Day At The Track

Lang sticks with 'The King' in Dullard Cup

03:09 AM 06 Jan 2010 NZDT
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Gavin Lang
Gavin Lang

Harness racing punters shouldn't assume that Gavin Lang's decision to drive rising star Don King in Friday night's $50,000 Group 1 Dullard Trotters Cup at Melton's Tabcorp Park means he is the stable's pick in the race.

Lang, who co-trains both Don King and Save A Sixpence with his father Graeme at Melton, said the decision to stick with Don King over his more experienced stablemate was made before the pair won their heats on New Year's Eve.

"I said before the heat that I was going to drive Don King in the final," Lang said. "That's mainly because I've done the work with him since day one. Whether he drew 12 or whether he drew the best I was always going to be driving him in the final."

The six-year-old did fare best of the two Lang runners, but only marginally. He will start from barrier three in the 2760-metre standing start affair with Save A Sixpence to begin from four.

Harness Racing Victoria price assessor Bill Hutchison can't split the pair, marking them $2.60 joint favourites.

Don King will be shooting for a 15th win from just 25 starts this weekend.

The Sundon gelding has won seven of eight starts this season with his only defeat coming when encountering interference off 10m when second to In Pursuit four starts back.

But if there is a Dullard Cup rival Lang would be happy for Don King to play second fiddle to, it's Save A Sixpence.

The son of Safely Kept, who is also six years of age, has been a regular on the elite circuit since the start of last season but hasn't cracked it for a Group 1 win.

Last year's Dullard Cup third placegetter, Save A Sixpence filled the same slot in last month'sAustralian Trotting Grand Prix. He also filledGroup 1 minor placings in the Victoria and South Australian Derbys as a three-year-old.

Save A Sixpence won arguably the stronger of last week's heats, beating Acacia Ridge and Heyzeal, in 2:06.6, but Don King's winning time was 0.6 seconds faster and he looked to have plenty in reserve.

"Save A Sixpence is a horse that's raced very well at this level for some time now and it would be fitting if he was able to win a big race," Lang said.

Save A Sixpence will be driven by Lang's brother, trotting maestro Chris, in the Dullard Cup, which is race seven on Friday night's nine-event program and will be run at 9.40pm.

Webster on another Mister mission

This time last year Geoff Webster and Mister Swinger were the toast of Australian harness racing following their maiden Barastoc Grand Circuit win.

Webster, now based at Bannockburn, near Geelong, ventured back to his native Adelaide to claim the South Australian Cup with the classy sit-sprinter.

Twelve months on, Mister Swinger will again be in action on the second weekend in January but he won't be defending his SA Cup crown.

He'll contest the $20,000 SEW-Eurodrive New Year Sprint at Melton's Tabcorp Park at just the second run of his current campaign and only his third start since an ill-fated crack the Gold Coast Inter Dominion last March.

"He's been in the wilderness for a little while and that's why I didn't want to take him to Adelaide," Webster said of Mister Swinger.

"He hasn't had any hard racing, so I didn't really want to travel with him, then there's the risk of the heat, so that's why he's not going back."

But even though Webster's stable star is staying in Victoria, the trainer-driver will get the chance to defend his SA Cup crown with Mister Zion engaged in the $100,000 Group 1.

While Webster isn't bold enough to suggest the winner of 11 of just 18 starts can graduate from a Cobram Cup win to claim South Australia's only Barastoc Grand Circuit event, the barrier draw has at least given him his chance.

The Red River Hanover gelding will roll from barrier two with 2008 SA Cup champ Smoken Up, a Grand Circuit placegetter at his past three starts, to start from the second row (barrier nine).

"Smoken Up is the horse to beat of course, he deserves to be, but off the back row makes it a bit interesting around Globe Derby," Webster said.

"My bloke is only a four-year-old coming through and less than 12 months ago he was still a maiden. I know he won the Cobram Cup, but this is another really big jump on that and this will be the measuring stick for us."

Along with Smoken Up, Cincinnati Kid (six), Diamonds N Furs (seven) and Ti Vogliobene (eight) are class acts Mister Zion will meet in the race to be run at 9.22pm EDST.

Mister Swinger will meet a field of similar quality at Melton. The New Year Sprint might not be a Group 1, but it has attracted Inter Dominion hero Mr Feelgood (barrier 11) and rising star Sammy Maguire (two).

As happy as Webster was with Mister Swinger's first-up narrow second to Sammy Maguire at Tabcorp Park on New Year's Eve, he isn't getting carried away with his chances from the outside gate (seven) over the 1720m.

"He's probably going to struggle from out there because he hasn't got real high gate speed, and being only 1700 (metres) makes it difficult, but I was very happy with his run last week," Webster said.

Stawell photo finish inquiry

Harness Racing Victoria has set a date for the inquiry into the photo finish result of Race 6 at Stawell on December 23.

The hearing will take place at HRV headquarters on Tuesday, January 12 from 2pm.

Brad BISHOP

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