Day At The Track

Carroll and Marvel set sights on Gunbower Cup

02:59 AM 25 Mar 2011 NZDT
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Aussie Made Lombo has been installed Heyzeal will lock horns with in-form Yucatchim will be driven by Shayne Cramp
Aussie Made Lombo has been installed - as a heavy favourite by TAB Sportsbet
Heyzeal will lock horns with in-form - mare, Arizona Blue at Cranbourne this weekend
Yucatchim will be driven by Shayne Cramp - in Sunday's Gunbower Cup at Echuca

In the wonderful world of harness racing parlance it could easily be said that the only feature separating a star and an icon is a nickname. Any mention of the 'Bathurst Bulldog' or the 'Temora Tornado' immediately revives memories of harness racing heroes Hondo Grattan and Paleface Adios in the same way stories of the 'Goondiwindi Grey' became inextricably tied to their galloping cousin Gunsynd.

While the racetrack deeds of the “Manangatang Marvel”, Yucatchim may fall well short of his extraordinary contemporaries, approaching the $12,000 Gunbower Family Hotel Gunbower Pacing Cup this Sunday his hometown celebrity seems almost as assured.

“I guess the notoriety has a lot to do with the fact that I’m the only bloke that trains here in Manangatang,” the local gun’s talented trainer Bill Carroll said.

“There’s no doubt he is a bit of a star here though. Everyone asks how he’s going and follows his form, so it’s part of the ride with him for sure.”

Drawn gate nine in the 2160-metre mobile feature - to be held at Echuca once more in what has become a terrific tradition over recent seasons - Yucatchim will be looking to take out his first Choice Hotels Country Cup title after several near misses.

But having finally recaptured the freakish patch of form which led Harness Racing Victoria racecaller Craig Rail to bestow upon him his now infamous moniker back in 2008, the eight-year-old son of Kinney Hanover looks as well placed as ever to do just that.

“He hasn’t had the best of luck in recent runs, he could probably be going into this race off three straight wins,” Carroll revealed.

“But he’s going fantastic at the moment. To get so close against those good horses in the Boort Cup last week, we were rapt with the run.

“I definitely reckon he’s going at least as well now as he ever has. You always think to yourself that he’s a couple of years older and he shouldn’t have the same dash in him as he once did, but he’s flying at the minute so maybe he has.

“Admittedly Tara Royale and Kissmecatie will be very tough to beat but Shayne (Cramp, driver) knows the horse as well as anyone and if the horse is good enough on the day there’ll be no excuses from our end whatsoever.”

Supporting the Gunbower Pacing Cup this Sunday at Echuca will be both the $12,000 Cohuna Car Sales Gunbower Trotters Cup and the $20,000 2160-metre K L Cooke & Sons George Croxford Tribute Final.

In the 2530-metre stand start trotting feature Kyvalley Mirage (barrier 6) will look to go one better than in the same race last year opposing track specialists Maori Vacation (1) and My Mate Claudy (8) among others.

While in the George Croxford a crack field of three-year-olds headlined by Mustang Mach (5), Blackjack Bromac (6) and last start Bendigo track record breaker Airzone (7) will look to continue their classic seasons with a much sought after win.

by Jason BONNINGTON

'Zeal discovers zest for racing

Cranbourne’s popular City Of Casey Tricodes Raceday celebrates 10 years this Sunday and the birthday present for harness fans is a clash between two star trotting mares.

Arizona Blue, the undisputed queen of Australian trotting, will lock horns with the mare many think held the title before her, Heyzeal, in the $20,000 Equinade Bruce Skeggs Trotters Cup.

The Group 3 is the highlight of seven harness races on a card that also features nine gallops events and eight greyhound races with a race every 15 minutes.

Dean Braun is excited about being a part of the day and while he’s not holding much hope of his star mare beating Arizona Blue at her first run for almost five months, he’s looking forward to seeing how she has come back.

“I’m not sure if she can beat Arizona Blue, she’s flying at the moment and it’s a good field of trotters, but my mare has shown she’s right up to the best of them when she’s right,” Lara-based Braun said.

“She was ready to go last week but just had a bit of a bug before that Breed For Speed heat at Bendigo. I had to take her out, but I’m very happy with her now, she’s very forward and I’d expect her to run a very good race.”

Braun said the daughter of Sundon wasn’t quite right last campaign, which ended with a second placing to Im Dejazzman in the Nick Robin Memorial at Harold Park in November, but there were reasons behind it.

“She wasn’t right in Sydney, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it,” Braun said.

“We got her home and had the vets go right over her and found a few issues. Since we’ve treated them she seems to be a different horse, she seems to be back where she was again.

“Greg (Sugars) drove her at the trials the other night and he said, ‘I don’t know what you’ve done to this mare, but this is the best it’s trotted and the best it’s felt for a long time’.

“I’m not saying she’s back there yet, but I’m very happy that she’s on the right track to getting to those that I thought she’d reach.”

Heyzeal, a winner of nine of 32 starts, will start from barrier five in the 2575-metre stand. Last week’s tough Breed For Speed winner Arizona Blue is the lone horse off the back row in gate eight.

But Heyzeal isn’t Braun’s only hope of toppling Arizona Blue at Cranbourne, the trainer also part-owns the Chris Lang-trained Miss Warbucks (barrier two), who pushed Arizona Blue in the Breed For Speed final.

“We’ve got two opportunities to try and beat Arizona Blue, so if we can’t get there with Heyzeal we might be able to get there with Miss Warbucks.”

The Equinade Bruce Skeggs Trotters Cup is the middle harness event on Sunday’s card, to be run at 2.35pm.

Entry is just $15 and gates open at 10am with the first event to be run at 11:35pm.

by Brad BISHOP

Davies goes for Gold once more at Bathurst

As one of canny Clyde conditioner Jayne Davies’ happiest hunting grounds of recent years, it is no surprise that the revered Victorian horsewoman is excited to be back at Bathurst for their gilt edged Gold Series meeting this Saturday night.

A four-time Gold Tiara-winning trainer who can also count Gold Crown success among her triumphs at the Central Tablelands track, Davies returns this year with four gun runners all capable of adding to her fine record north of the border.

In the $100,000 Group 1 Crown Final for the juvenile boys, ultra impressive heat winner Soho Valencia has both the unequivocal endorsement of his handler and the draw to win his fourth race straight, while stablemate Soho Silverstone (8) faces a tougher task from his awkward back row gate.

But while Davies could scarcely be more thrilled with the former horse’s form heading into the biggest assignment of his career, she is wary of a gun young local likely to lead the 1730-metre feature field from the start.

“It is going to be tough to beat Grand Stride now that he’s drawn two,” she conceded.

“He does look the likely leader, but you never know what’s going to happen on that small track coming to the first corner and as long as Chris (Alford, driver) lobs a spot I’ll be happy enough with that.

“He (Soho Valencia) is a very, very nice horse. He won the other night with the earplugs in and Chris didn’t touch him so he’s right up there with the better young ones I’ve ever had.

“(Soho) Silverstone’s a nice horse too, but he’ll need a lot more luck than the other bloke to win from the tricky draw this weekend.”

Set to start some five races earlier than her brilliant baby pacers will be Davies’ reigning Tiara-winning filly Aussie Made Lombo in the Group 3 Gold Bracelet for the three-year-old girls.

Almost assured of favouritism for the $40,000 feature prior to barriers being allocated, the gifted daughter of former champion mare Tailamade Lombo was installed a $1.30 popular elect after plucking the plum draw (1) in TAB Sportsbet’s fixed odds markets.

While Davies was careful not to declare her dominant heat winner a certainty, she was confident that the teak tough filly was good enough to record her 14th win from 25 starts on Saturday night.

“We’re very happy with her right now,” she said. “She never comes up with a good draw, so she won’t know herself starting from there but she’s a classy, classy filly and especially with Vertigal and Artistic Rainbow drawn out the back she does look super tough to beat.”

Rounding out Davies’ quality quartet of Victorian raiders at Bathurst this weekend is much-improved APG winning three-year-old Suave Stuey Lombo in the $40,000 Group 3 Gold Chalice Final for the classic age boys.

After also drawing ideally in two, the talented trainer is conveying equals measures of confidence and conservatism about her sizzling son of Bettors Delight’s chances of success, but concedes his rapid recent improvement should see him as one of the horses to roll.

“He (Suave Stuey Lombo) is just improving all the time,” Davies revealed. “Once again we’ve come up with the good draw, which is unusual, but he’s very close to a perfect horse these days so he would have been competitive wherever he lobbed.

“No Final is ever easy and this field is a cracker but as I say he’s really on the up and we’re just looking forward to seeing how he goes.”

by Jason BONNINGTON

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