Strong crowds brave wintry conditions and are rewarded with action-packed nights of harness racing.
Tabcorp Park Melton hosted two huge nights of Group 1 action on Friday and Saturday nights with strong crowds braving the wintry conditions to see top-class racing.
Leading trainer David Aiken, who has 34 metropolitan wins this season and an unassailable lead on the Victorian metropolitan trainers’ premiership table, was the star of the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series finals nights, training three Group 1 winners.
Aiken finished with four winners overall – a double both nights – and his son, Josh, drove his first Group 1 winner aboard the stable’s gun juvenile trotter Eljaykay Phoenix, which took out the two-year-old trotters’ Super Series final.
“It was unreal. We went in with one of the two winning chances in the race and I suppose the barrier draw really put things in our favour,” said Josh.
The 21-year-old reinsman delivered the perfect drive aboard Eljaykay Phoenix, working the son of Sundon to the lead early before handing up to Jodi Quinlan’s Illawong Armstrong with a lap to go.
Eljaykay Phoenix worked away from the inside approaching the home turn and put Illawong Armstrong to the sword, Aiken guiding the gelding to a 5.4m win.
The Aiken stable’s exciting four-year-old Lennytheshark provided many punters with their weekend highlight, the rising superstar defeating Guaranteed on Saturday night to capture the four-year-old males’ Vicbred crown.
Driven by Bolinda reinsman Chris Alford, who steered home three Group 1 winners over the two nights, Lennytheshark scored by 6.1m over his arch nemesis Guaranteed, that pair coming away from the rest of the field by almost 20m.
The crowd was clearly thrilled with the result, cheering loudly as Lennytheshark crossed the line in a mile rate of 1:56.0.
Kerryn Manning suffered a fall in the race, catapulted out of the cart when Boyz Torque fell at the first turn.
Typically tough Manning walked away from the incident with just a bloodied nose, while the horse galloped on and was quickly brought under control by the clerk of the course.
The Aiken stable’s other Group 1 winner was champion mare Spidergirl in the four-year-old female trotters’ final.
Again driven by Alford, Spidergirl defeated Paris Pepperell by 7.3m on Friday night, with that pair spacing the remainder of the field.
Alford’s third Group 1 victory came aboard Messini in the three-year-old pacing boys’ final for trainer Brent Lilley on Saturday night.
Gun drivers Gavin Lang and Greg Sugars walked away from the weekend with a Group 1 double, Lang piloting Claudys Princess to victory for trainer Mick Blackmore in the three-year-old fillies’ final and My Bella Starr home for trainer Adam Kelly in the three-year-old fillies’ pacers, while Sugars caused an upset aboard Peter Cormican-trained Imamenace in the three-year-old male trotters’ final on Friday night and backed it up the next night aboard Niki No No from the Kari Males stable in the two-year-old fillies’ pacers final.
Other Group 1 winners were Feeling Arty for Euroa trainer-driver Cameron Maggs in the two-
year-old pacing boys’ final, Pressplay for trainer Rebecca Cartwright and driver Amanda Turnbull in the four-year-old mares pacers’ final, Endsino for Andy and Kate Gath in the two-year-old trotting fillies’ final and Vincennes for New South Wales trainer-driver Blake Fitzpatrick in the four-year-old males’ trotting final.
Twelve Group 1 races were contested over the two nights.
HARNESS RACING VICTORIA