Day At The Track

Terang teases with Ride High v Artie coup

09:00 AM 03 Sep 2020 NZST
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Clayton Tonkin and Ride High,Harness racing
Clayton Tonkin and Ride High
Stuart McCormick photo

A progressive country Victorian harness racing club is going all out to score a massive coup by landing a much-anticipated face-off between two of the current heavyweights on the Australasia circuit.

Terang, in the Western District, is desperate to attract superstar pacers Ride High and Lochinvar Art to their first ever Metropolitan meeting on Saturday week - and has called in some club stalwarts to sweeten the deal for connections.

"We're a very close-knit club here and we're so pleased that some terrific supporters have come in behind us to let us do our very best-we are so excited and hopefully it will get off the ground," club vice-President Clare Payne said.

"The connections of each of the horses have indicated they are interested, so the next hurdle is attracting at least another four runners, so we get to the minimum number allowed to have a race."

The Victorian industry has been abuzz for weeks about a clash between the two stars. But with Lochinvar Art based in Shepparton and Ride High in the Ballarat region, COVID-19 created some early obstacles. But Victoria's strict regionalisation model is now being wound back, and the showdown is very much back on the agenda.

And while the hype around the anticipated clash of the two champions is not doing the harness racing industry any harm, HRV came in for criticism over a "missed chance" last Saturday night at Ballarat.

After openly speculating about the possibility of a match race between the pair, critics say a golden opportunity to showcase the sport went begging when the Ballarat clash was "scrubbed" due to insufficient nominations of horses prepared to go up against the two Titans.

But this disappointment could work to the advantage of Terang.

Emma Stewart, partner of Clayton Tonkin who prepares Ride High, said for their stable, the Terang event was "definitely on the radar".

"The horse takes a bit of work and needs constant racing to be kept up to the mark-so we are really keen to support Terang with their forward thinking," Stewart said.

"Our aim is obviously the Victoria Cup in a little over a month, but the more races we have between now and then the better."

Stewart was full of praise of the club doing its utmost to make the event attractive with additional stakemoney.

The programmed fast class event was originally worth $20,000 but vice-president Payne said the club put the hat around to some of its most loyal supporters, and the stakes have been amped up to $30,000.

"We've listed it as the Christian's Bus-Gammalite Pace to recognise our generous sponsor, but to also create a point of note in honoring a past champion horse of the district," Payne said.

Gammalite was a superstar of the 1980s, and was bred, owned and trained by Leo and Maureen O'Connor, of Terang. Gammalite was the first standardbred in Australia to win $1 million and was handled in most of his wins by Bruce Clarke. The son of Thor Hanover had 179 starts for 94 wins, which included two InterDominions and 16 Group ones in total.

The O'Connors trained Gammalite on Terang's Dalvui Raceway and the pacer is buried at the entrance to the club. The O'Connor family is another contributor to sponsorship of Saturday week's big race, along with the Terang owners, trainers and supporters group, and the club.

"We've spoken to both connections of Ride High and Lochinvar Art and if we are successful in enticing them, it will be great and there'll be a lot of excited people! If it doesn't work out, we had a crack and it's not the end of the world."

The race will be over the sprint distance of 1680metres on the 1000 metre track, and if the clash goes on, they'll almost certainly give the track record a shake, of 1.53-6 held jointly by Tam Major and I'm Sir Blake.

David Moran, trainer-driver of Lochinvar Art, said he couldn't afford to go easy on his champ.

"I plan to give him a sharp hit-out during the Shepparton meeting next Saturday. Then I'll make a final decision about racing at Terang," he said.


Lochinvar Art with trainer David Moran and his partner Kasey Kent

"The hardest part with these types of horses is that you need to keep them near the top of their game-but the way things are at the moment, you can only race fortnightly. I can say that 'Artie' will certainly be underdone if we go to Terang, but Clayton's horse will be in the same boat.

"But the club deserves a bit of credit and obviously they want the right nominations to make it a success. It would be good if it does work out for them.

"I would love a bit more grounding leading into the Victoria Cup (October 10). I guess for me it keeps coming back to the concerns I have with the four-and-a-half float trip from home to Terang."

 

Head-to-head

 

Lochinvar Art

Lifetime: 39 starts, 19 wins, 17 placings

Stakes: $694,276

Best winning MR: 1:48.562 (1720m - Melton January 2020)

 

Ride High

Lifetime: 16 starts, 15 wins, 1 placing

Stakes: $270,827

Best winning MR: 1:49.044 (1650m - Bendigo August 2020)

 

 

Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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