ Derby favourite Liberty Stride galloped hopelessly at the start and finished tailed-out. ________________________________________________________________________________ YOU know something else special happened when winning first-up aboard Inter Dominion champ Tornado Valley isn’t the highlight of Kate Gath’s massive Redwood Day. Gath was left in awe of the raw but seriously gifted Majestuoso after thrashed his rivals in the Group 1 Victoria Trotters’ Derby. It’s no secret Kate and Andy Gath have a big opinion of the son of Majestic Son and no everybody knows why. The way he stormed around the field from near last, out four, five and six wide, then powered clear to win by an increasing 10.1m was something to behold. Majestuoso’s manners were an issue last season when he won two of nine runs, but he’s come back and although still green at times, he’s won eight of his nine starts this term. All Cashed Up led and ran well for second despite having every chance, while Kiwi raider Kratos couldn’t match Majestuoso’s brilliance, but worked home quite well for third. Majestuoso’s win capped a magical 30 minutes for the Gaths with Tornado Valley sparkling in his first-up win in the free-for-all. Despite drawing the back row and settling third-last while main danger Big Jack Hammer led, Tornado Valley launched a three-wide run from the 700m without cover and toyed with his rivals. Kate Gath just nursed him down the straight to win by 8.9m in a slick 1min57.9sec mile rate for 2190m. Arguably it was as impressive as Tornado Valley’s ever looked. ________________________________________________________________________________ ANOTHER of the highlights on Redwood Day was the winning return of former superstar juvenile trotter Wobelee. The Alison and Chris Alford-trained four-year-old did everything asked of him and won well after working to the front from a wide draw and dictating terms. It was Wobelee’s first run back after 13 months sidelined by injury. Kiwis will remember he ran third when clearly not at his top in the 3YO Jewels trotting final at Cambridge in June, last year. Wobelee’s raced 20 times for 15 wins, three seconds and two thirds.   Adam Hamilton

AUSSIE punters expect Kiwi trainer Phil Williamson to steal the show at Australia’s biggest trotting meeting on Sunday.  Williamson’s exciting pair Ultimate Stride and Liberty Stride dominate opening betting markets in their respective Group 1 assignments.  Ultimate Stride, who looked so good winning his only Aussie run, is a $2.10 favourite in the $50,000 Group 1 Volstead Redwood Classic for baby trotters.  Ultimate Stride has barrier nine – two-out on the back row – in the standing start feature.  And filly Liberty Stride, who stunned locals with a monstrous first Aussie wins, is $2.15 against the boys after drawing gate four in the $75,000 Group 1 Haras Des Trotteurs Victoria Trotters’ Derby.  Williamson has booked former Kiwi driver Anthony Butt for both races.  Butt replaced Chris Alford on Ultimate Stride as Alford is committed to his own family runner, Dreamee, from gate six.  Ultimate Stride’s main danger looks to be local Powerkeg, who he did beat easily last outing.  In the Derby, another Kiwi Kratos from the John and Josh Dickie barn is a clear $3.60 second elect despite the back row (gate 10).  The other highlight of the massive day is the return to racing of Inter Dominion trotting champion Tornado Valley in a free-for-all (race seven).  Tornado Valley missed a planned return race a couple weeks back with a minor setback.  Despite being first-up for almost five months and drawing the back row (gate nine), Tornado Valley is still a $1.90 favourite.  Main dangers will be fellow Inter Dominion finalists Big Jack Hammer (gate six, $3.50) and Save Our Pennys (gate seven, $6).   Adam Hamilton

Mark Purdon’s 100th Group 1 training triumph marked the arrival of his next superstar.  All who watched Self Assured roar through four stunning Queensland Winter Carnival wins were convinced he’s poised to become the sport’s next big thing.  As if last week’s narrow but mesmerizing South-East Derby win wasn’t head-spinning enough, Self Assured raised the bar again with the first of what should be many Group 1 wins in last night’s (Saturday) $100,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby.  Self Assured used a good draw to lead, but copped plenty of pressure, most notably from Lochinvar Art down the back straight, but still left his rivals standing in track record time.  Unbeaten in six runs, he smashed the race record and Self Assured’s 1min54.2sec mile rate for the 2680m was only 0.5sec slower than they ran in the Group 1 Blacks A Fake – a Grand Circuit race - on the same night.  Just as he did the week before, Self Assured smashed the clock with closing splits of 53.8 and 27.1sec.  “I was a little bit worried (when the pressure came on). Either one of those horses, you could’ve let go, but he’d worked so good during the week I didn’t want to take any risks,” Purdon said.  “I was a little bit concerned when we straightened for home, but when I pulled the plugs he went into another gear.  “He’s a really good horse and he showed that tonight.”  Self Assured, the latest All Stars’ gun to be owned by Australian Jean Feiss, is not Breeders Crown eligible so it’s spell time now.  “Heads to Melbourne with Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke, then onto to Auckland where he will agist and have a bit of a break with a view to having him back in November for the support races at Cup time. It’ll be a.8/27 nice introduction to Cup class racing for him.”  The All Stars’ also grabbed third and fourth in the Derby with Jesse Duke (third) and Our Princess Tiffany (fourth) and that pair now head to the Breeders Crown.  The run of Lochinvar Art to finished second after powering the pressure on Self Assured down the back straight in a 26.7sec split was enormous and he looks the horse to beat in his Breeders Crown division despite a long season.   Adam Hamilton

TRAINER Chris Frisby sick of chasing Tiger Tara with his stable star Our Uncle Sam. In four meetings, Our Uncle Sam is yet to beat Tiger Tara home, but everything favours Frisby’s pacer to turn the tables in Saturday night’s $250,000 Group 1 Blacks A Fake at Albion Park. “This is our chance the way the barriers have fallen and how well we’ve got ‘Sam’ going into the race,” Frisby said. “If we can find the lead, and I think there’s a great chance we can, we won’t be handing-up to Tiger if he comes attacking. We’ll make him do all the work.” Our Uncle Sam has run second to Tiger Tara at their past three meetings, including in the Inter Dominion final and Hunter Cup. “But the difference this time is Tiger is drawn the back row and we’ve drawn so well (gate two),” Frisby said. “I also really believe we’ve got ‘Sam’ as good as we can have him. “We were really confident heading into the Sunshine Sprint last week, but Alta Orlando wiped us out at the start and that was the end of that. “We were due for some luck and we’ve got it with the draws this week. And the 2680m suits him better than sprint racing as well.” Aussie TAB punters agree with Frisby’s confidence, having quickly backed Our Uncle Sam from $3.60 into $2.80 since Tuesday morning’s barrier draw. He could challenge for favouritism with Tiger Tara already easing from $2.40 to $2.60. Tiger Tara’s trainer Kevin Pizzuto remains confident despite the barrier draw blow. All of Tiger Tara’s three Group 1 Aussie wins have come from front row draws. “The draw makes it harder, but I’ve got the horse where I want him. That (Menangle) win the other night was easy and it topped him off nicely,” he said. “Everything tells me he’s at least as good, if not better, than last time in work.” Queensland’s pin-up horse Colt Thirty One is the other major player as a $4.80 shot from the back row (gate 11). He was beaten after burning to hold the front last week, but it again showed he’s at his most lethal coming from off the speed.   Adam Hamilton

A PERFECT barrier draw should see buzz Kiwi pacer Self Assured maintain his unbeaten status and win his first Group 1 race at Albion Park on Saturday night. Fresh from a breathtaking last-stride win over Lochinvar Art in last week’s Group 3 South-East Derby, Self Assured has drawn much better against the largely the same rivals in Saturday night’s $100,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby. Self Assured has gate four with Mark Purdon returning to drive, while major rivals Lochinvar Art (six) and superstar filly Our Princess Tiffany (10) drawn much worse. Only stablemate Jesse Duke, who Luke McCarthy will drive, drew better in gate two. It looks certain Self Assured will push forward and find the front, in contrast to having to sit parked and win last week. The Aussie TAB opened him $1.40 and punters have already stepped-in and he’s now $1.35. Jesse Duke is $5 second elect, while Our Princess Tiffany ($6.50) and Lochinvar Art ($9) are next. In the other feature, the $250,000 Group 1 Blacks A Fake, a back row draw to Inter Dominion winner Tiger Tara has breathed plenty of life into the race. Tiger Tara has gate 12 and already eased from $2.40 to $2.60. Our Uncle Sam, who ran second to Tiger Tara in that Inter Dominion final, has been crunched from $3.60 into $2.60 and could challenge for favouritism from gate two. The Chris and Anthony Frisby-trained pacer was poleaxed at the start of last week’s Group 1 Sunshine Sprint and basically took no part. Local hero Colt Thirty One also drew the back row (gate 11), but it could suit his preferred sit-and-swoop racing style. He’s a $4.60 shot. Last week’s upset Sunshine Sprint winner Ohoka Punter goes from the pole to outside front (gate seven) and is a $51 shot to complete the double.   Adam Hamilton

TORNADO Valley won’t defend his Inter Dominion crown in Auckland. It’s not because trainer Andy Gath doesn’t want to, it’s simply because the star trotter is such a notoriously awful traveller. “It’s a real issue for us,” Gath said. “We’ve had to cancel other travel plans with him before. It’s not just getting to Auckland, it’s the travel from wherever we stay to Alexandra Park on those busy Auckland road. He just wouldn’t cope at all.” Tornado Valley returns from a spell at Melton on Saturday night. Although he will be staying at home, Gath still has his sights set on an Auckland raid with his other top trotter McLovin. “He’s gone out for a break now so we can time him preparation around an NZ trip, starting with the Dominion during the Cup Carnival and then onto to Auckland if he’s racing as well as we expect,” Gath said. “I don’t think there’s too much between he an Tornado Valley, but McLovin is a good traveller so he’ll be our horse for NZ and Tornado can stay home. “McLovin has just kept getting better and better. I think if he had the run Tornado Valley did in that Inter Dominion final last year, I’d have expected him to win as well. “Tornado Valley would be the better of them in sprint races, but the longer the they go, the more it would suit McLovin. We really like him.” Tornado Valley sharpened up for his return with an all-the-way Melton trial win against the pacers on Monday night. “It was a good trial. He ran home in 27.9sec and hit the line strongly. He’s ready to go,” Gath said. Tornado Valley will need to be at his best from a wide draw (gate six) in a small but select Touch Merchant Trotters’ free-for-all (2240m) on Saturday night. His major rivals include: Big Jack Hammer (gate three), Save Our Pennys (four) and Kyvalley Blur (five). “He’s had a strong build-up and his work at home as been good. He seems to have come back well,” Gath said. “We timed his return with McLovin going out for a spell so they didn’t have to race each other. McLovin will be back in early October for a couple of runs here before he heads to NZ.”   Adam Hamilton

Mark Purdon will return to the sulky aboard the sport’s most exciting pacer Self Assured for Saturday night’s $100,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby. Sidelined for two weeks with an eye infection, the champion horseman said he would return from his Canterbury stables to Brisbane on Wednesday and would be fine to drive this week. “The eye is about 85 per cent right, so I’ll definitely be OK for this week,” he said. “It’s been good to come back home and rest it as much as possible. That’s helped a lot.” Purdon confirmed he would three runners in the Derby with superstar filly Our Princess Tiffany joining Self Assured and Jesse Duke. “I’ll drive Self Assured. Kylie (Rasmussen) will stick with Tiffany and I want Luke (McCarthy) on Jesse Duke if he’s available,” he said. “It’s not often we run our fillies against the boys, but this filly is up to it. If she didn’t have a setback, we’d have run her against the boys in the NZ Derby and I think he’d at least run second in that. “She’s so strong and keeps reeling-off those quick times when she’s on the speed. “She did that (Queensland Oaks) really easily the other night and I think she’s back to that terrific NSW Oaks form.” Self Assured was so stunningly impressive winning last Saturday night’s Group 3 South-East Derby he will be favourite from any draw this week, but Purdon believes Our Princess Tiffany is good enough to test and maybe even beat him. “If she draws to make the lead like she did the other, she would take a heck of as lot of running down, even by Self Assured,” he said. “It was quite freakish what he (Self Assured) did the other night, running home in those times, a 26.1sec last quarter, when he outside the leader.” The barrier draw for the Queensland Derby and Saturday night’s other feature, the Group 1 Blacks A Fake, will be done at 11.30am (NZ time) tomorrow (Tuesday).   Adam Hamilton

IN the moment after Self Assured’s first Albion Park win a few weeks back, Mark Purdon said the pacer “could be a bit special.”  Another two wins down the track and the lightly-raced three-year-old has grabbed the tag as the most exciting pacer in Australasia.  You simply had to see his win in Saturday night’s Group 3 South-East Derby to believe.  Self Assured, having just his fifth start, came from the back row around the field to sit parked and was still good enough to rundown Australia’s best three-year-old, Lochinvar Art, albeit only by a whisker in the last stride.  Wait for this … Self Assured’s closing splits outside the leader were 53.4 and 26.1sec.  Quietly-spoken stand-in driver Kylie Rasmussen was of praise in her conservative way.  “He’s very good to be able to do that. He’s so inexperienced and still learning, too,” she said.  Self Assured’s 1min54.1sec mile rate for 2138m smashed the race record set by Duplicated last year.  It’s hard to critical of Lochinvar Art given the times he ran, but Self Assured simply went better, while the other All Stars’ runner, Jesse Duke, finished a close third after sitting one-one on Self Assured.  Self Assured will be favourite to extend his winning streak to six and land the first “major” of his fledgling career in next Saturday’s $100,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby.  Lochinvar Art and Jesse Duke will be there again.  But it could be another stablemate, megsastar filly Our Princess Tiffany, who is Self Assured’s main threat next week.  Purdon said a dominant Queensland Oaks win would see the filly progress to the Derby and Our Princess Tiffany was definitely dominant last night.  Kylie Rasmussen took the daughter of Art Major to the front from gate four and won as she liked by 12m in a race record 1min54.7sec for the 2138m. Not much slower than Self Assured went.  Purdon expects to be back driving for the Derby next week, but wasn’t clear on which of the stable trio he would drive.  Luke McCarthy is expected to stay on Jesse Duke with Purdon and Kylie Rasmussen driving one of Self Assured or Our Princess Tiffany.    Adam Hamilton

TWO things firmly stamped Tiger Tara as the horse to beat in next Saturday night’s $250,000 Group 1 Blacks A Fake at Albion Park.  First was his ultra-impressive winning return at Menangle last night (Saturday).  And second was the upset win of veteran Ohoka Punter in last night’s (Saturday) Group 1 Sunshine Sprint at Albion Park.  No disrespect to Ohoka Punter, but the fact he beat boom stablemate Colt Thirty One and others will surely have put a spring in the step of Tiger Tara’s trainer Kevin Pizzuto.  Colt Thirty One was crunched into $1.45 favourite, but had to blaze a 26sec opening quarter to hold the front from Alta Orlando and was always some query after that for a horse who hasn’t be used off the gate much.  Trainer-driver Grant Dixon slowed a dawdling 32sec second split, but it was evident at the top of the straight Colt Thirty One had a battle on his hands and the four-year-old was unable to hold-out his rising 10-year-old stablemate along the sprint lane.  It was a Dixon and owner Kevin Seymour quinella, but not in the order punters wanted.  Ohoka Punter snatched a 1.3m win with young driver Paul Diebert aboard in a cosy 1min53.2sec mile rate, well outside Im Themightyquinn’s 1min50.4sec race and track record.  It was by the far the biggest win for Diebert, who moved from NSW to work for Dixon just before last Christmas.  “It’s unbelievable. Kevin (Seymour) was at me all week saying this old horse would run a great race,” Diebert said.  The much-travelled Ohoka Punter will be chasing his second Blacks A Fake win next week, having won it when trained and driven by Nathan Purdon.  But Tiger Tara looms ominously after pacing a 1min54.7sec mile rate for 2300m first-up at Menangle.  “He ran home in 54.8 and 27.1 and Todd (McCarthy, driver) was stoked,” Pizzuto said. “He did it so well and now it’s off to Queensland.  “I’m not sure exactly when I’ll take him up, but his last workout will be here so it’ll be later in the week.”  It was Tiger Tara’s first run since finishing fifth in the Miracle Mile more than four months ago.   Adam Hamilton

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