Day At The Track

Douglas chasing one more win + HRV digest

04:21 AM 25 Aug 2011 NZST
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Douglas hopes to see the same form from Sugars will team up with Highview Ebony The Douglas stable is hoping for a
Douglas hopes to see the same form from - Our Hillview Gold that won the Charlton Cup
Sugars will team up with Highview Ebony - on Friday night
The Douglas stable is hoping for a - strong finish to another solid season

Glenn Douglas might have his maiden Metropolitan Trainers' Premiership all parcelled up, but the prolific Bendigo horseman is keen to gear up at least one winner at tomorrow night's (Thursday August 26) final city-class meeting of the harness racing season at Melton's Tabcorp Park.

Douglas has trained 149 winners for the racing year and would dearly love to achieve the goal the stable set itself at the start of the season on Victorian harness racing's biggest stage.

“You’ve got to set yourself goals every year and that’s what we like to do here; set ourselves a little goal that we think we can get to and 150 was a target we were hoping we could get to this year,” Douglas said.

“So hopefully we can add something to it tomorrow night. There are more than a couple of horses there with good chances so hopefully we can finish the way we started and make it a really good year.”

Douglas is a good chance to do that with runners in six of the nine races, including Mister Orion in the opener, Lights And Music in the $20,000 Metro Printing The Graduate and Jackson Grant in the Claimer (which doesn’t count towards the metro premiership as it is worth less than $15,000).

“Lights And Music, his form leading into it is very good and this is a step up in class but I think he’s capable of it,” Douglas said.

“Mister Orion, I thought his run the other week was very good and hopefully he can continue that good form and even old Jackson Grant in the Claimer, he’s going great guns and hopefully he continues his good form too.”

Victory by Lights And Music or Mister Orion – or Douglas’s other runners Shortys Star (Race 2), Jukebox Music and Fire It Up (Race 5), Our Hillview Gold and Stirling Charmer (Race 7) – would add to his already impressive haul of 27 city winners for the season.

That’s six more than the man who has dominated this award the past four seasons, Lance Justice, who has runners in just three races on the night, and while Douglas said the metro premiership wasn’t a goal it was good to win given he’s come so close in the past.

“Lance has beaten me the last few years in the metro premiership, but I’ve always been in the top five in that time, so it’s nice to finally win one myself,” Douglas said.

While Douglas will add a maiden metro trainers’ title to what will be a fourth straight Victorian Trainers’ Premiership, Chris Alford will collect another Metropolitan Drivers’ Premiership.

The champion Bolinda reinsman, who won a string of Moonee Valley premierships during the 1990s, will secure his first metro title since 2006/07.

Like Douglas, Alford, 41 winners, also holds a six-win lead over his nearest rival, Douglas’s brother Daryl, with Gavin Lang – winner of the past three premierships – one win further back.

Alford has drives in six of the seven metro-class races tomorrow night, including Night Of The Stars in The Graduate and Flylika Bird Lombo in the $20,000 Harness Breeders Vic 3YO Classic for fillies.

SUGARS LOOKING TO CONTINUE HIGH WITH EBONY

Greg Sugars was the star of Australasian Breeders Crown Super Sunday last weekend and the star Hopetoun Park reinsman will go in search of more feature-race spoils this Friday night at Melton’s Tabcorp Park.

Sugars, who won both Breeders Crown three-year-old pacing finals, including a memorable colts and geldings’ decider with Sushi Sushi, will partner odds-on favourite Highview Ebony in the $20,000 Harness Breeders Vic 3YO Classic for fillies.

The feeling won’t surpass Breeders Crown day if he salutes aboard the Dean Braun-trained filly, but he is looking forward to getting back aboard the Kiwi import.

“She’s been a well-performed horse throughout her career before she came over and Dean’s kept her ticking along nicely,” Sugars said. “She’s no superstar, but she’s a very honest filly with above average ability and she’s going quite well.”

Highview Ebony is HRV price assessor Bill Hutchison’s $1.80 favourite after drawing better than key rival Illawong Sister Styx in the 1720-metre event. Highview Ebony will start from gate five with Illawong Sister Styx ($3.70) required to negotiate the outside-back-row barrier in the field of 12.

“The couple of times they’ve raced each other there hasn’t been much between the pair of them, so I’m quite happy to have the advantage over her at the draw at least anyway,” Sugars said of the clash with Illawong Sister Styx.

Friday night’s race will be Highview Ebony’s first since a shock defeat at the hands of another ex-Kiwi, the Anthony Crossland-trained Rapid Art Beat, in a C1 at Cranbourne on August 13 when she had to work hard to get around the field after starting from inside the back row.

“She probably did a little bit too much work than what she would have liked in that, but having said that, the winner of that race is quite smart,” Sugars said.

“We weren’t at all disappointed being beaten. The horse went well in what probably was not the ideal race for her.”

Highview Ebony is one of two feature drives for Sugars on the final metropolitan card of the Victorian season with the star reinsman to also partner Lets Slash An Burn in the $20,000 Minuteman Free-For-All (2240m).

Like he had to aboard Sushi Sushi, Sugars will have to weave some magic from inside the back row against the likes of Smoken Up and Melpark Major, but Sugars is confident he will be in the finish with a clear run.

“It’s a pretty hot little field, so he’s going to need a little bit of luck from the inside, but I’m sure if he gets things go his way he’ll be in the money.”

by Brad BISHOP

DOUGLAS DIGS FOR GOLD IN ALL-STAR FRIDAY FFA

No matter which way you look at it, Friday night’s Minuteman FFA at Melton’s Tabcorp Park will be Our Hillview Gold’s ultimate baptism of fire.

A dual Choice Hotels Country Cup champion who graduated from honest campaigner to star of the future this term, Glenn Douglas’ Bendigo based son of Badlands Hanover would be the headline act in most $20,000 metropolitan affairs.

But with Australasia’s fastest pacer Smoken Up and Victoria Cup king Melpark Major also earmarking this weekend’s 2240-metre open class feature for their respective returns, Douglas recognises the rite of passage the Minuteman represents for his burgeoning star.

“A horse that’s in the class he (Our Hillview Gold) is in now, it’s always going to be tough to start off with,” Victoria’s leading conditioner for this season said. “But having to take on Smoken Up and Melpark Major does make it a taller task again, that’s for sure.

“There’s no doubt it will be an assignment, but we just want to see him measure up and run a nice race so we can use this weekend as a stepping stone for the future.”

The winner of 11 races this term, Our Hillview Gold is no stranger to free for all racing having faced all comers seven times while most of his generation raced their own vintage and gender.

And while Douglas is confident his former Kiwi would have more than measured up in the recent ABC series for 4YO boys, it is the grounding garnered from those battles with the big boys which will best prepare him for Friday night’s test – also starring stablemate Stirling Charmer from barrier four.

“I’ve got no doubt this horse would have been very competitive in the Breeders Crown if that’s the way we’d gone but time was against us and we’ve always gone a different way with him,” the Strathfieldsaye horseman said.

“He’s probably our best chance on Friday night but I keep saying that when poor old Stirling Charmer’s foot problems flare up they’re almost always responsible for his lapses in form and he’s ticking along pretty nicely right now too.”

Earlier in the nine-race programme which will mark the close of Victoria’s metropolitan season, Douglas will also put the polish on talented 3YO Lights And Music in the 15th renewal of the $20,000 Metro Printing – The Graduate for classic age pacers.

An accomplished stand start performer, the gifted son of Jet Laag will face ABC Final fourth placegetter Caribbean Blaster (barrier 9) and former Kiwi commodity Night of The Stars (10) among others.

But after drawing favourably in two for his toughest test to date, Douglas is quietly confident his back-to-back Shepparton winner can measure up once more.

“This is a big step up in grade for him (Lights And Music),” he conceded. “He’s only won a C0 and C1 of late but the standing start suits him and if they bowl along and he’s not far away his closing sectionals should be pretty good.”

by Jason BONNINGTON

MILESTONE WATCH

99 career wins: Christopher Shinn of Wallan has two chances to earn his 100th career win at Echuca tonight. He’s engaged aboard Castro (Race 2, 7:00pm) and Shania Court (Race 8, 9:58pm).

1000 career drives: Charlton’s Ellen Tormey made her 1000th career race start aboard Mister Castleton in last Sunday’s Australasian Breeders Crown Final for 4YO Trotters. Tormey was eclipsed on the line by Nathan Jack and Tsonga.

Alistair HOGG

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