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Star pacer Soho Tribeca has returned to Perth in a quest to resurrect his career. And today he was back with Kim Prentice, the man who took him through the grades to become arguably the best pacer in Australia. “I didn’t expect to see him again, I’m very, very excited,” Prentice said. Soho Tribeca won a Golden Nugget and Vicbred 4YO final at Group 1 level for Prentice, but their biggest win together came in the 2018 Group 1 WA Pacing Cup. A year earlier Soho Tribeca ran second in the Fremantle Cup and third in the WA Cup. Owner Rob Watson transferred him to Mick Stanley in Victoria to chase the eastern states major races like the Hunter Cup (he ran 2nd to Lazarus in 2018) and Miracle Mile (he ran third to My Field Marshal last year) before a Queensland campaign was derailed by a broken leg just over 12 months ago. Stanley nursed Soho Tribeca back to the races, but his first run in 11 months was an inglorious seventh at Melton on June 15 when found to have had a virus. He hasn’t raced since. Prentice said the plan was to have Soho Tribeca back racing by early December with a view to chasing the Fremantle and WA Cups again at Gloucester Park in January.  The timing and move back to Perth obviously rules out any chance of an Auckland Inter Dominion tilt.   Adam Hamilton

IT was a most unusual week for the All Stars barn as the Breeders Crown series heats unfolded across Victoria.  Staggeringly, both Our Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke were well beaten as hot favourites in their respective heats. They both missed a place!  Our Princess Tiffany was first out at Kilmore in horribly cold and wet conditions last Thursday night.  Stand-in driver Luke McCarthy could only suggested the megastar filly didn’t handle the bog track conditions when she laboured into third as a $1.04 favourite in a heat won so dominantly by Emma Stewart’s Two Times Bettor, who sat parked throughout.  Our Princess Tiffany was crossed at the start, but got clear air from the home bend and looked a shadow of herself.  Obviously she can improve a mile for the semis and final, but purely on what we saw in the heat, Two Times Bettor will be a serious threat in the final.  Jesse Duke was crunched into $1.40 favourite from gate two in his Ballarat heat last Friday night, but gave nothing in the home straight after having the perfect one-one trip throughout. He finished a well-held fourth.  The standout of those Ballarat 3YO colts and geldings heats was the classy Hurricane Harley, who led throughout in freezing conditions and ran his last mile in a flying 1min52.5sec for an 11m win over a gallant Lochinvar Art, who sat parked.  Hurricane Harley’s 2200m mile rate of 1min54.2sec was way ahead of the other two heat winners: Crime Writer in 1min57.4sec and Demon Delight in 2min2.5sec.  Emma Stewart dominated the earlier Crown heats last week, winning both 2YO fillies qualifiers with Maajida and Jemstone. She also won both 2YO colts and geldings heats at Shepparton last Wednesday night with Be Happy Mach and Pacifico Dream.  With Australian Gold winner Jilliby Nitro sidelined after surgery, Be Happy Mach can cement Aussie 2YO of the Year honours with victory in the Crown final.  Kiwis Zeuss Bromac and Perfect Stride both ran well, but were well beaten seconds in their 2YO colts and geldings heats.  _________________________________________________________________________________  INTER Dominion champ Tornado Valley has picked up just where he left off.  Two runs back from a well-deserved spell have netted two easy wins, the latest at Melton last night in the Group 3 Aldebaran Park Melton Trotters’ free-for-all.  All Tornado Valley’s customary gate speed was on display as he ran to the lead from the outside draw (gate seven) then driver Kate Gath dictated terms through a soft 63.4sec middle half.  The classy Big Jack Hammer trailed Tornado Valley throughout and ran second, just as he did when they clashed six days earlier at Maryborough.  Trainer Andy Gath reaffirmed plans to keep Tornado Valley in Victoria because of he’s such a bad traveller. McLovin is set to be the stable’s Auckland Inter Dominion runner.  _________________________________________________________________________________  WA Derby winner Major Trojan continued his long build-up to the Golden Nugget with another easy Gloucester Park win last Friday night.  The son of Art Major is two-from-two this campaign and has won his past four on end.  Last Friday was little more than trackwork with Gary Hall Jr leading from gate three, dictating through a 61.3sec middle half then really only quickening for a 27.6sec closing quarter.  In the other highlights of the night, trainer Debbie Lewis continued her fantastic form by combining with husband, Chris, and One Off Delight to win the $50,000 Channel 7 San Simeon.  And former WA Derby winner Handsandwheels was superbly driven by Aiden De Campo to win the free-for-all out of a one-one trail over leader Convert Denario in a 1min55.6sec mile rate for 2130m.  _________________________________________________________________________________ EMMA Stewart looks to have a budding Grand Circuit horse in Maraetai.  The son of Somebeachsomewhere has always showed plenty of potential, but his three runs this campaign indicated he’s taken the next step.  Last night’s powerhouse Melton win – his 12th from just 21 starts – was fantastic after sitting parked in quick time and finishing-off in 54.8 and 27.4sec to win very impressively.  It was another big night for Stewart, who also trained former star juvenile filly Nostra Villa to easily win the $30,000 Group 3 Alabar Vicbred Championship final (2240m).  Chris Alford took the reins as the daughter of Art Major worked to the front and roared clear to win by 9.7m in a brisk 1min55.1sec mile rate.  It’s been a terrific training performance with Nostra Villa having a year away from the track and returning to her best form, including wins at her past three starts.  _________________________________________________________________________________ SHANE Tritton has high hopes for his lightly-raced former Kiwi pacer Gods Spirit.  The son of Tintin In America turned around a frustrating trio of seconds placings to open this campaign when he won easily at Menangle last night.  Two runs back he chased home the immensely exciting Commander Kirk in 1min49.7sec.  Last night it was his turn to win by a big space, leading throughout to score by 9.9m in a 1min52.5sec mile.  “He’s done a fantastic job since coming across and he’s getting better all the time,” Tritton said.  Gods Spirit’s raced 10 times for Shane and Lauren Tritton for five wins, four seconds and a third.  _________________________________________________________________________________ IN a stellar juvenile season, Expensive Ego is right up there with the best of them.  Sure Be Happy Mach and Jilliby Nitro have been the standouts through our biggest juvenile races, but Expensive Ego has made his mark late.  Trained by David Thorn in NSW, Expensive Ego won his first two runs in his home state before heading to Queensland to chase Group 1 glory.  He’s won two Group 1’s at Albion Park over the past few weeks.  First came the Qbred Triad final, then came last night’s phenomenal 29.5m win in the Group 1 Albion Park Australian Gold final.  Despite drawing the back row and sitting parked, it was an armchair drive for Jimmy Douglas as Expensive Ego powered clear in a brisk 1min54.4sec mile rate for 1660m.   Adam Hamilton

The indecision is over and superstar pacer Tiger Tara will chase NZ Cup glory again this year. Trainer Kevin Pizzuto had refused to be drawn on plans with his reigning Inter Dominion champion, but today confirmed the NZ Cup was again his major target. “Everything now is about having at his top for NZ Cup Day,” Pizzuto said. “He’s back and going well and I’ll just take him through the free-for-alls here before we head back across to Christchurch. “He’s an older horse and I need to keep him in work, even though there aren’t any big races for him for a while.” Tiger Tara has won two of three runs back from a spell, the latest in a slick 1min53.9sec mile rate for the longer 2300m trip at Menangle in cold and very windy conditions last night. “I know he didn’t win by much, but it was a big win because the wind was so strong,” Pizzuto said. “I’m sure he’s going as well as ever and I’m still hurting over getting so close in last year’s NZ Cup without winning it.” Pizzuto has the option of heading to Melton for the $200,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup on October 12 – a race Tiger Tara won last year – but he said it’s more likely he would go across to NZ earlier than last year and have his final lead-up race over there. “That’s what I’m thinking, go over there earlier than last year. Maybe a race like Ashburton,” Pizzuto said. “If I do that, I wouldn’t take him to Victoria.” And what about defending that Inter Dominion crown in Auckland from November 29? “It’s likely, but I won’t say definite yet,” Pizzuto said. “I’m only looking as far as ahead as the NZ Cup. If he gets through that well, then I’ll look at staying over there.”   Adam Hamilton

Balraj crossed the ditch without much fanfare, but it hasn’t taken long for him to become one off the buzz horses of Australia. The lightly-raced Art Major three-year-old is unbeaten in four Aussie starts and made one heck of a statement scoring at his first Menangle run yesterday (Tuesday). Balraj won by 22.4m, but it was his time which did most of the talking. The gelding’s 1min49.1sec mile was an Australasian record for a three-year-old, slicing 0.5sec off Muscle Factory’s record. Just as he did winning by what seemed the length of the home straight at Newcastle a few weeks ago, driver Robbie Morris crushed his rivals with a 26.1sec split from the 800-400m.  It’s the second time in as many starts the Shaun Simiana-trained pacer has smashed a record. His 1min50.9sec mile win at Newcastle two starts back on July 15 was an all-aged record for the track which has hosted some off the sport’s greats in the Newcastle Mile. Balraj raced just five times in NZ for trainer Steven McRae, missing a place in first three runs then showing a glimpse of his potential winning back-to-back Forbury Park races on February 21 and March 7. He was sold to Australia soon after and won his Aussie debut at Penrith by 7.1m on June 6. Since then he’s won by 25.7m at Newcastle on June 14, 55.9m again at Newcastle on July 15 and now Menangle by 22.4m   Adam Hamilton

PHIL Williamson has put his name alongside Mark Purdon as the only Kiwi trainer to win Australia’s treasured Group 1 Redwood Classic. Purdon has trained and driven two winners of the juvenile trot at Maryborough – High Gait (2015) and Daenerys Targaryen (2013) – and Williamson won yesterday’s renewal with the exciting Ultimate Stride. It was a truly Kiwi affair with Anthony Butt making the trip down from his NSW-base to take the reins on Ultimate Stride. “It’s a time-honoured race and one I’ve always wanted to win. It’s great to finally get it,” Butt said. “It’s been a hard race for the Kiwis to win, so all credit to Phil for coming across and winning it.” The Aussie flavour from the win came through owners Emilio and Mary Rosati, who not race Ultimate Stride, but went back-to-back in the Redwood after Emerald Stride scored last year for trainer-driver David Miles. Butt said he was also confident in the run even when he had to make his move earlier than he wanted. “He was almost going to too, I couldn’t hold him any longer,” he said. “I was happy to make it a staying test anyway, I had faith in his staying ability.” Ultimate Stride was backed into $1.60 favouritism and won by 3.4m over Is That A Bid with Im Daddy Warbucks third in a 2min4.1sec mile rate for the 2190m standing start. His task was certainly made easier when second favourite Powderkeg galloped his way out of contention. Williamson’s hopes of a Group 1 double were dashed when his Victoria Trotters’ Derby favourite Liberty Stride galloped hopelessly at the start and finished tailed-out. ________________________________________________________________________________ YOU know something else special happened when winning first-up aboard Inter Dominion champ Tornado Valley isn’t the highlight of Kate Gath’s massive Redwood Day. Gath was left in awe of the raw but seriously gifted Majestuoso after thrashed his rivals in the Group 1 Victoria Trotters’ Derby. It’s no secret Kate and Andy Gath have a big opinion of the son of Majestic Son and no everybody knows why. The way he stormed around the field from near last, out four, five and six wide, then powered clear to win by an increasing 10.1m was something to behold. Majestuoso’s manners were an issue last season when he won two of nine runs, but he’s come back and although still green at times, he’s won eight of his nine starts this term. All Cashed Up led and ran well for second despite having every chance, while Kiwi raider Kratos couldn’t match Majestuoso’s brilliance, but worked home quite well for third. Majestuoso’s win capped a magical 30 minutes for the Gaths with Tornado Valley sparkling in his first-up win in the free-for-all. Despite drawing the back row and settling third-last while main danger Big Jack Hammer led, Tornado Valley launched a three-wide run from the 700m without cover and toyed with his rivals. Kate Gath just nursed him down the straight to win by 8.9m in a slick 1min57.9sec mile rate for 2190m. Arguably it was as impressive as Tornado Valley’s ever looked. ________________________________________________________________________________ ANOTHER of the highlights on Redwood Day was the winning return of former superstar juvenile trotter Wobelee. The Alison and Chris Alford-trained four-year-old did everything asked of him and won well after working to the front from a wide draw and dictating terms. It was Wobelee’s first run back after 13 months sidelined by injury. Kiwis will remember he ran third when clearly not at his top in the 3YO Jewels trotting final at Cambridge in June, last year. Wobelee’s raced 20 times for 15 wins, three seconds and two thirds.   Adam Hamilton

AUSSIE punters expect Kiwi trainer Phil Williamson to steal the show at Australia’s biggest trotting meeting on Sunday.  Williamson’s exciting pair Ultimate Stride and Liberty Stride dominate opening betting markets in their respective Group 1 assignments.  Ultimate Stride, who looked so good winning his only Aussie run, is a $2.10 favourite in the $50,000 Group 1 Volstead Redwood Classic for baby trotters.  Ultimate Stride has barrier nine – two-out on the back row – in the standing start feature.  And filly Liberty Stride, who stunned locals with a monstrous first Aussie wins, is $2.15 against the boys after drawing gate four in the $75,000 Group 1 Haras Des Trotteurs Victoria Trotters’ Derby.  Williamson has booked former Kiwi driver Anthony Butt for both races.  Butt replaced Chris Alford on Ultimate Stride as Alford is committed to his own family runner, Dreamee, from gate six.  Ultimate Stride’s main danger looks to be local Powerkeg, who he did beat easily last outing.  In the Derby, another Kiwi Kratos from the John and Josh Dickie barn is a clear $3.60 second elect despite the back row (gate 10).  The other highlight of the massive day is the return to racing of Inter Dominion trotting champion Tornado Valley in a free-for-all (race seven).  Tornado Valley missed a planned return race a couple weeks back with a minor setback.  Despite being first-up for almost five months and drawing the back row (gate nine), Tornado Valley is still a $1.90 favourite.  Main dangers will be fellow Inter Dominion finalists Big Jack Hammer (gate six, $3.50) and Save Our Pennys (gate seven, $6).   Adam Hamilton

Mark Purdon’s 100th Group 1 training triumph marked the arrival of his next superstar.  All who watched Self Assured roar through four stunning Queensland Winter Carnival wins were convinced he’s poised to become the sport’s next big thing.  As if last week’s narrow but mesmerizing South-East Derby win wasn’t head-spinning enough, Self Assured raised the bar again with the first of what should be many Group 1 wins in last night’s (Saturday) $100,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby.  Self Assured used a good draw to lead, but copped plenty of pressure, most notably from Lochinvar Art down the back straight, but still left his rivals standing in track record time.  Unbeaten in six runs, he smashed the race record and Self Assured’s 1min54.2sec mile rate for the 2680m was only 0.5sec slower than they ran in the Group 1 Blacks A Fake – a Grand Circuit race - on the same night.  Just as he did the week before, Self Assured smashed the clock with closing splits of 53.8 and 27.1sec.  “I was a little bit worried (when the pressure came on). Either one of those horses, you could’ve let go, but he’d worked so good during the week I didn’t want to take any risks,” Purdon said.  “I was a little bit concerned when we straightened for home, but when I pulled the plugs he went into another gear.  “He’s a really good horse and he showed that tonight.”  Self Assured, the latest All Stars’ gun to be owned by Australian Jean Feiss, is not Breeders Crown eligible so it’s spell time now.  “Heads to Melbourne with Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke, then onto to Auckland where he will agist and have a bit of a break with a view to having him back in November for the support races at Cup time. It’ll be a.8/27 nice introduction to Cup class racing for him.”  The All Stars’ also grabbed third and fourth in the Derby with Jesse Duke (third) and Our Princess Tiffany (fourth) and that pair now head to the Breeders Crown.  The run of Lochinvar Art to finished second after powering the pressure on Self Assured down the back straight in a 26.7sec split was enormous and he looks the horse to beat in his Breeders Crown division despite a long season.   Adam Hamilton

TRAINER Chris Frisby sick of chasing Tiger Tara with his stable star Our Uncle Sam. In four meetings, Our Uncle Sam is yet to beat Tiger Tara home, but everything favours Frisby’s pacer to turn the tables in Saturday night’s $250,000 Group 1 Blacks A Fake at Albion Park. “This is our chance the way the barriers have fallen and how well we’ve got ‘Sam’ going into the race,” Frisby said. “If we can find the lead, and I think there’s a great chance we can, we won’t be handing-up to Tiger if he comes attacking. We’ll make him do all the work.” Our Uncle Sam has run second to Tiger Tara at their past three meetings, including in the Inter Dominion final and Hunter Cup. “But the difference this time is Tiger is drawn the back row and we’ve drawn so well (gate two),” Frisby said. “I also really believe we’ve got ‘Sam’ as good as we can have him. “We were really confident heading into the Sunshine Sprint last week, but Alta Orlando wiped us out at the start and that was the end of that. “We were due for some luck and we’ve got it with the draws this week. And the 2680m suits him better than sprint racing as well.” Aussie TAB punters agree with Frisby’s confidence, having quickly backed Our Uncle Sam from $3.60 into $2.80 since Tuesday morning’s barrier draw. He could challenge for favouritism with Tiger Tara already easing from $2.40 to $2.60. Tiger Tara’s trainer Kevin Pizzuto remains confident despite the barrier draw blow. All of Tiger Tara’s three Group 1 Aussie wins have come from front row draws. “The draw makes it harder, but I’ve got the horse where I want him. That (Menangle) win the other night was easy and it topped him off nicely,” he said. “Everything tells me he’s at least as good, if not better, than last time in work.” Queensland’s pin-up horse Colt Thirty One is the other major player as a $4.80 shot from the back row (gate 11). He was beaten after burning to hold the front last week, but it again showed he’s at his most lethal coming from off the speed.   Adam Hamilton

A PERFECT barrier draw should see buzz Kiwi pacer Self Assured maintain his unbeaten status and win his first Group 1 race at Albion Park on Saturday night. Fresh from a breathtaking last-stride win over Lochinvar Art in last week’s Group 3 South-East Derby, Self Assured has drawn much better against the largely the same rivals in Saturday night’s $100,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby. Self Assured has gate four with Mark Purdon returning to drive, while major rivals Lochinvar Art (six) and superstar filly Our Princess Tiffany (10) drawn much worse. Only stablemate Jesse Duke, who Luke McCarthy will drive, drew better in gate two. It looks certain Self Assured will push forward and find the front, in contrast to having to sit parked and win last week. The Aussie TAB opened him $1.40 and punters have already stepped-in and he’s now $1.35. Jesse Duke is $5 second elect, while Our Princess Tiffany ($6.50) and Lochinvar Art ($9) are next. In the other feature, the $250,000 Group 1 Blacks A Fake, a back row draw to Inter Dominion winner Tiger Tara has breathed plenty of life into the race. Tiger Tara has gate 12 and already eased from $2.40 to $2.60. Our Uncle Sam, who ran second to Tiger Tara in that Inter Dominion final, has been crunched from $3.60 into $2.60 and could challenge for favouritism from gate two. The Chris and Anthony Frisby-trained pacer was poleaxed at the start of last week’s Group 1 Sunshine Sprint and basically took no part. Local hero Colt Thirty One also drew the back row (gate 11), but it could suit his preferred sit-and-swoop racing style. He’s a $4.60 shot. Last week’s upset Sunshine Sprint winner Ohoka Punter goes from the pole to outside front (gate seven) and is a $51 shot to complete the double.   Adam Hamilton

TORNADO Valley won’t defend his Inter Dominion crown in Auckland. It’s not because trainer Andy Gath doesn’t want to, it’s simply because the star trotter is such a notoriously awful traveller. “It’s a real issue for us,” Gath said. “We’ve had to cancel other travel plans with him before. It’s not just getting to Auckland, it’s the travel from wherever we stay to Alexandra Park on those busy Auckland road. He just wouldn’t cope at all.” Tornado Valley returns from a spell at Melton on Saturday night. Although he will be staying at home, Gath still has his sights set on an Auckland raid with his other top trotter McLovin. “He’s gone out for a break now so we can time him preparation around an NZ trip, starting with the Dominion during the Cup Carnival and then onto to Auckland if he’s racing as well as we expect,” Gath said. “I don’t think there’s too much between he an Tornado Valley, but McLovin is a good traveller so he’ll be our horse for NZ and Tornado can stay home. “McLovin has just kept getting better and better. I think if he had the run Tornado Valley did in that Inter Dominion final last year, I’d have expected him to win as well. “Tornado Valley would be the better of them in sprint races, but the longer the they go, the more it would suit McLovin. We really like him.” Tornado Valley sharpened up for his return with an all-the-way Melton trial win against the pacers on Monday night. “It was a good trial. He ran home in 27.9sec and hit the line strongly. He’s ready to go,” Gath said. Tornado Valley will need to be at his best from a wide draw (gate six) in a small but select Touch Merchant Trotters’ free-for-all (2240m) on Saturday night. His major rivals include: Big Jack Hammer (gate three), Save Our Pennys (four) and Kyvalley Blur (five). “He’s had a strong build-up and his work at home as been good. He seems to have come back well,” Gath said. “We timed his return with McLovin going out for a spell so they didn’t have to race each other. McLovin will be back in early October for a couple of runs here before he heads to NZ.”   Adam Hamilton

Mark Purdon will return to the sulky aboard the sport’s most exciting pacer Self Assured for Saturday night’s $100,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby. Sidelined for two weeks with an eye infection, the champion horseman said he would return from his Canterbury stables to Brisbane on Wednesday and would be fine to drive this week. “The eye is about 85 per cent right, so I’ll definitely be OK for this week,” he said. “It’s been good to come back home and rest it as much as possible. That’s helped a lot.” Purdon confirmed he would three runners in the Derby with superstar filly Our Princess Tiffany joining Self Assured and Jesse Duke. “I’ll drive Self Assured. Kylie (Rasmussen) will stick with Tiffany and I want Luke (McCarthy) on Jesse Duke if he’s available,” he said. “It’s not often we run our fillies against the boys, but this filly is up to it. If she didn’t have a setback, we’d have run her against the boys in the NZ Derby and I think he’d at least run second in that. “She’s so strong and keeps reeling-off those quick times when she’s on the speed. “She did that (Queensland Oaks) really easily the other night and I think she’s back to that terrific NSW Oaks form.” Self Assured was so stunningly impressive winning last Saturday night’s Group 3 South-East Derby he will be favourite from any draw this week, but Purdon believes Our Princess Tiffany is good enough to test and maybe even beat him. “If she draws to make the lead like she did the other, she would take a heck of as lot of running down, even by Self Assured,” he said. “It was quite freakish what he (Self Assured) did the other night, running home in those times, a 26.1sec last quarter, when he outside the leader.” The barrier draw for the Queensland Derby and Saturday night’s other feature, the Group 1 Blacks A Fake, will be done at 11.30am (NZ time) tomorrow (Tuesday).   Adam Hamilton

IN the moment after Self Assured’s first Albion Park win a few weeks back, Mark Purdon said the pacer “could be a bit special.”  Another two wins down the track and the lightly-raced three-year-old has grabbed the tag as the most exciting pacer in Australasia.  You simply had to see his win in Saturday night’s Group 3 South-East Derby to believe.  Self Assured, having just his fifth start, came from the back row around the field to sit parked and was still good enough to rundown Australia’s best three-year-old, Lochinvar Art, albeit only by a whisker in the last stride.  Wait for this … Self Assured’s closing splits outside the leader were 53.4 and 26.1sec.  Quietly-spoken stand-in driver Kylie Rasmussen was of praise in her conservative way.  “He’s very good to be able to do that. He’s so inexperienced and still learning, too,” she said.  Self Assured’s 1min54.1sec mile rate for 2138m smashed the race record set by Duplicated last year.  It’s hard to critical of Lochinvar Art given the times he ran, but Self Assured simply went better, while the other All Stars’ runner, Jesse Duke, finished a close third after sitting one-one on Self Assured.  Self Assured will be favourite to extend his winning streak to six and land the first “major” of his fledgling career in next Saturday’s $100,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby.  Lochinvar Art and Jesse Duke will be there again.  But it could be another stablemate, megsastar filly Our Princess Tiffany, who is Self Assured’s main threat next week.  Purdon said a dominant Queensland Oaks win would see the filly progress to the Derby and Our Princess Tiffany was definitely dominant last night.  Kylie Rasmussen took the daughter of Art Major to the front from gate four and won as she liked by 12m in a race record 1min54.7sec for the 2138m. Not much slower than Self Assured went.  Purdon expects to be back driving for the Derby next week, but wasn’t clear on which of the stable trio he would drive.  Luke McCarthy is expected to stay on Jesse Duke with Purdon and Kylie Rasmussen driving one of Self Assured or Our Princess Tiffany.    Adam Hamilton

TWO things firmly stamped Tiger Tara as the horse to beat in next Saturday night’s $250,000 Group 1 Blacks A Fake at Albion Park.  First was his ultra-impressive winning return at Menangle last night (Saturday).  And second was the upset win of veteran Ohoka Punter in last night’s (Saturday) Group 1 Sunshine Sprint at Albion Park.  No disrespect to Ohoka Punter, but the fact he beat boom stablemate Colt Thirty One and others will surely have put a spring in the step of Tiger Tara’s trainer Kevin Pizzuto.  Colt Thirty One was crunched into $1.45 favourite, but had to blaze a 26sec opening quarter to hold the front from Alta Orlando and was always some query after that for a horse who hasn’t be used off the gate much.  Trainer-driver Grant Dixon slowed a dawdling 32sec second split, but it was evident at the top of the straight Colt Thirty One had a battle on his hands and the four-year-old was unable to hold-out his rising 10-year-old stablemate along the sprint lane.  It was a Dixon and owner Kevin Seymour quinella, but not in the order punters wanted.  Ohoka Punter snatched a 1.3m win with young driver Paul Diebert aboard in a cosy 1min53.2sec mile rate, well outside Im Themightyquinn’s 1min50.4sec race and track record.  It was by the far the biggest win for Diebert, who moved from NSW to work for Dixon just before last Christmas.  “It’s unbelievable. Kevin (Seymour) was at me all week saying this old horse would run a great race,” Diebert said.  The much-travelled Ohoka Punter will be chasing his second Blacks A Fake win next week, having won it when trained and driven by Nathan Purdon.  But Tiger Tara looms ominously after pacing a 1min54.7sec mile rate for 2300m first-up at Menangle.  “He ran home in 54.8 and 27.1 and Todd (McCarthy, driver) was stoked,” Pizzuto said. “He did it so well and now it’s off to Queensland.  “I’m not sure exactly when I’ll take him up, but his last workout will be here so it’ll be later in the week.”  It was Tiger Tara’s first run since finishing fifth in the Miracle Mile more than four months ago.   Adam Hamilton

Mark Purdon is back home and won’t drive two of his stable stars at Albion Park’s Group 1 meeting on Saturday. Instead, he’ll be watching on TV at home and hoping his troublesome eye infection recovers in time to be drive in the Group 1 Queensland Derby a week after. “I certainly wasn’t going to be right this week and your eyes are so important, so I’ve booked other drivers for the two races,” Purdon said. Kylie Rasmussen will drive $1.10 favourite Our Princess Tiffany from an ideal gate four in the $100,000 Group 1 Queensland Oaks and buzz pacer Self Assured (gate 10) in the Group 3 South-East Derby. Luke McCarthy has landed the drive on Jesse Duke (gate five) in that Derby. “The horses are in great hands,” Purdon said. “Tiffany can and should improve on what she did winning last week. She’s drawn well and I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t win again. “I thought Self Assured’s win was enormous last week. I’d lean to him even though he’s drawn the back row in the Derby this week. Jesse Duke has the better draw and I’m sure he’ll run another big race.” Purdon reaffirmed plans for all three of his stars to come together in Saturday week’s Group 1 Queensland Derby. “If Tiffany comes out and wins really well this week then she’ll join the boys in the Derby,” he said. “As for drivers, if I’m ok then I’d drive Tiffany or Self Assured and Kylie (Rasmussen) will drive the other. I’d like to keep Luke (McCarthy) on Jesse Duke.” The big winner from today’s (Tuesday) barrier for the $100,000 Group 1 Sunshine Sprint was local star Colt Thirty One. “Barrier two is great. Draws are so important, especially in sprint races here (Albion Park). It’s a huge help,” Colt Thirty One’s trainer-driver Grant Dixon said. In contrast, recent Group 1 Len Smith Mile winner Majordan was dealt a huge blow with a back row draw (gate nine), negating his blazing gate speed and love of leading. The other key runners are Inter Dominion runner-up Our Uncle Sam (gate four) and classy former Kiwi pacer Cash N Flow (gate six). Colt Thirty One has already been crunched from $2.20 into $1.75 on the Aussie TAB from Majordan ($4), Our Uncle Sam ($5) and Cash N Flow ($9).   Adam Hamilton

EMMA Stewart’s dominance of the rich Vicbred finals night reached new levels last night (Saturday). Stewart and co-trainer Clayton Tonkin took a thumping 23 pacers to Melton to contest the six Group 1 finals. Not only did they win five of the six finals (and ran second and third in the other), but they also snared the trifecta in four of the finals and the quinella in five of them. Their greatest dominance came in the 3YO colts and geldings final where they trained the first four home: Out To Play beating Demon Delight, Fourbigmen and Hurricane Harley. Although Chris Alford does the bulk of the stable driving, he only landed two of their Group 1 winners last night with drive of the night aboard Tam Major in the 4YO entires and geldings and Kualoa in the 3YO fillies. Greg Sugars drove Maajida to a powerhouse 2YO fillies win over stablemates Amelia Rose and Jemstone. David Moran teamed with pint-sized 4YO mare Pistol Abbey to add to her wonderful season. And Gavin Lang, long-time No.1 driver for the stable, was back in the fold to win on Out To Play. It took a lovely drive and monster upset for Yejele Hammer to deny Stewart and Tonkin and cleansweep of the final in the 2YO colts and geldings. Trained and driven by Mick Stanley, Yejele Hammer had the gun run behind Stewart’s leader Pandering with favourite and another Stewart runner, Mirragon, on the outside. Just when it seemed Mirragon was set to win, Yejele Hammer found daylight and powered home to win at $55 with Mirragon second and Pandering third. Most of the stars of Vicbred finals night now plot a course towards the Breeders Crown. _______________________________________________________________________________________ A TRIP to Queensland is still a goer for Majordan despite his surprise defeat at Menangle last night (Saturday). Kevin Pizzuto’s star speedster found the task of backing-up just six days after his blazing Group 1 Len Smith Mile win beyond him. It wasn’t helped when he had to run a sizzling 25.9sec lead quarter from the extreme outside draw. Majordan was under pressure at the top of the home straight and weakened for third to Courtsinsession and Loorim Creek in a 1min50.0sec mile. _______________________________________________________________________________________ AUSTRALIA is getting a new $1million harness racing and it will be in NSW, but that’s about all we know at the moment. The exciting news broke last week when the Aussie TAB released a new bet type and it was confirmed revenue from it would fund a string of stakemoney hikes and/or new races in NSW thoroughbreds, harness and greyhounds. It is understood the new $1mil race will be a final of a series where horses qualify through heats run across NSW. More details are expected later this month, but it’s clear the race won’t be for open-class horses. _______________________________________________________________________________________ INSIDERS will tell you Gary Hall Sr thinks Ideal Liner is his next Chicago Bull. The champion trainer has loved Ideal Liner since he first joined his stable last year, but he’s really starting to show everyone how good he is this campaign. The son of American Ideal made it seven wins on end, and eight from nine runs this campaign, when he scored at Gloucester Park last Friday night. “He has all the makings of a really, really nice horse and he’ll get his chance to show that next season. He’s doing everything we ask of him now and doing it well,” Hall Sr said. _______________________________________________________________________________________ THE more you see of trotter McLovin, the more you think he can win a really big races. At first the Andy Gath-trained gelding looked fast, but now he’s developed the strength to compliment it. McLovin had to dig deep, but was to the challenge when he sustained a long three-wide run in a sprint race to beat the classy Save Our Pennys in the Group 3 Noopy Kiosk free-for-all (1720m) at Melton last Friday night. Since coming to Australia at the start of the year, McLovin has won nine of his 14 starts with another two seconds and two thirds. ___________________________________________________________________________________ POPULAR husband-and-wife team Gary and Debbie Quinlan were left wondering what might have been after their exciting pacer Professor Tom won the free-for-all at Melton last night. The Quinlan’s had pushed and hoped for the gelding to get a run in last week’s Len Smith Mile, but were told he didn’t make the cut. “It was disappointing because he’d gone to another level and this is his window, but we’re thrilled to pick up another win this week,” Debbie Quinlan said.   Adam Hamilton

WE all know about the huge advantage on playing at your home ground in a major sporting event. Queensland’s best pacer Colt Thirty One will have that and more when he tackles the most significant challenge of his career in next Saturday night’s $100,000 Group 1 Sunshine Sprint. As well as the overwhelming support of an adoring home crowd, Grant Dixon’s stable star has the most amazing record at his home track, Albion Park. He’s raced 33 times at “The Creek” for 28 wins, two seconds, a third and a fourth. And Dixon thinks he’s never had the four-year-old better. “Everything has fallen into place with his preparation and he’s matured into the complete racehorse now,” he said. “I’m sure sheer speed is his best asset against the absolute top horses, but he’s versatile.” Colt Thirty One capped his preparation with a dominant win over the longer 2680m trip at Albion Park last night. “I didn’t think I could beat Northview Hustler from the draw, but when he was trapped wide and going back, I took the chance to get going and was lucky enough to find the front,” Dixon said. “I got going fairly early and they came at him late, but he did it well and, importantly, seems to have come through it really well. “Now we just need a draw. They are so important up here at the moment with the times we are running.” The barrier draw for the Sunshine Sprint is Tuesday morning. _______________________________________________________________________________________ WHEN Mark Purdon used the words “could be a bit special” about Self Assured last week, everybody took notice. And, just seven days later, we all saw why. Self Assured’s win, when driven by Kylie Rasmussen, in last night’s (Saturday) Group 3 JC McMullen (2138m) was mesmerizing. To come and sit parked about the older and classy former Kiwi pacer Alta Orlando and easily beat him was a phenomenal effort. They paced a 1min54.5sec mile rate for the 2138m, but blazed home in 55 flat and 27.7sec. Self Assured beat Alta Orlando, who was having his first from for the Craig Cross stable, by 2.8m with another 16.2m away to third-placed Dazzle Me. It took Bettor Delight three-year-old’s record to four wins from as many starts and affirmed his status as a rising star of the sport. Self Assured gets this week off then heads to the $100,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby, most probably against stablemates Jesse Duke and Our Princess Tiffany, at Albion Park on July 20. Our Princess Tiffany opened her Queensland campaign with a strong and hard-fought win over Miss Striesand in last night’s South-East Oaks. Stand-in driver Kylie Rasmussen was forced to sit parked and always felt in control despite the margin only being a half-neck. “I had to urge her a bit near the line, but apart from that she felt great,” Rasmussen said. “She hadn’t raced since June 1 and will be better for the run.” Our Princess Tiffany backs up in the Queensland Oaks next Saturday and is also expected to tackle the boys in the Derby a week after.   Adam Hamilton

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