Day At The Track

A Gs White Socks salutes in Ballarat Cup

07:00 AM 19 Jan 2020 NZDT
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A Gs White Socks,Harness racing
Stuart McCormick photo

A Gs White Socks put in an extraordinary all-the-way win in the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup, saluting for Greg Sugars and Greg and Nina Hope to cap a terrific night's racing at Bray Raceway.

A big crowd also saw the Downbytheseaside Victoria Derby be turned on its head as pre-series favourites Smooth Deal and Be Happy Mach failed to earn direct finals qualification, while the Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Oaks looks on course for a terrific showdown between Stylish Memphis and Maajida.

Let's relive it all race-by-race.

PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup

A Gs White Socks took complete control of the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup and had enough left in the tank to stave off a blistering finish from his countrymen and claim the coveted cup in a Kiwi one-two-three.

Pre-race favourite Self Assured and All Stars Racing stablemate Chase Auckland savaged the line late but ultimately fell a tick over a metre shy of the eventual winner, much to the delight of A Gs White Socks' first-time reinsman Greg Sugars and trainers Greg and Nina Hope.


A Gs White Socks winning the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup    --Photo Stuart McCormick

"(It's a) big thrill actually," Sugars said post-race. "I've come close a couple of times with one of my all time favourites Sushi Sushi, so to get this one over the line is super."

Sugars advanced to the front with comfort, crossing Tam Major and feeling little heat throughout the race, with Victorian Code Bailey moving to the breeze and remaining there for the entirety of the 2710-metre classic.

A Gs White Socks followed an 81.4-second lead time with a 59.3-second first half mile, a gentle pace that had Sugars full of confidence.

"You've got to expect to go at least that quick in these sorts of races," he said. "My first time sitting behind this horse, he's such an easy going free-roller. He was just cruising, I was very confident a long way out."

Come the final turn Code Bailey boxed on well but was unable to threaten the leader and Our Uncle Sam emerged as a potential challenger but was left in the dust of Self Assured and Chase Auckland, but none could challenge the eventual winner.

"He was full of running around the turn and I knew they would have to be starting to make their moves so we put the foot down the best we could," Sugars said. "He just started to feel the pinch the last 50 metres, thankfully he held on."

That relief was also felt by co-trainer Greg Hope.

"Amazing really, we've always thought he was up with the very best," Hope said. "It's good to prove it on the big stage. We went in like an underdog really. People don't think he's that good but we know from training him, we've always realised that he's pretty special. Hopefully he will go on with it now."

The win means all the more as a tribute to regular reinsman Ricky May, the much respected Kiwi who recently collapsed while driving A Gs White Socks and had to be revived on-course.

"Ricky will be on next season," Hope said. "He's going to be as good as gold, he's going to be a brand new man."

To watch the video replay click here.

 

Downbytheseaside Victoria Derby Heat One

Pacifico Dream grabbed control of the first Victoria Derby heat and was essentially unthreatened for Kate Gath and Emma Stewart, winning by three metres and only enhancing his reputation for next Saturday's Tabcorp Park final.

While there was plenty of action in the running line as the breeze swapped hands until Youaremy Sunshine settled in with a little over a lap to go, Gath and Pacifico Dream were unruffled in front.

"He got his own way even though there were plenty of moves, there was no speed on," Gath told Sky Racing Active.

The leader had plenty in the tank for a 26.6-second last quarter, with Mach Da Vinci emerging from leader's back to force a gap inside Youaremy Sunshine and relegate the latter to a valiant third.

There was no such hustle for Pacifico Dream.

"He felt pretty good at the end," Gath said. "I still left the ear plugs on, I think he would have found a bit more with those off but he dashed up good himself, so I just let him do his thing and he was good.

"It was a lovely run for him first up and it is really good going forward into the final."

Joining the aforementioned first three in the final will be fourth-placed Soho Hamilton (Michael Stanley), who finished 8.4 metres off the winner.

To watch the video replay click here.

 

Downbytheseaside Victoria Derby Heat Two

No stranger to a Victoria Derby tilt is Grant Dixon and he looks into the 2020 version up to his eyeballs after Governor Jujon led them a merry dance in the night's second heat.

Having easily slid to the lead over pole marker Gee Smith, Governor Jujon was unchallenged for much of the running, including a 31.2-second second quarter.

It was during the latter that Mirragon advanced three-wide and Emma Stewart's runner put some pace in the race, with Perfect Stride picking up in the breeze and the leader switching on to race mode.

Governor Jujon looked to have all the answers, particularly once Gee Smith galloped at the turn and unsettled the peg line, with Perfect Stride boxing on for second, some 9.3 metres off the leader, while Hesty and Mirragon filled the all-important third and fourth placings.

It was a happy Grant Dixon who spoke to Sky Racing Active's Cassie Fahey post-race.

"He felt good. Obviously the draw's a big help and we got a reasonable time the first half of the race and he was able to kick home," Dixon said. "The final will be a lot more intense and fingers crossed for another good draw."

Dixon will be hoping to emulate his 2018 triumph, when Colt Thirty One claimed the Derby.

"They've got their different ways, but we are obviously rapt with both horses and it would be perfect if (Governor Jujon) could follow in his footsteps."

To watch the video replay click here.

 

Downbytheseaside Victoria Derby Heat Three

Heat Three was the race many were waiting for but not the result they were expecting, with Line Up an exceptional all-the-way winner while Derby finals favourites Smooth Deal and Be Happy Mach failed to finish in the first four.

Be Happy Mach, Victoria's standout two-year-old for Emma Stewart, finished fifth and will be emergency for next Saturday's Group 1 final at Tabcorp Park, but while some big names failed to fire Line Up only enhanced his reputation.

Trained and driven by Anthony Butt, Line Up was challenged early by Smooth Deal and held off Mark Purdon's advance while laying the foundation for a 78.9-second lead time, some 3.6 seconds faster than any other Derby heat.

He ran even time for the first and second quarters and then got home in a 56.3-second last half mile to separate from the field, winning by 3.3 metres from Stewart's Mach Dan, with Virgil and breeze horse Bad To The Bone filling out the qualifying positions.

It was a rapt Anthony Butt who spoke to Trots Media post-race."He's a lovely horse. He's a good front runner," Butt said. "He didn't get it easy and he held them off well.

"He's been racing really well in New Zealand against the best of the best. He ran third in the Sires Stakes final on Cup Day, which was a great race, so I knew he wasn't too far away from being up with the best of them."

To watch the video replay click here.

 

E B Cochran Trotters Cup

Talented mare Dance Craze was best placed and capitalised in an eventful E B Cochran Trotters Cup, scoring by a head from Tornado Valley and a neck from Wobelee.

Sitting in the breeze after they settled with her biggest rival on her back, reigning Great Southern Star champion Dance Craze found the front when early leader Kheiron galloped mid-race.

Andy Gath's star trotter Tornado Valley, who broke in the score up and then narrowly missed the start, then occupied the breeze and it became a showdown between Victoria's leading trotters.

Dance Craze had the answers in a 27.6-second final quarter, while Wobelee, in his biggest open-age race to date, loomed large late and took ground out of the leaders, but even his explosive pace wasn't enough to claw past the top two.

The ramifications could be significant for Tornado Valley, who is now out of the draw in mobile starts after tonight's woes only a fortnight out from the What The Hill Great Southern Star.

To watch the video replay click here.

 

Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Oaks Heat One

The Kiwis fired the first shot of the TAB Summer of Glory with Stylish Memphis doing plenty in the run and still having enough left in the tank to close in a 26.9-second final quarter and win the first of the night's Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Oaks heats.

It was an impressive display by the race favourite, who had to work when sitting outside of initial leader Dr Susan.

Reinsman Mark Purdon, who's driving for training combination Mark Jones and Benny Hill, said Stylish Memphis was pulling and he was "a passenger", prompting a second bid for the lead which he claimed after a lap.

"I had one go at Anthony and he really didn't want to give it up," Purdon said. "She was pulling harder and harder and I was really a passenger."

While Jenden Strike boxed on terrifically for Anthony Frisby to place third, only fellow Kiwi Dr Susan, for Cran Dalgety and Nathan Purdon, threatened Stylish Memphis in the closing stages, but the latter had all the answers.

"She stuck to her task well," Mark Purdon said.

Stylish Memphis, Dr Susan and Jenden Strike will be joined in the final by Its Beaujolais (John Yeomans/John Caldow), Alice Kaye (Adam Kelly/Josh Duggan) and Amelia Rose (Emma Stewart/Kima Frenning), who finished in places four to six.

To watch the video replay click here.

 

Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Oaks Heat Two

There was a little pre-race trepidation that Maajida may not be at her peak but Emma Stewart's Australian two-year-old of the year had all the answers to win her heat of the Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Oaks.

While Soho Gloria Jane battled on well for trainer-driver Michael Stanley and Good Faith finished impressively for Jackie and Jim Barker, Maajida responded to every challenge.

Reinsman Greg Sugars had to work to find the front, urging Maajida forward as she slid past Soho Gloria Jane, but from there he was able to completely dictate the pace.

Stablemate Jemstone advanced to the breeze and Sugars set an 81.7-second lead time, almost two seconds slower than the first heat.

A 31.9-second second quarter maintained a modest pace and then Maajida got home in a 56.5-second last half mile to salute in a 1:59.3 mile rate, two seconds slower than the rate Stylish Memphis set in the first.

But it was more than enough to secure a 2.4-metre win and advance to next week's final at Tabcorp Park Melton along with Soho Gloria Jane (Michael Stanley), Good Faith (Jim Barker/Jackie Barker), Itz Longtall Sally (Gary and Deb Quinlan/Chris Svanosio), Its Ebonynivory (John Yeomans/James Herbertson) and Rockingwithsierra (Gary Hobans/John Caldow).

To watch the video replay click here.

 

HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

photos by Stuart McCormick

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