Superstar Kiwi squaregaiter I Can Doosit has emerged as the horse to beat in next week's $150,000 SEW-Eurodrive Australian Trotting Championship Final, following a thoroughly dominant triumph in his heat of the harness racing series at Ballarat on Saturday night.
Despite prevailing in the slower of two qualifiers held at Bray Raceway to support the Group 1 Ballarat Cup, the manner in which Mark Purdon's five-year-old son ofdisposed of a quality field in heat one of the series - which is returning from a three-year absence in 2011 - was something to behold.
After quickly mustering speed from his awkward gate-one draw in the 2710 stand-start affair, the boom trotter followed an 89.6-second lead time with first half factions of 32.5 and 32.7 seconds before unleashing the shackles when tested by his main rivals, Down Under Muscles leaving the back straight the final time.
Gradually upping the ante to record closing cuts of 31.1 and 28.5-seconds to complete a 2:07.3 mile rate, I Can Doosit soon saw off the challenge of Down Under Muscles - who eventually finished fourth - to defeat Gentle Image and La Mosca by 8 and 8.2 metres respectively in the Group 3 preliminary and build Purdon's already soaring confidence ahead of next Saturday night.
"The way he started tonight was great because he's never been a horse we've been able to push - and him actually overcoming the draw and leading them early on really was the winning of the race," the champion Kiwi horseman revealed.
"He's just trotting superbly at the minute. We only gave him a light week after his wonderful run at Shepparton and he brought his A-game here again tonight.
"While he's in this sort of form I really wouldn't want to be swapping him for any other horse in the race next week. He'll be very difficult to beat."
In the second heat of the Trotting Championship - run on the opening weekend of the SKY Racing Nights Of Glory carnival - Chris Lang's reigning Australasian Breeders Crown champion Let Me Thru continued his unbeaten streak this season, saluting by the barest of margins in the quicker of the night's two preliminaries.
Heavily supported into even money favouritism, Lang's star squaregaiter made it a clean sweep for the sons of, going coast-to-coast in a mile rate of 2:05.3, but not before getting a fright in the shadows of the post.
After cruising through a lead time and first half of 88.4 and 62.5 seconds respectively, the Nagambie trained stablemate ofs Gift appeared to be in cruise control until, after beating off the challenge of rejuvenated star Ronerail, began to look vulnerable through the final stages of the race.
Straightening for home off the back of a 30.8 second third section, Let Me Thru was unable to produce his signature final furlong, but despite running out of puff through a 29.2-second final fraction, was still good enough to hold Kerryn Manning's top trotter Danny Cash by a short half-head, with the Frederick Coulter-trained Sun Of Iris producing the run of the race to finish 8.5 metres astern in third.
The first six runners home in both heats have qualified for the first SEW-Eurodrive Australian Trotting Championship ever run at Tabcorp Park next Saturday night where the most notable absentee will be Ronerail, whose stunning run of recent form came to an end as he failed to beat a runner home in heat two.
By Jason Bonnington