If last weekend’s Breeders Crown was the main meal then Friday night’s Minuteman Free For All is a world class dessert, served up with three genuine superstars of the sport.
The warhorse Smoken Up will return from an elongated spell following an aborted Inter Dominion campaign, Melpark Major will also be first up, coming off a Geelong Cup win in late February, and then there is Bitobliss.
The dual Kilmore Cup winner has already had one run this preparation, a slashing second almost five weeks ago in the Our Maestro Free For All.
A minor virus stopped him taking his place in the My Lightning Blue Free For All two weeks later however that set him on a course for this race and the three-way clash that has eventuated is simply mouth-watering.
Bitobliss’ trainer/driver Scott Stewart explained that the hiccup hasn’t been a worry in preparation for this weekend.
“It was nothing too major, just a bit of a temperature and he was off colour for a couple of days but he got over it pretty quick,” Stewart said.
“It gets hard this week but that’s expected. Health-wise he is right back to 100% but fitness-wise he will obviously still have a bit of improvement left in him.”
Despite a mixed campaign through the summer and autumn, Bitobliss has shown in the past that he is as good as any horse in Australasia.
Arguably three of Victoria’s best four pacers are rarely seen at the track, particularly at this late stage of the season but it may just be a sign of things to come as we head into 2013/14.
The Stewart-trained son of Blissfull Hall showed a dazzling sprint when saved for one run first-up and all things being equal, that’s how it’s likely to play out again.
“Ideally we will be getting back and hitting the line hard again. As long as they work a bit early and a few want to be taking up a (forward) spot then he’ll be good at the finish and hopefully we can get some money,” he said.
“It didn’t surprise me, at his class they’ve got to do that. We know what he’s capable off so it didn’t surprise me it was just disappointing he couldn’t win but I suppose you can’t win every time.
“He trialled at Shepparton last week and he went good, it wasn’t really a trial it was more just trackwork on his own but in saying that there is probably a bit to go.”
Bitobliss has been marked the $3 outright favourite by HRV form expert Jason Bonnington, just ahead of Smoken Up at $3.50 and Melpark Major, who is the only one of the trio to draw the front row, at $3.70.
My Lightning Blue Free For All winner Motu Crusader is the only other horse under double figures at $7.50.
by Blake Redden