If TAB Sportsbet was running a driver challenge at Tabcorp Park tomorrow night, like it does with jockeys at city gallops meetings, punters wouldn't be getting juicy odds about Chris Alford. The six-time Australian driving champion has the standout book of drives at a meeting that showcases the Tabcorp Australasian Breeders Crown semi finals for the two and three-year-old pacers.
Odds-on favourites Broadways Best and Bonavista Bay are his headline acts, while he is also engaged for Broadway Play, who is the popular elect in the Graduate Mares Free-For-All.
Rounding out his book are heat winner Modern Warrior in a two-year-old colts and geldings semi, the capable On Any Day in a qualifier for the three-year-old boys and Gypsy Tingira in a semi for the three-year-old girls.
Broadways Best is one of the horses Alford is most looking forward to driving.
He has already won the Vicbred Super Series and Victoria Oaks behind the daughter ofthis season and although they have barrier 10 to negotiate tomorrow night, she has proven herself from bad barriers before.
"She's drawn there (the back row) about her last five starts and she's a pretty versatile type who can either come with one run or go around them (early)," Alford said.
"She had a little bit of a setback before the (Australian) Oaks when she just got beaten, but her heat run was good and hopefully tomorrow night will be a further tune-up for the final."
Broadways Best's semi is at 10.12pm, half an hour before older half-sister Broadway Play takes on Deanna Troy, Pacific Charm and Christian Melody from barrier eight in the $25,000 mares' feature.
"The draw's not as bad as it could be because she's the only one off the back row," Alford said. "She's very strong and there should be a bit of speed on early which will suit her."
And Alford is supremely confident that boom three-year-old colt Bonavista Bay can make it 11 straight wins at his third run back from an injury-enforced layoff.
"He seems to have come back from his injury really well," he said. "His heat run was a lot better than his first-up run and hopefully he won't have too much trouble making the final from barrier four."
Alford's Breeders Crown influence extends to Sunday's meeting for the four-year-olds at Tabcorp Park, where he will partner championship contenders Maffioso and Ruby Dazzler in their respective semi finals.
But even if things go horribly wrong over the next few days Alford is safe in the knowledge he'll be in action on finals day - "Super Sunday", August 23 - with three-year-old trotter Down Under Muscles, who he trains, already in the final.
Deanna's chance to atone
Deanna Troy narrowly missed out on adding her name to the Breeders Crown honour roll as a three-year-old, but she gets the chance to do sotomorrownight.
The classy daughter offorms part of a small-but-select field that will pursue $25,000 in prizemoney in the inaugural Breeders Crown Graduate Mares Free-For-All.
The 1720m mobile is one of a number of additions to this year's series and the six-year-old's driver and co-trainer Gavin Lang said it would be great if she could atone for her 1-1/2m defeat at the hands of Lady Waratah as a youngster.
"She was out the back that day, but had a good run in the race and didn't fail by much," Lang said.
"It was a pretty good effort to run second, but hopefully she can go one better."
Deanna Troy is one of the best examples that youngsters can take the step from Breeders Crownmajor playerto open-age star.
A winner of 27 of her 71 starts and almost $330,000 in stakes, she is one of Australia's top mares and last November won the country's biggest race for the girls, the $100,000 Group 1 Ladyship Mile.
She has failed to flatter in two runs this time in, finishing seventh on both occasions, but Lang is confident of an improved showing this weekend.
Deanna Troy will roll from barrier six in the eight-horse event, at 10.42pm, that includes gun mares Pacific Charm (seven) and Broadway Play (eight), emerging star Christian Melody (four) and the talented Mesmerizing (five).
"She's had two runs back now and while her figure form is nothing special, last start she just got too far back in slowly-run race but hit the line very well and we think she's going to be pretty competitive," Lang said.
"Sometimes small fields can be a bit of a trap because they turn into walk-a-thons, but I don't think this one will be the case.
"Pacific Charm, Broadway Play and Mesmerizing are all high-quality mares and I've got no doubt this will be a high-quality race."
Not Flying under the radar
New Zealand has representatives in all four sections of tomorrow night's Tabcorp Australasian Breeders Crown semi finals, but its strongest hand appears to be the two-year-old fillies division.
The Land of the Long White Cloud will be represented by Flying Pocketlands in the opening semi, which kicks off the Tabcorp Park program at 6.40pm, and has Zenstar in the second qualifier, at 7.12pm.
But even though Flying Pocketlands was beaten by Zenstar in her North Island heat, trainer Steven Reid has no doubt she remains a leading contender for the $311,000 final at Tabcorp Park on Sunday, August 23.
The Group 1-winning daughter ofshowed she was back to her best with a dominant repechage win at Cranbourne last Wednesday night.
"I don't know a lot about the opposition over there, but I'd say that she's certainly in the top two of three (two-year-old fillies) over here,"Reidsaid from New Zealand.
"She won the repechage well and the feedback we got is that she had a bit of a blow, so we think that she's going to be a lot fitter this week and then hopefully even better in the final if she gets through."
Reid's confidence is a positive sign given she has a back-row draw (nine) to contend with in a 2240-metre semi that also includes the host state's leading contender Lady Belladonna, who will start from barrier five.
Reid, who trains in partnership with Melbourne Cup-winning horseman Graeme Rogerson, thinks top Kiwi reinsman Tony Herlihy should still be able to guide her to the top-five placing that will secure a place in the Group 1 final.
"She's a very tractable filly who doesn't tend to over-race and I wouldn't even mind if she got around and sat outside the leader," the confident trainer said.
How Flying Pocketlands performs will be good pointer towards what to expect from Zenstar in the second semi given the Geoff Small-trained youngster had almost seven metres to spare over her at the end of their heat.
Zenstar, a daughter of, has drawn gate three in a $20,000 semi that pits her against series favourite Lady Euthenia (barrier eight).
Reid's attention will then turn to the first three-year-old fillies semi, at 8.42pm.
He and Rogerson have surprise packet Carolines Cullen engaged from gate nine against top New South Wales fillies Ima Spicey Lombo (two) and New York Fashion (six) and Australian Oaks winner Elixir (four).
Trotters fields finalised
Following the running of the repechages at Maryborough on Wednesday, the fields have been completed for the Tabcorp Australasian Breeders Crown 2YO and 3YO Trotters Finals.
Both Group 1 finals will be run on Sunday afternoon, August 23 at Tabcorp Park, Melton on what is Australian harness racing's richest raceday with $1.55 million on offer across 10 races.
The qualifiers for the $163,000 Tabcorp Australasian Breeders Crown 2YO Trotters Final (Victorian unless otherwise advised) are Tuhimata Glass (NZ), Landoras Pearl (NZ), Rostevarren, Brevillian, Confused Superstar, Im Chilled, Mister Castleton, Louey Louey Louey, Girl At Work, Enjoy A Malabu, Tsonga and Reason To Smile (emergency).
The qualifiers for the $93,000 Tabcorp Australasian Breeders Crown 3YO Trotters Final are Down Under Muscles, Let Me Thru, Castletonian (NZ), Arizona Blue (NSW), Happy Maori, Go Ahead Makemyday, Aftanoondelite, Sassy Pinevale, Super Petite, Red Hot Special, My Girl Sunny, Doctor Sam and Carletonhill (emergency).
The barrier draws for all nine Breeders Crown finals will be conducted live in between races at Tabcorp Park this Sunday - the night of the inaugural four-year-old heats.
The public are invited to come along and witness the connections select their own barriers for the season-ending showdowns.
The draws will be held on Level One from 5.10pm with limited a la carte dining (no bookings required), bar and betting facilities available.