Ian Gurney is hoping the good fortune continues.
Still sporting a big grin after his recent success in the Gr.1 $100,000 Nursery Pace Fillies Final at Albion Park with exciting prospect Smooth Showgirl, the likeable owner/trainer has his stablestar Avonnova ticking along nicely in preparation for the upcoming Brisbane winter carnival.
The Art Major gelding returned to racing last Saturday night following his courageous second in the Gr.1 $100,000 Len Smith Mile at TABCORP Park, Menangle behind superstar pacer Beautide and delivered on all aspects.
In a crushing display, Avonnova sat parked in the 2138m before racing clear in the home straight to score comfortably in a time of 1;54.8 – just outside of his track record time of 1;54.4.
The free-legged pacer has proven himself as the benchmark open class performer in the sunshine state.
And Gurney is looking forward to the coming months.
“He’s just a great old horse that continues to surprise me, not in my wildest dreams did I envisage him doing what he’s currently doing when I purchased him but I’m loving the ride.” Gurney said.
Avonnova will start again this weekend at Albion Park where he lines up in the Betta Home Living Virginia & Keperra Open Pace over the 1660m sprint distance.
The challenge is not an easy one considering Avonnova must overcome a second-line draw while noted speedsters Lebron, Sign To Inverell and Holy Camp Boy all have front-line draws and more residual fitness on their side.
“This won’t be any pushover on Saturday night but I’m happy with how my horse has come through last week’s effort. He had a good blow after the race last week but has since trained on very well so I’m happy.
“Giving a horse like Lebron a start is not ideal but we can’t do much about the barrier now so we’ll just deal with it, I’m sure Bart (Cockburn – driver) will have some sort of plan in mind. You would expect this field to run about 1;53.5 give or take.
“We’re aiming for the Sunshine Sprint and the Blacks A Fake in July, they’re the two biggest targets we have in mind and I’m sure he will perform at his best in both of those races. It’s exciting just to be competing in these types of races.”
Avonnova has won 8 of his 14 starts under Gurney.
The chances of Gurney having two runners in those winter carnival features were looking a distinct possibility with forgotten star Mach Alert on the comeback trail but plans have been slightly altered.
The dual Gr.1 winner returned to the trials earlier this week at Albion Park, his first public outing since finishing fourth in the Gold Coast Cup behind Field Officer and Ideal Scott last October.
“I was thrilled with his effort but it’s a big ask bringing a horse back to the track after such a long layoff, I just don’t think he will be ready for races like the Sunshine Sprint and Blacks A Fake.
“He’s such a good horse and I’m not going to rush him for the sake of it, I’m thinking the spring features will suit his timing better. He needs a few more trials to bring him back up to speed but I won’t start him until I’m really happy.
“He did what I wanted him to do the other day and importantly, he’s come through it really so that’s a good start. He will trial again next week.”
Let’s hope the run of good fortune continues for Gurney.
By Chris Barsby (Harness Racing Australia)