Day At The Track

'Puppet' and co get favourites home

10:38 AM 04 Jun 2016 NZST
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High Gait
Chris Alford drives High Gait to victory in the Noel Simpson Memorial Victoria Trotters Oaks.
Stuart McCormick Photo

Punters left Tabcorp Park Melton on a high after favourites dominated the nine-race harness racing card, including well-travelled three-year-old High Gait, who added a third Australian Group 1 to her decorated career.

Driver Chris 'Puppet' Alford brought up his 200th win in Victoria for the season in the Noel Simpson Memorial Victoria Trotters Oaks when he steered High Gait to a hard-earned victory, with the Muscles Yankee filly out of Regal Volo having to fight off a terrific Red Hot Tooth to claim the bulk of the $60,575 stakes.

“(High Gait) is a professional little horse. They have probably caught up to her a little bit from last year, but she was still good enough to win,” Alford said. “It’s always good to drive a real nice trotter and ones like this don’t come along too often.”

The win rewarded the efforts of trainer Nicole Molander, who has taken back responsibility for the filly after a stint in leading Kiwi trainer Mark Purdon’s care.

The Group 1 win was hard earned, with Kari Males’ filly Red Hot Tooth (Yankee Paco/Karaka Tooth) defying her $36 odds to lead impressively. She was joined by the favourite at the 400m mark but never gave up the fight, with High Gait’s class edge bearing fruit in the dying stages to win by 1.3m.

“There was plenty of action early and I had to probably come out earlier than what I would have liked,” Alford said. “She got to the front and, I’m not sure what happened, she was going to win by a length and just clocked off, but fortunately she held on.”

It was the second of a double for Alford on the night, having earlier steered Our Missionary Man (Jeremes Jet/Hawthorne) to victory in the DNR Logistics Pace for trainer Emma Stewart.

Stewart also walked away with a double after Major Secret’s return from a lengthy lay-off continued to bring success, having claimed the tab.com.au Pace for two consecutive victories in the hands of driver Gavin Lang.

“For a horse that’s come back after nearly 12 months off and to win two races in a row like that, it’s really a credit to everybody involved,” Lang said of the five-year-old by Art Major out of Secret Life. “We all know how good he has been, but to come back and race at this level and show the ability he has got, to sundry and all it’s a great effort.”

Alan Tubbs’ four-year-old Ponder gelding, Tee Cee Bee Macray, again produced a show-stopping burst to salute, this time winning the Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Metropolitan Pace final for driver Greg Sugars.

“He’s got tremendous speed,” Sugars said. “That’s a pretty impressive last quarter … he would have run clearly under 27 (seconds). Very fast horse, very bright future in front of him.”

From last at the bell, Tee Cee Bee Macray was given cover into the race before taking off four-wide around the last corner to pursue Kerryn Manning’s heat winner Miss Dreamin and Mildura flyer Murranji Track, who emerged from the box seat into the sprint lane. None could match Tee Cee Bee Macray’s irresistible pace.

“He’s turning into more and more of a racehorse every time he steps out on to the track,” Sugars said. “That speed he’s got, it’s going to hold him in good stead when he’s up in grade against better horses, because he can follow any speed and still finish off just as quick. He’s an exciting animal.”

Others to venture into the winners’ circle included talented trotters Illawong Byron and Claudys Princess.

Trainer-driver Jodi Quinlan's two-year-old gelding by Muscle Mass out of Illawong Blush registered a fourth win from seven starts when Illawong Byron won the Group 2 Haras Des Trotteurs Tatlow Stakes.

“He was very fired up tonight in the warm up,” Quinlan said post-race. “I always planned to press forward, I just had to really balance him early. He was just trying to go a little bit too hard and starting to mix his gear a little bit. That’s all an experience thing and if he settles he doesn’t usually trot like that, he usually trots quite good. He is just getting a little fired up.”

But despite being a temperamental two-year-old he proved too good, as did Claudys Princess (Bacardi Lindy/All Finesse) who by contrast was once again on her best behaviour to win the Group 2 Bacardi Lindy Mares Trot for trainer Michael Blackmore and driver Gavin Lang.

“That’s been the great thing about (Claudys Princess), her manners have been exemplary all her life and, as you know, in the trotting ranks you are halfway home when they are like that,” Lang said.

There were further smiles in trainer Michael Barby and driver Anne-Maree Conroy’s camp after It Is Billy also confirmed his top billing to win the Mittys Young Pedro Free For All, a second straight success for the It Is I gelding out of Glenlyon Glad.

Having led throughout a 26.8 last quarter clinched the deal for It Is Billy. “He can move when he wants too,” Conroy said. “It’s terrific that he did win. The (owners) are happy all the time, it’s great to win for them.”

Also making it two wins in as many meetings at Tabcorp Park Melton was Tenno Dance, who won the Aldebaran Park Trotters Handicap for trainer Glenn Sharp and driver Josh Duggan. The five-year-old by Tennotrump out of Disco Dance registered a half-head win from Jimbo Johnson.

The night closed with an old favourite from trainer David Aiken’s stable, Smudge Bromac, winning the Cogs Claiming Pace, a 34th career win for the 10-year-old veteran of 189 races. “He went awesome,” driver Josh Aiken said. “He knows his job and loves racing and it’s just good he can still win at age 10.”

by Michael Howard

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