If you listened to harness racing trainer Vince Vallelonga throughout the season you would have the thought he was either a nutcase or a genius.
As it turns out, he is the latter thanks to Major Crocker success in last Sunday’s Australasian Breeders’ Crown Final at Tabcorp Park Melton.
At any point during the year, if you got into a conversation about Major Crocker, Vallelonga would have told you in no uncertain terms he was good enough to win at Group One level.
Sure he finished second in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series Final, but to the casual observer the son of Art Major was a step below the best.
Much to Vallelonga’s delight – and “I told you so’s” - Major Crocker is now a top shelf winner.
“I never had any doubt he was good enough to race against, and beat, the best of his age,” Vallelonga said.
“He just needed that ounce of fortune to take one out and today he got it.
“This is only his first season of racing and he has come such a long way, but I knew all along what he was capable of.”
Driven by Greg Sugars, Major Crocker began swiftly to lead from barrier three, but was instantly challenged by Hectorjayjay for the pacemaker’s role.
Given little peace, Major Crocker was then challenged by Saloon Passage before Bling It On became the third opponent to ‘have a crack’ as Sugars, in a race winning move, elected to take a trail.
Enjoying the run of the race along the pegs, Major Crocker was angled into the passing lane during the latter stages before regaining the lead in the last stride to score by a head from Bling It On.
Alleluia, which gained a late three-wide trail, was two metres away third.
“He had to work hard to get there, but I was happy when we found the lead,” Sugars said.
“Then around the home turn I couldn’t believe how well he was travelling.
“The others were flat out and he was just cruising.”
Covering the last half in 56.6 seconds, the year-old rated a slick 1:55 for the 2240 metres to provide Vallelonga with his initial Group One triumph.
“I’m just over the moon with him,” Vallelonga said.
“To be honest I am just lost for words right now.
“I knew he was ready to run the race of his life.
“I’m not saying I declared him the winner, I just knew how good he was feeling and that he was ready for a big effort.”
Sent to for a spell the following morning, Major Crocker will spend up to three months in a paddock.
“It has been a long season, but he has handled it like a seasoned trouper,” Vallelonga said.
“I will give him eight to 10 weeks off then aim him at races such as the Chariots Of Fire.
“I’ve always said he would be better as a four-year-old after he had a season of racing under his belt and hopefully that will remain the case.”
Bred and owned by Gary Crocker, the gelding took his tally to nine wins and seven placings from 24 starts for earnings of $264,665.