Day At The Track

The key to challenging Keystone Del

12:00 AM 27 May 2016 NZST
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Stoned I Am
Trainer-driver Simone Walker urges Stoned I Am to a win at Tabcorp Park Melton.
Stuart McCormick Photo

Not one for lofty claims, harness racing trainer Simone Walker freely admits that her eight-year-old trotter, Stoned I Am, is unlikely to bring down the great Keystone Del.

But, on the verge of their showdown in the $30,575 Group 2 John Slack Memorial Trotters Cup, the Pearcedale trainer-driver made it clear she’ll be out there to keep her million-dollar winning opponent honest.

“We will see what happens,” Walker said. “Ideally I’d like to be sitting on (Keystone Del's) back, but he can reel off a 27-second quarter and I don’t think my old fella has that in him anymore.”

Walker said the Brent Lilley-trained gelding, who has won four straight and 39 of his 62 starts, significantly impacts the way a race is run.

“The problem when you have a horse like that in the race everyone runs to that horse, not to what best suits them,” she said. “It is a small field and that can also make it more difficult. I think it will be definitely fast to the first turn, and then whoever leads will probably hand up to Keystone Del.”

She hopes that will be Stoned I Am, who will start from barrier four, inside Keystone Del, and then use his sit-sprint preference to potentially challenge the favourite and hold off the remainder of the seven-horse field.

There is reason for optimism in the camp of Stoned I Am, who is by Sundon out of Stoned At Midnight. After a strong showing in a Group 3 at Cranbourne when locked wheels potentially cost him a place, Stoned I Am won the Seelite Windows & Doors Coulter Crown last start, his third victory at Group level from 44 attempts.

Group win number four will be at lengthy odds and Anthony Butt, who has driven Keystone Del in his last 11 starts to deliver nine wins, will be only too happy to again take the reins of the gelding by Dr Ronerail out of Flipside.

“(Keystone Del’s) been the benchmark for trotters in Australia, he’s done a great job and is probably still going as good as ever,” Butt told RSN’s Inside Word. “He’s well trained and a great horse, driving him is the easy part probably.

“He’s just got a big motor. He’s got a great will to win, just a real athlete and he tries really hard. The all-round game really, it’s just a pleasure to drive him.

“He’s trotting beautifully, leaving the gate well and he has that high cruising speed and he just takes the sprint out of the others a long way from home. He’s got that ability to maintain his high speed for a long time and so the rest get tired before he does.”

That’s the challenge confronting Walker and company in race four of Saturday night’s 10-race card at Ballarat’s Bray Raceway, which will also feature the $15,575 Flying Horse Ballarat 2YO Rising Star.

There will be plenty of talent on display, with Laura Crossland’s unbeaten Grinfromeartoear sired colt Lochinvar Delight drawn the back row, while Emma Stewart will hope the pole draw will help Ferdinand (by Courage Under Fire out of To Die With Dignity) to go one better, having placed second at both starts. Marg Lee’s last start winner, Jilliby Kung Fu (by Four Starzzz Shark out of Slip Slop Slap), will also likely start short, but Glen Craven may need to find luck from barrier seven.

Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

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