Impressive Southland harness racing three year old Franco Ledger looks well set to take on New Zealand's best three year olds. The brilliant son of Warm Breeze stallion Falcon Seelster is in the form of his life as he heads towards a date with the New Zealand Derby.
While his Ryal Bush trainer Hamish Hunter is still in recovery mode following a nasty race-day accident, his stable star has continued to go from strength to strength. Demolishing all before him his latest win was a five and a three-quarter length victory at Ascot Park on Saturday (March 26), running his last 800 in 56.9 and final 400 in 27.7.
In the hands of brother Peter (Hunter), Franco Ledger led throughout and totally outclassed his rivals. "He does have real x-factor and certainly ticks alot of boxes," said his trainer Hamish Hunter. "He can race in front or run from behind and doesn't mind if the track is wet or dry. The only thing he's never had to deal with is a standing start, but he's a horse that does everything right so I don't see that as a major problem either, he is a lovely horse and he's just doing a marvellous job."
Questioned on whether or not Franco Ledger had the ability to race his way through to open class, Hunter was optimistic. "We're hopeful he will go all the way, there's something special about him and he seems to be getting better all the time. "He's not a robust horse and is never going to be big, but he's very genuine and has great genetics," Hunter says.
From the family of Late Bid, Lotsnlots and, Franco Ledger is a son of race-winning mare Lets Scoot Franco (TT 1.56.3), a sister to the smart pacer OK Rock (p.3, 1.56.1). Purchased by Hunter and the What Ever Syndicate, which also races Christian Ruler, Franco Ledger was far from a standout. "If he had been I doubt we would have got him," Hunter says. "As a weanling they didn't even expect him to make the sale because he was so small, but he has the breeding and we got him for $35,000."
Franco Ledger carries an impressive record of seven wins and two placings from just 14 starts, but those statistics may have been even better had it not been for an unexpected incident resulting in the disqualification of Franco Ledger after winning at Forbury park on October 24, 2010. The gelding tested positive to the prohibited substance Ranitidine. "It's an ulcer treatment for horses, but I've never had to treat a horse for one yet, and I don't really believe in it, so you can imagine my surprise when they turned up at my place," said Hunter. "It was like my worse nightmare and my heart just sunk, initially I just couldn't work out how it could have happened."
"As it turned out one of the local Dunedin trainers had been treating a horse and been using the box that Franco ledger was in that day, there was still sediment and residue left over, that's all it takes and I think there's a lesson to be learned by all concerned," he said. While Hamish has put the incident well and truly behind him, it could be a while before he gets the opportunity to sit behind Franco Ledger again. "My ankle was completely dislocated and facing the wrong way, all the tendons were ruptured and I have three screws permanently inserted."
"Im not expecting to be active for another three to four months yet, it's a real eleven out of ten as far as nuisance value goes. I feel like a galloping trainer, I still make up the work-sheet each day, but I have to sit on the side-line. I am lucky with my staff though, they're doing a marvellous job," he said. Franco Ledger will possibly have one more start before travelling North in preparation for the NZ Derby, his entourage of supporters well organised for the trip to Canterbury. "Yes the syndicate have their accommodation well booked, you don't get these sort of horses come along everyday, so we'll make the most of it while we can."