Venus Serena tough to beat in Listed Championship

11:47 PM 30 Jan 2014 NZDT
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Venus Serena and John Dunn
Venus Serena and driver John Dunn
Duane Ranger photo

Venus Serena is not only the best filly that John Dunn has ever driven, but the 30-year-old said she was close to being the best pacer he had sat behind.

The 3-year-old daughter of Mach Three looks destined to provide Dunn with another big-race victory when they line up in Friday’s Group One PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales 3yo Fillies Championship at Addington Raceway.

With a stake of $175,000, the 1950m mobile is the richest event on Friday’s 12-strong race-card.

Up until her last start sixth at Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve (the $150,000 Group One Alabar Stakes Final), Venus Serena had won her last three races in a row.

“I was rapt with her run that night. I thought it was massive actually because she got an interrupted run and still ran on strongly at the end.

“We got checked and ended up five deep on the fence and then she got on the three-wide train. She did well to get as close as she did. On that run and her workouts win on Saturday, I think she will be hard to beat again,” Dunn said.

Venus Serena was full of running at last weekend’s North Canterbury workouts, finishing a head second behind the talented Smolda, who lines up in race seven on Friday.

She paced the 2000m mobile in 2:25.9. Mile rate: a slashing a1:57.3 with slick last 800m and 400m sprints of 54.5 and 26.7 seconds.

Venus Serena has drawn seven of 14 on Friday, and Dunn said he would be asking the question of her early in the race.

“I’ll take the race as it comes, but I think I will be going forward with her fairly early on. I want to put her into the race,” the Canterbury reinsman said.

Trained by Dunn’s uncle Geoff at West Melton, Venus Serena has now won eight of her 13 starts – three of them at Addington and three over Friday’s distance.

The classy brown filly has provided Dunn (John) with three of his four Group One victories. They were the $150,000 2yo Fillies Diamond on Harness Jewels day at Ashburton on June 1, 2013; the $150,000 Sires Stakes 2yo Fillies Championship at Alexandra Park on May 3, 2013; and the $100,000 Caduceus Club 2yo Fillies Classic at Alexandra Park on April 19, 2013.

“She’s a lovely filly. She’s certainly the best filly or mare that I have sat behind, probably the best male or female. She’s got amazing high speed and is an equally good stayer.

“She raced really well over the shorter trips last season and I know she will cope with the longer distances as she gets older. She just feels like a top racehorse,” the Kaiapoi horseman said.

Dunn is having one of his best seasons in 13 years of driving. He’s already driven 50 winners and placed 93 times from 326 drives in 2013-2014.

He looks destined to beat his personal best tally of 102 wins recorded last year.

Toughest for Venus Serena to beat will be the Barry Purdon trained and Tony Herlihy (MNZM) driven Ideal Belle, and the Nigel McGrath trained and Matthew Williamson driven Libertybelle Midfrew.

The evening’s only Group One event – the $100,000 PGG Wrightson NZ Breeders Stakes for fillies and mares again looks an Adore Me benefit.

The 4-year-old Bettor’s Delight mare has drawn ideally at four and Mark Purdon is likely to send her to the lead early and again give her opponents a pacing lesson.

If successful it will be her 16th win in 18 starts and fifth from sixth this season.

By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

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