Steve Hawkins is no stranger to feature race success.
The popular tri-code race caller is a relative newcomer to harness racing ownership but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know what winning feature races are all about.
Hawkins raced brilliant greyhound Queen Lauryn who endeared herself to a nation with some scintillating performances throughout the country which netted her two Gr.1 victories while also collecting two Gr.2 and three Gr.3 victories plus setting seven records.
Like most, Hawkins has raced his fair share of slow types in all forms of racing but his latest venture looks very exciting.
Hawkins shares ownership of emerging two-year-old filly Mathilda Diventa who looms as definite threat in the Gr.1 $100,000 Seymour Nursery Pace Final at Albion Park on Saturday night.
“To start with, this wouldn’t be possible without Chris and Daren Garrard who selected the filly from the Redcliffe Yearling Sales last year. I was keen on another type that was ultimately withdrawn and the boys kindly offered me a share in this filly and the rest is history and it’s really exciting.” Hawkins said.
The Cammibest filly is in the astute care of Darren Weeks and Kylie Rasmussen who have a consistent knack of producing smart, well-educated pacing talent from their Toorbul property.
And this filly is no exception.
Mathilda Diventa qualified for the rich final after an outstanding effort in the heat on Monday when a narrow second behind boom filly Bamako Mali after coming from a rearward position at the home turn.
“From the very beginning, this filly has shown obvious talent because she won all of her education workouts while her official trials were also very impressive.
“Her first two starts resulted in victories before running into a very smart horse in Mista Natural at her third start and that form looks like stacking up quite well while her heat effort was excellent.
“I know Chris and Daren are excited and it’s infectious because I’m no different, that winning feeling is the best and we’re a realistic chance in a Group feature this weekend. I’ve got my family and a bunch of friends coming along on Saturday night.”
Mathilda Diventa will sport saddlecloth number three on Saturday with the McCarthy duo of Smooth Showgirl and Bamako Mali on her immediate outside.
Early tactics will prove crucial but Hawkins believes his filly has options.
“I won’t be giving any instructions to Kylie because she’s one of the best going around but she clearly has options from the handy draw, she can lead and she can come from behind.
“I know that the filly is trained to the minute and will be very competitive so you can’t ask for any more than that. A victory would also be a perfect tonic for Chris who hasn’t been in the best of health this week.”
The entire Hawkins family will be cheering loudly for Mathilda Diventa on Saturday night headed by Steve and his wife Kate plus their three daughters Lauryn, Jessie and Alex.
Is The Time Right For Thurston
Forbes trainer Phil Thurston is chasing his biggest success this Saturday night.
The retired school teacher prepares smart three-year-old filly Freedom Is who will tackle the Gr.2 $75,000 Seymour Nursery Pace Final at Albion Park.
The regally bred filly was outmuscled in the heat on Tuesday after leading behind classy local filly Charming Allie in a time of 1;58.2 for the 2138m.
The Grant Dixon stable dominated both heats on Tuesday with Charming Allie and Joys A Babe proving successful and both will be well fancied to claim the final.
But Thurston is not prepared to yield just yet.
“I was disappointed on Tuesday but we were beaten by a tougher filly on the day but she’s not a natural leader, last season she wouldn’t go a yard in front but she has become marginally better with more maturity but clearly she is most effective with cover.” Thurston said.
Freedom Is will be looking to go one better after finishing a narrow second in the two-year-old final behind Joys A Babe last season when looking the winner near the finishing post.
A handy front-line draw for Freedom Is gives Thurston and driver Brad Cowen plenty of options.
“I’m happy with the draw because I think there will be strong pressure throughout and that will suit my filly, we’ll be handy to the pace and hitting the line hard.
“The two Dixon fillies will have to work at some stage because of the barrier draws while Morethanmeetstheye is the big query because of her very fierce racing pattern coupled with the fact she has drawn so badly off the second-line.
“My filly is very under-rated and doesn’t gain the recognition she deserves but I wouldn’t swap her; her form this season has been very solid with the only time she missed a cheque in ten starts this term coming in a heat of the New South Wales Oaks at Menangle when she was checked and broke but still almost managed to qualify.”
The Courage Under Fire – Alegria filly ranks as a full sister to standout performers Glenferrie Alexis (19 wins - $288,000), Jackaroozy (16 wins - $112,000) and Im Alex (10 wins - $73,000).
Victory on Saturday night for Freedom Is will push her career prizemoney past the $100,000 mark.
“When Denise (wife) and I bought this filly as a yearling, we wanted her mainly because of her pedigree with a view of breeding from her later on and she’s proven to be a lot of fun. She’s a lovely filly with great manners and she’s very consistent.
“We currently have five racehorses but three of them are with other trainers while we potter around with this filly. We enjoy breeding and sell our colts at the yearling sales; obviously this filly will become our prized broodmare once her racing days are over.
“We really enjoy coming to Queensland; the climate is so much warmer compared to back home and the facilities here with Scott (Miller) and Shannon (Price) are just sensational. We were always keen to head back this year considering how close we came last season.”
All going to plan, Freedom Is will remain in Queensland for Brisbane winter carnival features starting next month.
By Chris Barsby (Harness Racing Australia)