The Queensland winter carnival continued tonight at Albion Park and star filly Nike Franco made a one-act affair of the feature, the Gr.1 $75,000 Queensland Oaks. In fact, it was one of the easiest victories in a major event seen at Albion Park for some time. Starting as a short priced favourite, Nike Franco was given plenty of time to balance early before driver Luke McCarthy made his move heading down the back straight on the first occasion. Working to the lead at the 1200m marker, Nike Franco quickly turned the race into a procession. The Belinda McCarthy trained filly scored comfortably by 15m from Charming Allie and Beef City Safari in a time of 1;56.4 for the 2138m event. Nike Franco ran her final half in 56.3 seconds. “She is a high quality filly with strength and a great cruising speed; she travelled very well tonight and gave me a real armchair drive. Both Belinda and I have to make special mention of Dean Braun who prepared the filly before we took her over, she was in great shape.” Winning reinsman Luke McCarthy said. Connections now have the option of lining up against the boys next week in the Gr.1 $100,000 Queensland Derby. Nike Franco Nike Franco wasn’t the only feature race winner for Team McCarthy with the stable also scoring in the Gr.3 $45,000 Knudsens Betta Home Living 4 & 5yo Championship with speedster Chilli Palmer and the Gr.3 $30,000 TattsBet Gold Coast Derby with star colt Bling It On. Chilli Palmer, renowned for his devastating sprint, unleashed his power over the concluding which came off a genuine tempo to score comfortably defeating Terror Time and Majestic Mach. The milerate was 1;54.4 for the 2138m event. The Elsu gelding was only having his second start for the stable following his scratching last week from the Sunshine Sprint. Connections have the option of starting in either the Gr.1 $100,000 TattsBet Blacks A Fake or the Gr.3 $45,000 4yo Championship next week. Chilli Palmer Brilliant colt Bling It On scored a narrow yet decisive victory in the Gold Coast Derby tonight, clearly proving he is the horse to beat in next week’s blue riband classic. Sitting back in the field, the American Ideal colt sustained a strong sprint from the 600m marker to hold off Alleluia and Major Sam in a time of 1;56.2 for the 2138m event. Bling It On remains unbeaten in Queensland after eight starts. Leading breeder/owner Harvey Kaplan shares in the ownership of both Bling It On and Nike Franco. Bling It On Star Queensland mare Forever Gold proved she was on target for next week’s Gr.1 $100,000 TattsBet Blacks A Fake following her dominant victory in the Gr.3 $30,000 Southern Queensland Plumbing Fleur De Lil Ladyship Stakes. Sent to the lead soon after the start by driver Kylie Rasmussen, Forever Gold cruised to an easy victory defeating Missing Letters and Gliding Rose in a time of 1;55.6 for the 2138m event. Forever Gold has now won this event for three straight years. Forever Gold The $20,000 Lunchbox Lodge Country Cup Final was taken out by classy pacer Beetson who led throughout in the 2138m feature defeating Glenferrie Hood and Karloo Kix in a time of 1;56.6. Recently transferred to the stables of Shannon Price, the multiple feature race winner made a clean sweep of the series after scoring arrogantly in the heat last week. And former track record holder Suave Stuey Lombo exacted revenge on new track record holder Im Themightyquinn when successful in the Centenary Classic Mercedes Benz Open Pace. Finding the lead, Suave Stuey Lombo was brilliantly rated in front by Lauren Panella and defied Im Themightyquinn over the concluding stages after staging a great war over the final lap. The 2138m event was covered in a time of 1;54.7 with the final half paced in 56.1 seconds. Both pacers will back-up next week. Next week, the features include the Gr.1 $100,000 TattsBet Blacks A Fake, the Gr.1 $100,000 SKY Racing Queensland Derby, the Gr.2 $80,000 Kevin & Kay Seymour QBRED Triad 2yo Finals and the Gr.3 $45,000 Gurney Group of Companies 4yo Championship. The mighty Queensland champion Blacks A Fake will also be trackside to parade before fans next week. And don’t forget about the opportunity to win 10% ownership of either Im Themightyquinn or Bling It On for the night next week, for further details check out the website – aphrc.com.au By Chris Barsby (Harness Racing Australia)
Harness racing trainer Greg Franklin prepares a big team of two. Just two pacers. And both will start this Saturday night at Albion Park, his first runner Beef City Safari will contest the Gr.1 $75,000 Queensland Oaks while his other runner Rakarebel will tackle champion pacer Im Themightyquinn for the second straight week. The popular figure prepares his pair of pacers at the Redcliffe Paceway, where Franklin is the track manager. “I’ve only got time for the two horses between my other commitments at the track but I’m lucky to have two handy types. The filly has been a strong improver all season long while Rakarebel keeps proving he’s got a real zest for racing.” Franklin said. The arrival of Beef City Safari into Franklin’s care came out of the blue following a missed call at Redcliffe on a racenight when Franklin was driving the water cart. Bernie and Carmel Clifton from Rockhampton left a message for Franklin and after making the return phone call, the filly was on her way to his stables. With four wins and nine placings from 21 career starts, Beef City Safari aims up for her shot at Group 1 glory when she locks horns with some of the best fillies in the country this weekend. “I’ve always liked this filly and I think she’s a good little stayer, she enjoys the races when the speed is on and I’m sure these fillies will be running from the start this weekend. Obviously Nike Franco is very talented but we’ll give it our best shot. “She’s trained on really well since her last and keeping her fresh in between runs has agreed with her. It was a very good effort in the Triad Final while her effort in the Gold Coast Oaks was also very strong. “We’re drawn directly alongside Nike Franco and I think Mathew (Neilson – driver) will give her a good run from there. I think she will perform well again and then we will look at the Redcliffe Oaks with her in a couple of weeks.” While Beef City Safari faces a big challenge getting over the top of Nike Franco, spare a thought for Rakarebel. The well-travelled veteran was a former stablemate of Im Themightyquinn when previously prepared by Gary Hall before popping in and out of many stables since those glory days in Perth where he strung together eight straight victories at Gloucester Park. Last week, Rakarebel ran a cracking fourth in the Sunshine Sprint behind Im Themightyquinn in track record time after starting from a shocking second-line draw. “Everybody keeps telling me he’s past it but his form suggests otherwise, I know he still hasn’t won for me yet but his last couple of starts have been great in super time. “If he puts in another forward showing on Saturday night, he’ll back-up in the Blacks A Fake before we head to the Redcliffe Cup. He’s healthy and happy so we’ll keep chipping away with him." by Chris Barsby Queensland Harness Racing
Star Queensland mare Forever Gold is ready for a racetrack return. And the classy harness racing mare warmed up nicely for the Gr.3 $30,000 Southern Queensland Plumbing Fleur De Lil Ladyship Stakes with a stunning trial earlier this week. On Monday afternoon, Forever Gold was allowed to stretch out in the 1660m trial at Albion Park with a powerful front-running display in a mile rate of 1;53.7 scoring by close to 40m from Queensland Oaks bound filly Milly Perez. The Famous Forever mare has not started since disappointing in the Gr.1 $100,000 Queen of the Pacific at TABCORP Park, Melton on May 23 when ninth behind pocket-rocket mare Gumdrops. “I think she’s happy to be home and her trials (3 in total) since returning have been very pleasing, she’s ready to go on Saturday night and the race looks perfect to restart her campaign again. I think she got away on us a little and that probably best explains the uncharacteristic effort last start.” Trainer Darren Weeks said. Connections deliberately bypassed last week’s Sunshine Sprint preferring to concentrate on the mare’s only feature before graduating to the Gr.1 $100,000 TattsBet Blacks A Fake next week. The Gr.3 $40,000 Redcliffe Gold Cup on August 2 is also distinct possibility before another short let-up. “I’m sure we pulled the right rein skipping the Sunshine Sprint last week; she wasn’t ready to chase Im Themightyquinn in a track record time and her trial earlier this week just topped her off nicely. It was always our plan to go into the mare’s feature first-up followed by the Blacks A Fake. “This race looks ideal for her and the barrier draw looks very kind on paper so we should be able to control the race pretty quickly. Obviously she’s the class runner and looks very well graded against her own sex so she’ll prove tough to beat. “We’ll step her up against Im Themightyquinn and company next week because the staying distance will give her good opportunity to race well. Quinny is a champion horse and he proved that last week but we’ll give it our best shot.” Forever Gold is looking to repeat in the Fleur De Lil after staging a terrific battle with Torque In Motion last season in a time of 1;52.8 for the 1660m.. This year, the race will be staged over 2138m. Connections intend on campaigning again next season with the rising seven-year-old and the spring features in October loom as logical targets. “The big races later this year certainly make strong appeal and we intend on heading in that direction all going to plan, she thrives on racing.” Forever Gold is the winner of 35 races from 65 career starts while amassing more than $550,000 in prizemoney. by Chris Barsby Queensland Harness Racing
It’s time for talented filly Freedom Is to shine. The regally bred harness racing three-year-old filly has landed the coveted inside gate in Saturday night’s Gr.1 $75,000 Queensland Oaks at Albion Park. And owner/trainer Phillip Thurston couldn’t be happier. “We needed a good draw and we got it; the filly is racing in excellent form and should acquit herself well but Nike Franco is obviously going to be very hard to beat.” Thurston said. Freedom Is heads into the Oaks feature brimming with confidence following her gritty performance when successful in the Seymour Rising Stars Championship Final at Albion Park in a career best time of 1;55.9. That victory proved to be her first on Queensland soil despite boasting several feature race placing’s. The Courage Under Fire – Alegria filly has always found herself as the bridesmaid and never the bride after placing’s in the Nursery Pace Finals as a two-year-old while placed again this season plus being placed in the Gold Coast Oaks. “This filly is consistent and she tries very hard but often we’ve found one a little better on the night but we get a perfect opportunity to make our own luck from this draw, I was thrilled with drawing the inside gate because she has very good gate speed. “Winning last week provides a perfect platform going into this race; this has been a target all season long and head into the race with confidence. It was great that she fought like she did last week because she was headed in the straight but kicked strongly and that’s important going into an Oaks feature. “This little filly tries very hard and she deserves a big race success so let’s just hope it’s our turn this weekend. She has trained on very well this week and continues to thrive here in the warmer sunshine plus Brad (Cowen – driver) is driving in very good form.” Future plans for Freedom Is remain unclear and a decision won’t be made until after the Queensland Oaks on whether she will chase the Australasian Breeders Crown series in Melbourne next month. Last season, Freedom Is qualified for the rich final and finished a career worst 8th behind Whereibylong. “I won’t make any firm plans until next week, the focus is clearly the Queensland Oaks and we’ll just get through that race first before locking down any plans. “We’ve got the option of starting her in a heat up here and we also have the Redcliffe Oaks as a target but the filly will decide which way we go. It’s been a long season already but it’s also been very rewarding.” And it could prove even more rewarding with a Queensland Oaks victory this weekend. by Chris Barsby Queensland Harness Racing
Victory for Larry Eastman in the Queensland Oaks this weekend will be shared. The Victorian based harness racing trainer has been a regular visitor to the Queensland winter carnival for many seasons now, so much so, he considers himself a quasi-banana bender. And the talented horseman has a dual pronged attack heading into the Gr.1 $75,000 Queensland Oaks this Saturday night at Albion Park with emerging fillies Fullness Of Time and Milly Perez. Both fillies boast excellent recent form and drawn nicely in gates two and four respectively. “This is the main race that we’ve been looking at with these two fillies and I couldn’t be happier with both of them going into the race. Their form is very solid and both landed good draws while Nike Franco, the filly to beat, has drawn the second-line. Fullness Of Time has thrived during her sunshine state campaign and could easily be unbeaten with a little more after finishing a most unlucky fifth last week in the Seymour Rising Stars Championship Final behind fellow Oaks contender Freedom Is. The Art Major filly got held-up badly after drawing the inside of the second-line and finished the race with two flat tyres in a time of 1;55.9. Her two previous victories were both very commanding, albeit in weaker company. Stablemate Milly Perez has enjoyed strong success this season winning six of her eight starts to date and was considered as the number one seed for the stable but Fullness Of Time has closed the gap quickly. Milly Perez finished an eye-catching fifth in the recent Gold Coast Oaks behind Nike Franco after drawing poorly and has since been placed in a trial behind star mare Forever Gold in a time of 1;53.7. “Milly Perez is a nice filly and we’ve always had plenty of time for her so the Oaks campaign has always been on her agenda. I was hopeful of getting another after the Gold Coast Oaks run but the race we looked at was deleted but the trial was very good earlier this week. “I would say out of all the horses I brought north, Fullness Of Time has thrived better than most and she deserves her shot in the race. This filly was most unlucky last week and her two previous victories were very pleasing, it’s a big step-up but she’ll race well. “Nike Franco is a very classy filly and looked very good winning again last week so she deserves favouritism but I’m more than happy with my fillies.” Eastman is based with his good friend Gary Vernon and has entrusted him with the drive behind Fullness Of Time while champion Victorian reinsman Chris Alford will come north again to partner Milly Perez. Alford took the drive behind Milly Perez in the recent Gold Coast Oaks. “Chris is keen to come north and drive Milly and that’s great, he will give her every chance and so will Gary aboard Fullness Of Time. “Like many in this game, opportunities go a long way and I’m more than happy to have Gary driving this filly, I’ve known Gary and Sue (wife) for a long time and he’s a good driver but just starved of opportunities. “Lynette and I love coming to Queensland and we have some very good friends up here so a victory will certainly be shared between the two states. Let’s just hope we get the luck.” by Chris Barsby Queensland Harness Racing
He Came, he saw, he conquered! The opening night of the 2014 Queensland harness racing winter carnival belonged to champion pacer Im Themightyquinn who scorched around the Albion Park oval in a stunning time of 1;50.5 defeating Mach Beauty and Avonnova in the Gr.2 $60,000 Garrards Sunshine Sprint. It was a track record performance that eclipsed the previous mark of 1;51.8 set by Stuey Lombo when successful in the same race twelve months earlier. In front of a massive crowd, the Gary Hall trained megastar thrilled racing fans of all ages with his trademark dazzling speed and brilliance with a commanding performance. Handled perfectly by Gary Hall Jnr, the $4.46 million earner pushed forward immediately at the start and took up a position on the outside of Mach Beauty before landing the perfect one-one trail on the back of Avonnova. The first half was tripped in 56.3 seconds with splits of 28 and 28.3 seconds. With Mach Beauty rolling at a strong speed and Avonnova working hard without cover, Im Themightyquinn stalked the leaders and loomed big danger heading off the back straight. The third quarter was clocked in a lung busting 26.5 seconds and Hall Jnr quickly set upon the leaders with a sweeping three-wide move. In the straight, Im Themightyquinn proved too strong for a gallant Mach Beauty with Avonnova fighting hard for third. The last quarter was recorded in 27.9 seconds. “I love this horse; he’s a champion and he proved his greatness yet again aided by another great drive by Jnr. I’m so happy we made the trip to Brisbane and this is a fantastic result for harness racing, it’s great to see so many people come and cheer this horse on.” An emotional Hall said. It was career victory number 57 for the rising ten-year-old gelding. Im Themightyquinn The Gr.3 $45,000 Futurity was dominated by race favourite Bling It On who scored comfortably from Alleluia and Diamond Ace in a time of 1;58.3 for the 2138m event. The Luke and Belinda McCarthy prepared colt remains unbeaten in Queensland and will back-up next week in the Gr.3 $30,000 TattsBet Gold Coast Derby before contesting the Gr.1 $100,000 on July 19. Bling It On In the $15,000 Nickys Falcon Claiming Series Final, Franco Bulgari sprintlaned to victory defeating My Elusive Dream and Wilusi Blues. Franco Bulgari is prepared by Queensland rising star Narissa McMullen who owns, trains and drives the veteran pacer. Other star performers on the night included Fearless Leader who smashed the 2138m track record with a powerful front-running performance in a time of 1;54.2 for the 2138m journey, eclipsing the previous mark of 1;54.4 which was held by Avonnova while star filly Nike Franco scored a brilliant come from behind victory in the Centenary Classic Mercedes Benz Pace. Next week, the Gr.1 $75,000 Queensland Oaks is the feature while the Gr.3 $45,000 4 & 5yo Championship, the Gr.3 $30,000 Fleur De Lil Ladyship Stakes and the Gr.3 $30,000 Gold Coast Derby, the $20,000 Country Cup Final will also be staged. By Chris Barsby (Harness Racing Australia)
Smart three-year-old filly Raksdeal is on her way home after suffering a suspensory injury during her lead-up to Saturday night’s Gold Coast Oaks. However, her long-term prognosis is looking good. “She worked super at Albion Park on Wednesday but unfortunately her leg blew up afterwards,” said Clark Barron. We got the vet out straight away and had her leg scanned and luckily it showed there is no hole in the suspensory, just bruising,” he added. “There was a 50/50 chance we could have got her right for the Queensland Oaks but I had a chat with her owner Brendan Fahy and we decided that she was far too good to risk,” said Barron. Barron said that he believes the injury has come as a result of a long season of racing and travel. “It’s obviously a real shame but at least she is probably going to be alright long-term,” highlighted Barron. Raksdeal, who was Group One placed on three occasions during the season, is currently in Auckland and will arrive back at her Southland base on Thursday. “They did a good job of treating her leg in Australia but we will get our vet to reassess her when she is home before sending her to the paddock,” he added. “We have got our fingers crossed that she will make a full recovering and come back good next season and at this stage we have seen nothing that indicates that she won’t,” he enthused. Meanwhile, due to Raksdeal’s unfortunate absence from the upcoming Queensland Oaks, prolific owner Bob McArdle is now contemplating sending Te Amo Bromac over for the Group One feature. A decision is likely to be made after the smart filly, which is now in the care of Barry Purdon, competes at Alexandra Park on Friday night. By Mitchell Robertson
Bring on the Queensland winter carnival. That was the message following a super night of harness racing at Albion Park last night (Saturday) which boasted a cavalcade of stars. With the winter carnival officially starting on July 5, a great entrée was provided with features including the Gr.2 $50,000 Kevin &Kay Seymour Premiers Cups Final, the Gr.3 $30,000 TattsBet Gold Coast Oaks, the Gr.3 $35,000 QBRED Breeders Classic Finals and the Listed $15,000 Statewide Taxation Services Trotters Marathon. Another highlight was the appearance of Australia’s best three-year-old Bling It On. Staged for the first time at Albion Park, the Premiers Cup Final proved to be a survival of the fittest with Major Moment ($8.20) sprintlaning to beat a gallant Five Card Draw ($21.60) and Alleluia ($1.60 Fav). The 2647m standing start contest was loaded with action from the start with Major Moment leading from his prime draw but the moves soon followed with Alleluia, Slipaslygrin and Five Card Draw all taking off before the mile marker. Alleluia found the lead but gained no peace as Five Card Draw attacked on his outside, Major Moment who gained the perfect trail then used the passing lane to finish best from Five Card Draw and Alleluia. The time of 1;57.0 clearly smashed the track record which was previously held by Devil Dodger. The last mile was run in 1;54.9. It was a case of third time lucky for co-owner and Queensland Harness Racing Board member Greg Mitchell who has been a runner-up the two previous years with Only The Brave and Major Strike. The Gold Coast Oaks was dominated by brilliant filly Nike Franco who toyed with her rivals after working to the lead at the 1500m point of the 2138mcontest. Thereafter, the McArdle filly travelled kindly and was never threatened and scored comfortably defeating consistent fillies Beef City Safari and Freedom Is. The winning milerate was 1;56.2, just outside the race record of 1;56.0 set by Baby Bling in 2011. Recently taken over by Luke and Belinda McCarthy, the filly now heads to the Gr.1 $75,000 Queensland Oaks on July 12. The QBRED Breeders Classic Final for two-year-old fillies was taken out by Bettor Promise who led throughout to beat race favourite Feel The Faith and Bettorthanspecial. Prepared by Shannon Price and Scott Miller, the regally bred filly was rated perfectly in front by Brad Cowen and rated a career best time of 1;56.8. Bred by her owners, Tony and Katy Price, Bettor Promises ranks as a half-sister to former triple Oaks winner All Promises. In the colts and geldings Final, an inspiring drive from trainer/driver Donny Smith aboard A Good Chance saw him take the prize defeating a game Major Coup and Constantlysideways. Race favourite Mista Natural was crossed quickly at the start and Smith quickly followed through at the start before finding the lead before the end of the first quarter leaving the favourite to race without cover. The Mr Feelgood colt fought strongly in the straight and scored by a half head margin in a time of 1;58.7. Talented former Kiwi trotter Our Overanova maintained his unbeaten Queensland record with an all the way victory in the trotters marathon. The Grant Dixon trained and driven Monarchy gelding proved too strong holding out Goldstar Invasion and Its Three By Two in a time of 2;08.9 for the 3157m event. Our Overanova has won nine straight races and eight in Queensland since being purchased by Greg Mitchell. Boom pacer Bling It On didn’t disappoint his legion of fans with another effortless victory in the Knudsens Betta Home Living Pace. The American Ideal colt blasted home in splits of 27.7 and 27.4 seconds while recording a mile rate of 1;57.7. And the weekly $16,000 Seymour Rising Stars Championship Final was taken out by the Bart Cockburn prepared Miss Real in a time of 1;56.5. For further information regarding the Queensland winter carnival, contact either Racing Queensland or the Albion Park Harness Racing Club. by Chris Barsby
Perhaps the most unlucky horse not to win a Group One race during this harness racing season is tremendous Southland filly Raksdeal. But although there are no Group One races left in New Zealand this season that could still change before the season comes to a close. “I was stoked with her run for third in the Harness Jewels so she will now head to Brisbane for the both the Gold Coast and Queensland Oaks,” confirmed trainer-driver, Clark Barron. “She came through the race well and neither her nor her owner (Brendon Fahy) mind traveling,” he quipped. Raksdeal was Group One placed on three occasions during the season and was responsible for setting up numerous track and New Zealand records. Meanwhile, champion trainer Mark Purdon, who has confirmed he will have no stable representatives competing in the Brisbane carnival, is happy with how star juvenile Follow The Stars has come through his Harness Jewels tragedy. “He is back in Rolleston this week and will have an easy week before starting a buildup toward the Breeders Crown series,” said Purdon on All Stars website. Purdon said that the program leading into the Vic Bred Final was too tough on the youngster. "It would mean he would be over there having to compete in a heat, a semi and a final close together. Too much to ask at this stage. He came through the check at Cambridge in good style" Other All Stars horses that will campaign in Australia include Arya, Iceobar, and Messini, who will all be based with Brent Liley during the Vic bred Series, while Linda Lovegrace and Wanna Play have also returned to Rolleston to enjoy a quiet week before starting their Breeders Crown preparations. By Mitchell Robertson
The season is over for classic winning filly Joys A Babe. And the timing couldn’t have been worse for the former Gr.1 Nursery Pace winner with the $80,000 QBRED Triad Final scheduled this Saturday night at Albion Park. The Grant Dixon trained filly will also miss next month’s $30,000 Gold Coast Oaks and the Gr.1 $75,000 Queensland Oaks at Albion Park in early July. Joys A Babe sustained a bone injury in the region of the offside front after winning a heat of the QBRED Triad at Albion Park last Friday afternoon. “The filly was noticeably lame after winning last Friday and we eventually had her shipped to the Gatton University for further scans and testing, it’s terribly disappointing news. “The filly was being operated on Monday night and we’re hopeful she can make a full recovery. This filly hails from a very strong filly and she is a proven feature race winner so she will be given every hope.” Owner/breeder Kevin Seymour said. The Art Major – Joy To Behold filly has won seven of her 11 starts this season while banking more than $42,000 in prizemoney. Overall, Joys A Babe has won 11 from 19 while amassing more than $155,000 in career earnings. Generous harness racing benefactors Kevin and Kay Seymour will now rely heavily on another talented filly in Charming Allie to win the $80,000 QBRED Triad Final this Saturday night. The Mr Feelgood filly has returned to her best form after winning the Gr.2 $75,000 Nursery Pace Final recently before winning a heat of the Triad comfortably last week. The dual Gr.2 winner will start a firm favourite regardless of her barrier draw. Fields will be released tomorrow (Tuesday). By Chris Barsby (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)
The run of bad luck continues for Darrel Graham. But, there is an upside. The latest disappointment is the third in a short period of time that has rocked the Fernvale stables of the astute horsemen but he’s hopeful the tide will now turn. Giant mare Montana Marie has run her final race after succumbing to a slight tendon strain in her nearside front leg forcing owner Dean Shannon to make the obvious call. The Art Major – Just Del mare has been retired for stud duties. “It’s always been in the back of my mind something like this could happen because of her size, she’s a monster and unfortunately it has occurred which is really disappointing. It’s only a very slight strain but we were never going to take any chances with her, so it was an easy decision to make in the end.” Graham said. This latest news quickly follows on from exciting three-year-old Mafuta Vautin and feature race winning rookie Major Montana also succumbing to season ending injuries in the past couple of weeks. But Graham is philosophical about the run of outs he’s encountered recently. “This is the business we’re in and there’s always a possibility that plans won’t come to fruition. At the end of the day, we’re dealing with livestock and things can’t be guaranteed unfortunately. I haven’t had a horse succumb to a tendon injury in ten years and all of a sudden I’ve had three. “I never had to battle with injuries like this when I was racing the likes of Lanercost, Courageous Annie or Rollon Bigred. It’s disappointing but we keep the show on the road and keep moving forward.” Montana Marie went unraced as a two-year-old but rose to prominence last season when the well-related filly strung together a record 12 straight victories including her triumph in the Gr.2 $75,000 Nursery Pace Final at Albion Park. Her winning streak was ended by Kiwi filly (Our) Splendour in the $30,000 Gold Coast Oaks at Parklands which was followed by a rare mistake in the Gr.1 Queensland Oaks when fifth behind Itz Nosurprisesthere. “Del was a filly I always had plenty of time for because she displayed talent from the very beginning, we gave her plenty of time to mature and develop and she repaid us in spades as a three-year-old. “The winning streak was the obvious highlight during her career on the track and it came together very quickly, she was in the zone and loving her racing during that period and she just kept winning. “Dean is building a select group of broodmares including Courageous Annie and now Del can join her at his Sunshine Coast property. Del is a half-sister to former iron horse I Am Sam so she can go and make babies now.” Montana Marie retires as the winner of 18 races from 27 starts while amassing more than $120,000 in prizemoney. Her final start was in the final of the Gr.1 $175,000 Australasian Breeders Crown Final when 8th behind star filly Frith at TABCORP Park, Melton last August. By Chris Barsby (Harness Racing Australia)
Leading Victorian trainer Dean Braun is giving serious consideration to a Queensland Spring Carnival campaign. The opening leg of the new Grand Circuit season starts at Albion Park on October 26 with the running of the Gr.1 $200,000 Queensland Pacing Championship and Braun is eyeing off the feature event with stable star Chancellor Cullen. The richly talented pacer returned to the trials last Tuesday (August 27) at TABCORP Park, Melton and scored impressively pleasing Braun and regular driver Chris Alford. "He went fantastic and pulled up even better so I'm really happy with where we're at for this campaign. Chris said we could start him off that trial but I'm going to give him another trial because that was the first time he's had the hopples on since his last start." Braun said. Chancellor Cullen has won 8 of his 11 starts since crossing the Tasman but hasn't started since finishing fourth in the Gr.1 Golden Nugget at Gloucester Park in Perth last December behind boom pacer Im Victorious. The Christian Cullen entire went amiss after the Perth campaign which required a throat operation leaving Braun to play the waiting game. "He's only a young horse who hasn't been overly taxed throughout his career so there was no need to rush him back. I actually had him back in work and progressing nicely before he kicked a rail and curbed his hock which required more time off. It's going to be a big step up for him when he meets the open class performers but I honestly believe he's the best horse I have in work who's destined for bigger and better things." Braun added. Chancellor Cullen is expected to trial again next week. The Queensland features staged at Albion Park will be held over a three week period starting with the $30,000 Be Good Johnny Sprint on October 12 followed by the $75,000 Gold Coast Cup the following week before wrapping up with the $200,000 QPC. Braun is no stranger to success in the sunshine state after claiming the Gr.1 Queensland Oaks with Itz Nosurprisesthere during the recent winter carnival. “We’re not locked in just yet but it’s a very attractive option if we choose to head in that direction, the Queensland events provide a perfect stepping stone into the elite racing circles. We have also thrown in a nomination for the New Zealand Cup in November just to cover all bases while I’m looking at bypassing the Miracle Mile at this point in preference for the Victoria Cup in December. The Gr.2 Melton Plate on October 4 looms as his first major test this term so that will determine which path we take for him this season.” The Lara based horseman is loaded with talent in his boutique operation and looks set to play a strong role in several features across the nation with the likes of Macha, Chilli Palmer, Mustang Mach and triple Oaks winner Itz Nosurprisesthere. Braun has enjoyed his best season to date with well over 100 winners for the term which includes feature race success in his home state plus Brisbane, Sydney, Hobart and Perth while amassing more than a million dollars in prizemoney. by Chris Barsby
Montana Marie is a BIG filly. And the star Queenslander will need a gigantic performance to win Sunday’s Gr.1 $175,000 Australasian Breeders Crown 3yo Fillies Final at TABCORP Park, Melton. Star filly and series favourite Frith has drawn ideally in gate two (with the emergency scratched) while Montana Marie has drawn poorly off the second-line in twelve. Both fillies were ultra-impressive in their own ways last week at Ballarat when taking out the respective semi-finals but the barrier draw gives a clear advantage to the New South Wales trained filly. “The draw is a killer. And having Frith draw so well is going to make it very hard on a track like Melton where leaders have a great advantage.” Trainer/driver Darrel Graham said. Montana Marie recorded twelve straight victories this season including the Gr.2 $75,000 Nursery Pace Final at Albion Park where she overcame a similar second-line draw. The Art Major filly then raced with distinction in the Gold Coast Oaks when a game second to smart Kiwi filly Our Splendour before an early mistake cost her any chance in the Gr.1 Queensland Oaks at Albion Park. “Del has done an amazing job this season; she’s such a tough and strong filly but her speed has really developed and that’s been the key to her success this term. We’re going to be calling on all of that speed and strength this weekend to get a piece of the prize but surely there will be some early pressure applied to Frith, I’m just hopeful they don’t hand Frith the race. Every time I look at the race it appears very difficult for us to work into the race without doing too much work. At least we’re there and I know that she is fit and well so now we’re playing for some luck.” At least future plans have been sorted for the younger half-sister to former Grand Circuit performer I Am Sam. Earlier this season, owner Dean Shannon outlined retirement plans for his filly at seasons end but those plans have now been shelved. “Del is coming back next season, Dean doesn’t like over racing his fillies but following the recent retirement of Lanercost we’ve decided to race again next season. After Sunday, Del will go for a big spell and then we’ll map out a program for next year with her but she’s eligible for schemes like Vicbred and obviously the Breeders Crown so we’ve got some good options already. Dean has Courageous Annie due to foal to Rocknroll Hanover later this year so another season of racing for this filly won’t hurt anybody before she joins Annie in the broodmare paddock.” But a Breeders Crown victory could easily have connections thinking bigger plans. by Chris Barsby (Harness Racing Australia)
Smart New Zealand harness racing filly Splendour is heading to the Sunshine State with a simple plan. It's a mission that will take in two features events during the Queensland Winter Carnival starting with the Gr.3 $30,000 Gurney Group of Companies Gold Coast Oaks at Parklands on June 22 followed by the Gr.1 $75,000 Queensland Oaks at Albion Park the following week.
Sydney harness racing driver Blake Fitzpatrick is hoping to win two Group 1 races in the space of 24 hours in two different states later this week.
Classy three year old harness racing filly Castellina Lover is on target to be a major player in this Saturday Night's (July 7) AUS$75,000 Queensland Oaks being held at Albion Park in Brisbane according to co-owner and Kiwi trainer Steve Dolan.