Harness racing trainer John Justice teamed with his sister Joanne to win the Battle Of The Claimers Final, but tomorrow night at Melton's Tabcorp Park the Toolern Vale horseman will be striving to celebrate Polar Linen Claiming Masters Final victory on his own.
The Inter Dominion-winning trainer/driver has Thats Mister Ali engaged in the second of Harness Racing Victoria's popular September Claiming features, having driven Mister Douglas to victory for his trainer/sister in the earlier series on September 9.
"They're going all right, the old Misters," Justice said. "Mister Douglas has found a new lease on life and this guy, I was really happy with his run last week (in the heat).
"He's up into a lot stronger race this week and he's going to need a bit of luck, but I'd say he's improved on the run so everything's looking bright."
Thats Mister Ali finished a brave second to Catch Your Breath in his heat, when forced to undertake a searching three-wide run in the final lap at his first start since the Shire Of Melton Cup on May 20.
Justice was thrilled with his effort to finish just over three metres from Catch Your Breath in a 1:56.5 mile rate - which included a 56.9secs final 800m - and drawing the best of the $50,000 Claiming Masters finalists has him optimistic.
Thats Mister Ali will start from barrier 10 in the 2240m mobile, to be run at 7.40pm, one spot inside heat winner and raging favourite Jaccka Clive.
Ti Vogliobene has drawn barrier 12 and last year's Ballarat Cup winner13, while Catch Your Breath, who is in the series with a $48,000 price tag, has a front-row advantage - barrier seven - over his key rivals.
"They went pretty quick (last week), so there's not a lot of improvement there, but if it is two or three metres that might be all he needs," Justice said. "It just depends where he lobs early, if he gets a good run through the field he'll be a chance.
"I'd say he'd nearly be the fastest horse in the race. He just loves to be sat up and have one go at them, but he didn't get that opportunity last week because it was a small field and nothing was going to cart him into it, but this week could be different."
Whether Thats Mister Ali wins or not, Justice is grateful for the opportunities the Claiming Masters series - open to horses with a claiming price between $10,000 and $50,000 - presents the likes of the eight-year-old, who has won 24 of his 120 starts and $234,000 in stakes.
"It just gives him a chance to earn some money and be competitive without taking on the very best.
"It's pretty hard for him to take on the likes of Smoken Up on a regular basis, it just knocks them around a bit too much, but for him to come back to this grade and be dominant - and he has been (dominant) in claiming class - it's good for his confidence and it's good for mine too."
All anyone interested in "claiming" Thats Mister Ali, or any one of his Claiming Masters rivals, 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 is available by phoning Harness Racing Victoria's racing office on 8378 0200 or by emailing email@example.com
Thats Mister Ali finishing a brave second to Catch Your Breath last week.