Day At The Track

Empire rises to the Challenge

04:37 PM 26 Jun 2016 NZST
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Empire Bay.jpg Iona Grinner.jpg Red Hot Tooth.jpg
Empire Bay
Ashlea Brennan Photography
Iona Grinner
Ashlea Brennan Photography
Red Hot Tooth
Ashlea Brennan Photography

Honours and dollars were shared although there were hardly any great surprises after the three Group Two Trotters Finals at Tabcorp Park Menangle this afternoon. Harness Racing Trainer/Driver Blake Fitzpatrick kicked off the big Breeders Challenge Finals Day in typical fashion when he took Empire Bay to victory in the opening event, the Two-Year-Old Trotters Final.

Sent out a prohibitive $1.50 favourite, Empire Bay was a comfortable winner over his only two rivals Shang Fang Sword and Nanas Eyes.

While he was expected to dominate the trotters’ races, Fitzpatrick could only fill the minor places with his following two entries with Seven Secrets running fourth in the three-year-old final and short-priced favourite Glenferrie Burn leaving its run too late and ending up second with a late burst in the four and five-year-old Trotters’ Final.

Zac Phillips guided Red Hot Tooth to victory to deny Fitzpatrick of making it two from two while Todd McCarthy held on from a fast-finishing Fitzpatrick with Glenferrie Burn in the third race.

Fitzpatrick was delighted to draw first blood: “He (Empire Bay) went great, he’s been a really smart horse and he’s made mistakes in the wrong races,” he said.

“His record really should be better than it is.

“I was happy to follow Shang Fang Sword as my bloke has really good speed and he picked the leader up quickly and finished the race right off.

“He’ll have a short break now and then head to Victoria for the Redwood and then the Breeders Crown.

The Three-Year-Old Trotters Final could almost be considered a Bathurst victory as Red Hot Tooth was bred by Geoff Bullock from Bathurst.

He sent the horse to Kari Males, who trains out of Bolinda in Victoria but is originally a Bathurst girl.

Young Victorian-based reinsman Zac Phillips, 20, caught a plane this morning to drive the horse and then headed straight back to drive at Shepparton tonight.

“I’ve been up here a few times but this is the first time I’ve driven a winner here,” he grinned.

“She’s been a revelation this horse and came down around six months ago. She wasn’t much to look at but has had six starts and kept improving.

“Once she began to race the better horses she just acquitted herself well.

“I thought I’d be hard to beat if could lead and we had such a great run I was really confident.

“If she’s in front she runs her best races.

“I think she could have gone quicker had she needed to. It’s a terrific story the owners are lovely people and it’s really good to see people win on a big day like today.”

Michael Howard

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