Day At The Track

Mister Versatile set to rewrite record books

01:39 AM 22 Sep 2011 NZST
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Mister Zion
Mister Zion - the winner of 17 of his 45 starts and $240,230.

History beckons for Bannockburn based ex-harness racing pacer Mister Zion ahead of his maiden squaregaiting start this Friday night. Geoff Webster's six-year-old son of Red River Hanover may not be the first dual-gaited performer to grace an Australian racetrack but he will make the switch with a unique honour to his name.

While triple Australian Broodmare of the Year Maori Miss is perhaps the best credentialed exponent of either gait; winning several pacing races as a juvenile before claiming a heat of the Australasian Trotting Championship and two heats of the Inter Dominion as a trotter, Mister Zion may be the first Group 1-winning pacer to try his hand at the squaregaiting game.

And after three explosive trial efforts in his new gait, the SA Cup king will head to this weekend’s Tiff Murray Trust Night Oct 14 Trotters Handicap at Tabcorp Park a live chance of signalling his sea change with first-up success – even if Webster is keeping a proverbial ‘lid on it’ at this early stage.

“Look, he’s done alright at the trials but it’s another step up to take on the best trotters going around first-up,” the revered former South Australian said. “And it’s not even really what he’s done there that gives us confidence - it’s more how good he’s shown me he can trot back home.

“The way his metropolitan grading carries over here means he can’t just trot OK, he has to be very good at the caper to be competitive and it’s been a bit of a surprise to discover just how quick he is as a trotter.”

Trotting his last half in 57.15 seconds in the last of his three pipe-openers for Friday night’s 2760-metre standing start, Mister Zion will only want to be within striking distance of the major players down Tabcorp Park’s back straight late to be dangerous.

But with rejuvenated Dullard Cup champion Don King (14, 40m), Great Western gun Danny Cash (11, 20m) and local iron horse Earl Of Mot (13, 30m) among his adversaries Webster is circumspect about any dramatic debut victories for his former Kiwi commodity this weekend.

The champion horseman is also unwilling to rule out an extraordinary switch back to the gait that won him over $200,000 in prizemoney if things don’t go to plan on Friday night and beyond.

“This whole experiment is a novelty for me as well,” Webster laughed. “I was just frustrated with the fact he was struggling against the best pacers going around and he’s such a natural trotter I just thought I’d give him a crack.

“It’s not his last chance, he can probably have a spell after this if he doesn’t measure up and we can still bring him back as a pacer. We can even send him back over to New Zealand where he’s a maiden trotter, so we do have options.

“This week was always going to be a tough ask though. If you throw in Let Me Thru and Sundons Gift there’s no better trotters in the state. But the more he goes around the more confident he’s going to get and the more confident we’re going to get, so this really is just the start.”

by Jason BONNINGTON

Mister Zion's last win at Melton's Tabcorp Park on July 16, 2010:

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