Josh Aiken opens Group 1 account

07:19 AM 05 Jul 2014 NZST
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Eljaykay Phoenix and Josh Aiken
Eljaykay Phoenix and Josh Aiken
Eljaykay Phoenix

Harness racing Junior driver Josh Aiken has joined the Group 1 club.

The 21-year-old produced the sort of drive you’d expect from someone many years his senior to land the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series 2YO Trotting Colts and Geldings final at Tabcorp Park Melton.

Eljaykay Phoenix, trained by Josh's dad David, who looks set for a big two nights of Super Series racing, started $1.35 and worked to the front early before handing up to Jodi Quinlan aboard Illawong Armstrong at the bell.

Illawong Armstrong, a clear second favourite in the race, then slowed the pace and his backers would have had their fingers crossed that he could stay in his gait throughout – because he’s developed a nasty little habit of breaking stride in the run.

But tonight it wasn’t his manners that cost Illawong Armstrong victory; it was that Eljaykay Phoenix was too strong, winning by 5.4m in a mile rate of 2:03.8.

Aiken took Eljaykay Phoenix to the front early in the home stretch and, while Illawong Armstrong battled on valiantly for second, all honours were with the winner.

Aiken gave a victory salute as he crossed the line, clearly a moment he won’t forget.

“It felt awesome coming around the home turn,” he said.

“That’s just unreal. I can explain how good it feels.”

Eljaykay Phoenix has now won five of his six starts.

Ever-consistent Black Valley was third for Rebecca Bartley, beaten 9.9m, and they came well away from the fourth placed runner Majestic Jess.

by Cody Winnell

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