Unbeaten juvenile filly Bamako Mali has drawn first blood in the Battle of Bathurst.
The annual Gold Crown meeting at the harness racing stronghold kicks off in earnest tomorrow night, with heats, consolations and then finals spread over the following nine days.
While the Crown carnival may not dominate the NSW age group scene as it once did thanks to the incredible development in opportunities for young horses, it is still one of the prized gems in the state’s harness calendar.
And as happens so often in the juvenile section, this year’s fillies’ series comes with a dominant favourite, especially after the barrier draws for the heats.
The Belinda McCarthy-trained Bamako Mali has won all three of her starts, including the $50,000 Pink Bonnet last start in 1:55.6.
That alone was enough to suggest her rivals are on the back foot heading into the series but her stocks soared even further when she drew one in her heat tomorrow night.
She has already proven her gate speed and around Bathurst it is hard to see her beaten so pre-draw she could go into Saturday week’s $100,000 final very short.
“She is a good filly and very advanced so she will be very hard to beat,” said driver Luke McCarthy.
The heats for the juvenile male pacers, so often the glamour event of the Crown week, are on Saturday night, with the finals all on Saturday week.
But McCarthy will miss Saturday’s heats as he will be at Melton in Victoria to partner Flying Isa in the unique Great Southern Star series.
The trotting series sees Australasia’s best squaregaiters compete in two heats of 10 runners, both group ones worth $50,000, in races three and four on Saturday night.
The first five in each heat qualify for the $300,000 final to be run at race nine later that night, with the connections of each horse getting to choose their barrier draws in the order they finished in their heats, with the fastest heat first.
Flying Isa was one of the favourites for the series until he was beaten after leading in the Australian Trotting Grand Prix last Saturday and the series now looks wide open, with NSW star Keystone Del a huge hope.
By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)