Day At The Track

Can Tornado Valley go back to back?

05:00 PM 07 Mar 2019 NZDT
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Tornado Valley,Harness racing
Tornado Valley
Stuart McCormack photo

Can Tornado Valley go back to back in the Grand Prix?

The Gr.1 $100,000 Hygain Australian Trotting Grand Prix takes place this weekend at TABCORP Park, Melton and the reigning Inter Dominion champion is the horse to beat despite a second-line draw in the 2240m mobile start feature.

It’s the 4th leg of the six race 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters series.

And the race to be crowned the Trotting Masters champion is very much alive; Marcoola (101 points) leads from Tornado Valley, Dance Craze and Sky Petite (all with 100 points).

Both Tornado Valley and Dance Craze start this weekend in the Grand Prix.

The Andy and Kate Gath prepared Tornado Valley is unbeaten in nine starts this season while boasting an overall record of 19 wins from 23 starts since crossing the ditch last year and joining their Long Forest stables.

His haul of feature race victories is as impressive as his current win streak which includes a clean sweep of the Inter Dominion series back in December.

Interestingly, his first victory on Australian soil came via this event last year, the Skyvalley gelding proved too slick for Sparkling Success and Sky Petite in solid time which announced his arrival as a major force in the trotting ranks.

Following his triumph in the Grand Prix last season, Tornado Valley would win another six races in succession before tasting defeat again.

At his most recent start two weeks ago, Tornado Valley scored a tradesman like victory in the Knight Pistol which followed a setback and ultimately ruled him out of the recent Great Southern Star.

The last trotter to go back to back in the Grand Prix was the great New Zealander Stent (2014/15) while champion trotter Sundons Gift holds the record with four consecutive victories in the event (2007/08/09 & 10).

Tornado Valley starts from gate 11.

The Gath stable is also represented by another former Kiwi performer in McLovin, unbeaten in three local starts against easier opposition.

While rising in grade he must also overcome a nasty front-line draw, he starts from the outside in gate 7 with young Zac Phillips booked to take the drive.

Great Southern Star winner Dance Craze will carry plenty of support, the last start Bendigo winner is prepared by Anton Golino and will again be handled by Glen Craven.

Dance Craze, a daughter of inaugural winner La Coocaracha (2001) is looking to become the fourth mare to win the Grand Prix following on from Allegro Agitato (2005) and Sumthingaboutmaori (2003).

The regally bred mare is the only representative of the fairer sex this year and will start from gate 5.

Last start Gr.1 $50,000 Menangle Mile winner Big Jack Hammer is chasing his third straight feature race success following his victories in the Dullard Cup and Menangle Mile last weekend.

Prepared by David Aiken, the in-form trotter will be handled by Josh Aiken.

Big Jack Hammer starts from gate 10.

Sydney trained trotters Blazing Under Fire (Blake Fitzpatrick/Jack Trainor) and Tough Monarch (Rickie Alchin/Chris Svanosio) are chasing feature race success and both land handy front-line draws.

Blazing Under Fire will start from gate 4 while Tough Monarch starts from gate 6.

Both trotters come out of last week’s Menangle Mile where they chased home Big Jack Hammer.

The last Sydney trained winner of the Grand Prix was On Thunder Road two years ago (2017).

Leading trainer Brent Lilley is no stranger to success in the Grand Prix after scoring with Keystone Del in race record time (1:56.0) back in 2016.

This year, the former Kiwi horseman is represented by both Monty Python (Greg Sugars) and Rock Tonight (Brad Chisholm).

Sugars scored back in 2013 with Vulcan while Chisholm is taking his maiden drive in the feature.

Monty Python will start from gate 3 while Rock Tonight starts from gate 12.

In-form locally trained trotters Savannah Jay Jay (Stan Cameron/Neil McCallum), Kheiron (Peter Lane/Chris Alford), Fabrication (David Abrahams/Jason Lee) and Deltasun (Terry Young/Gavin Lang) all boast winning claims.

And the quartet all land good draws; Savannah Jay Jay (gate 1), Kheiron (gate 2), Fabrication (gate 8) and Deltasun (gate 9).

Gavin Lang is chasing his second victory in the Grand Prix after partnering Sumthingaboutmaori (2003) while McCallum, Alford and Lee are all chasing their maiden success.

The Grand Prix is listed as race 7 and scheduled to start at 9.30pm local time.

The two remaining legs of the APG Trotting Masters will be staged at Alexandra Park in Auckland during April/May.

 

Chris Barsby

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