Day At The Track

Drivers' premiership comes down to the wire

01:17 AM 28 Aug 2020 NZST
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Blake Hughes, harness racing
Blake Hughes leads the Newcastle drivers' premiership heading into the last meeting on Friday night
Marina Neil Photo

Cessnock reinsman Blake Hughes is confident Portalegre can win on Friday night as his battle with Tom Ison for the Newcastle harness racing drivers' premiership comes down to the wire.

Hughes, who celebrated his 18th birthday last Friday, holds a one-win advantage over Ison heading into the final meeting of the season at Newcastle Paceway.

Both have racked up centuries statewide to top the NSW concession drivers' premiership. Ison, with 114, is six ahead of Hughes.

However, Hughes has the edge 62 to 61 at Newcastle, where Ison has six drives on Friday night. Hughes has only four - Dollys On A Roll, Fantasize, Portalegre and Platinum Revolution - and all are for his boss and premiership winner Clayton Harmey.

Newcastle premiership or not, Hughes has had a remarkable first full season of driving, which has included the Tamworth title.

"It would be good to get [the title], but if doesn't happen, it doesn't happen," Hughes said. "I'm very happy with the season and I probably couldn't have gone better. I never thought I'd get close to a hundred in a season in my whole career, so it's good to get that."

Dollys On A Roll starts from the outside of the front line in race one after breaking but still winning last start on June 1. The filly also won on debut for Harmey in May when Hughes had his only race drive with her. He has also taken her to two recent trial victories.

"She goes pretty good, even though she does a bit wrong," he said. "It's a hard race but still, she should go all right. She's played up before but she's been good this time in."

Fantasize has drawn gate one in race three.

"One is probably not that good for her because she hasn't got great gate speed, but hopefully she can come out better," he said.

His best chance is Portalegre, which has drawn three in the fourth. He has won four of his past six starts and was a comfortable victor at the track on August 17.

"I've been going really good with him and I think over a mile this week, he should go good," he said. "I don't think anything would beat him if he got to the top."

Platinum Revolution won six in a row for Harmey but last raced in February.

"She had a trial and went around 54, so she should be right," Hughes said.

Ison will hunt three wins in a row with Motu Sapphire (race one). He also has strong hopes with Deanne Panya (five) and Let's Blaze (seven). His other drives are Mac Toddy, Yayas Hot Heart and Laceys Lad.

By Craig Kerry

Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

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