A preview of Friday night's racing at Melton

02:57 AM 08 Sep 2011 NZST
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Greybeard Mister Douglas will be the Villagem is inspected to improve in Let Me Thru must overcome the loss of
Greybeard Mister Douglas will be the - oldest horse in Friday night's Battle of the Claimers Final
Villagem is inspected to improve in - Friday night's Blacks A Fake FFA at Melton's Tabcorp Park
Let Me Thru must overcome the loss of - regular reinsman Chris Lang Jr to win at Tabcorp Park

Having banished Let Me Thru's controversial first-up outing from his memory, champion Nagambie harness racing trainer Chris Lang is looking forward with Australia's most exciting trotter.

The star son of Muscles Yankee kicks off his six-year-old campaign in Friday night’s $20,000 Group 3 True Roman Trotters Free-For-All (2240m) at Melton’s Tabcorp Park, his first outing since beating home just one rival in the Group 2 Australasian Breeders Crown Trotters FFA on August 19.

Lang’s son and regular reinsman Chris Lang Jnr was suspended for six weeks – reduced to four on appeal – for not affording Let Me Thru every chance when he chose not to pull out down the back straight, resulting in Let Me Thru going to the line under a stranglehold.

“I’ve forgotten about that (race) already,” Lang said. “He trialled at Shepparton last Thursday night and he was in the same trial as pacers including Villagem and he was timed to run his last half (mile) in 56.5 seconds.

“We were quite happy with that and I would say that the trial should have benefitted him, so he could at least go that good again this week.”

Lang will take over from his son for what will be his first race drive behind Let Me Thru since he ran third in a C0 at Charlton on August 9 last year.

That was his last defeat before embarking on a 10-race winning run that only culminated with narrow Inter Dominion defeat at the hands of I Can Doosit in Auckland early this April.

Atoning for that defeat next February is Lang’s long-term goal and while he is likely to have a let-up after the True Roman, he is eager to see him get back into the winner’s list.

Although the best-performed horse in the race, Let Me Thru drew well under the preferential conditions of the draw and will start from barrier six in the nine-horse event.

Lang hopes Let Me Thru can steal an advantage over key rivals I Didnt Do It (eight) and Earl Of Mot (nine), who make up the second line, with Don King (three) – who resumed with an impressive win last week – and talented mare Sassy Pinevale (five) the other dangers.

“The competition has the advantage of race fitness, so I’m probably lucky the way the draw has panned out because obviously Earl Of Mot and I Didnt Do It have been setting the standard of late and I’m hoping that I’m going to settle in front of them,” Lang said.

“But then you’ve still got Sassy Pinevale, whose been going well, and of course Don King, who was super impressive at his first run back, so I’m hoping that I can get somewhere close to the front and just see what happens from there.”

Lang will also be represented by Go Ahead Makemyday, who also resumed in the Breeders Crown FFA, finishing one spot in front of Let Me Thru, and he is also satisfied with his draw of barrier four.

“He was a very good run first up as well,” Lang said. “From number four, if he could get a forward spot and get a soft run I think the horse is going well enough (to be in the finish).”

Go Ahead Makemyday will be driven by Chris Alford in the True Roman FFA, which is Race 6 on the Tabcorp Park card at 9.12pm.

by Brad BISHOP

VILLAGEM NO FAKE AHEAD OF FRIDAY NIGHT FFA

Turn the clock back a tick under 12 months and Monegeetta marvel Villagem was the hottest property in Victorian harness racing.

Fresh from being crowned Chariots of Fire and ABC champion, Lisa and David Miles’ striking son of Village Jasper had continued his coronation to the Grand Circuit with a breathtaking Legends success in record breaking time.

Despite following those performances with sensational Miracle Mile and Cranbourne Cup placings however, the Tasmanian bred gelding has yet to fulfil his enormous potential ahead of a career-defining six-year-old season.

And after two disappointing runs to kick off his latest campaign David Miles is both hoping and expecting his stable star is ready re-emerge as a major player in Friday night’s Blacks A Fake FFA at Melton’s Tabcorp Park.

“He (Villagem) lost a lot of weight at his first go on the Grand Circuit, so we decided to bring him in quite a bit heavier this time around and it just doesn’t seem to have worked,” he said.

“We’ve trimmed him up a little bit now and he had a very good trial at Shepparton last week where he broke 55 (seconds) for his last half, so while he’ll still need the run this week we expect him to improve a lot on what he’s been doing.

“In fact if he gets a decent run through and we don’t finish in the first three I’ll be very disappointed. That’s how much I expect him to lift.”

Starting from barrier nine courtesy of the preferential barrier draw, Villagem will need to overcome Australasia’s fastest pacer Smoken Up three horses to his right (12) if he is to return to the winners list this weekend.

But while Miles is only cautiously confident about causing a boilover in Friday’s 1720-metre co-feature, he is more bullish that this should be one of many battles with Lance Justice’s megastar as they plot a path to the biggest races in southern hemisphere harness racing.

“He (Smoken Up) is the best horse in Australia,” Miles declared. “He’s the fastest horse we’ve ever had and if we keep racing him every week we’ll know exactly where we’re at in the pecking order I suppose.”

“The Miracle Mile is still our main aim. He just loves the big track at Menangle – his two best ever runs were there and we’ve just got to get back to winning form so we can line up this year.

“But as I say, top three is the pass mark this weekend for him. You know they’re going to go (1:)52 (mile rate) and we’re off the back line but Smoken Up’s in the same boat and as long as we’re giving him a run for his money I’ll be happy.”

HRV price assessor Bill Hutchison has marked Villagem a $5 second elect in Friday’s $20,000 scamper with Smoken Up a $1.50 favourite to record his fifth successive win.

by Jason BONNINGTON

DOUGLAS READY FOR BATTLE IN CLAIMERS FINAL

David Aiken should be asking for a sling if Mister Douglas wins Friday night’s $20,000 Schweppes Battle Of The Claimers Final at Melton’s Tabcorp Park.

Trainer Joanne Justice was ready to retire the gelding after he suffered atrial fibrillation at Bendigo in August 2009 and it was only at the insistence of Aiken, out of whose Avenel property Justice was training at the time, that she persisted.

“I was going to retire him, but I got him home and David got talking to me and said, ‘don’t retire him just yet, get him checked out’,” she recalled.

“So I did that and since then everything’s been OK. I think he’s earnt another $55,000 since I was going to retire him. David reminds me of that all the time.”

The hardy 12-year-old gets the chance to add another $13,500 to his bankroll – which stands at $157,173 – at 7.12pm this Friday when he chases win number 24 at his 187th start.

The son of Albert Albert booked his spot in the 2240m final with an impressive death seat in last week’s opening heat, proving too tough for odds-on favourite Greek To Me in a 27.5-second final split of a 1:58.1 mile rate.

That was the same time that Dartmoor went to win the final heat in soft style and just 0.3secs slower than Star City Roller’s win in the middle qualifier.

Mister Douglas, who will again be driven by Justice’s brother John, reverts to the back row this week after starting from gate six last week, but barrier nine should provide a nice trail with speedy beginner Kingsford drawn immediately in front of him.

That should ensure he settles in front of favourite Dartmoor (barrier 13) and Justice thinks Mister Douglas can win if the breaks go his way.

“Dartmoor’s a very nice horse but we’ve raced him before and he only just beat us (by a neck) about four starts ago,” Justice said.

“Mister Douglas does need things to go his way, but having the nice trailing draw through should help a lot. They’re all pretty much of a muchness these races, it’s just who gets the run through and gets the luck that wins.”

Justice doesn’t anticipate Mister Douglas’s $10,000 price tag will attract many suitors at 12 years of age with two battle weary front legs but like all of his Battle Of The Claimers rivals, Mister Douglas can be bought on Friday night.

All anyone interested in “claiming” one of Friday night’s runners – which are available for between $5000 and $12,000 – has to do is lodge a claiming form and the designated amount with the raceday secretary no later than 15 minutes prior to the start of the race.

The horse will change hands immediately after the race – with the former owners collecting any prizemoney that the horse earns from that event – and will be free to race in the new owner’s colours within a week.

More information about claiming races can be obtained by phoning Harness Racing Victoria’s racing office on 8378 0200 or by emailing info@hrv.org.au

by Brad BISHOP

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