A classic rags to riches story

05:17 AM 15 Apr 2014 NZST
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Avonnova, Albion Park 12 April 2014

Avonnova is classic rags to riches harness racing story.

The former Sydney pacer was claimed for a modest $20,000 amount last October before being transferred to Queensland where his meteoric rise continues at a rapid rate.

During his twelve starts for new trainer Ian Gurney, the Art Major gelding has won seven including his last four on the bounce prompting connections to look at bigger targets.

And a return trip to Sydney is on the cards.

The Gr.1 $100,000 Len Smith Mile at TABCORP Park, Menangle on Sunday, April 27 will be his next start where he will tackle the likes of Inter Dominion/Miracle Mile hero Beautide, Victoria Cup winner For A Reason and Australasia’s fastest pacer Smoken Up among others.

The steep rise in grade for Avonnova resembles more like The North Face of North Twin Peak in the Rocky Mountains.

But the pacer who has quickly established himself as one of the best in the Sunshine State is worthy of an opportunity to box with the best.

“When I first claimed this horse I wouldn’t have dreamed of taking him back to tackle the best pacers available but his form warrants an opportunity and we’re going to take it. His form is outstanding and the times back it up.” Gurney said.

In his last two winning performances, Avonnova has created track record efforts at both Albion Park and Redcliffe.

Last Saturday night, Avonnova started from the outside gate before racing wide in the early stages, eventually, he parked outside leader Destreos before sprinting clear over the concluding stages to win comfortably.

The winning time of 1;54.4 eclipsed the previous Albion Park 2138m track record time of 1;54.5 set by Field Officer in last year’s Gold Coast Cup.

“I don’t think I’m doing anything special with the horse but obviously he enjoys his new environment and routine. Maybe the warmer weather agrees with him up here.

“I will say this about him; he’s the worst track worker I’ve ever had. I couldn’t believe how poorly he worked when he first arrived but eventually we worked each other out and we haven’t looked back. I like spacing his runs and he’s thriving under that routine and the Sydney feature fits in perfectly with his current system.

“I’m not expecting to beat those top line pacers but I’d say if he drew well and secured a trouble free run, he could easily run a place on his current form. It’s a massive step-up in class but his wins have been full of authority lately and the times are on the board.”

Gurney has confirmed that young gun Bart Cockburn will commute to Sydney to partner the gelding who races unhoppled.

“Bart will be definitely taking the drive in Sydney, I’m sure he will be fighting them off with a big stick to retain the drive.

“With the race being on a Sunday, it doesn’t interfere with his book of drives at Albion Park on the Saturday night. Obviously they get on well with each other so it would be crazy to change what we have going currently.”

Another former Sydney pacer in Miysis will make the return trip with Avonnova early next week.

by Chris Barsby (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)

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