Day At The Track

Cain Plane cleared for take-off

07:34 PM 07 Dec 2020 NZDT
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harness racing
Racing Queensland

Catch up on the week’s harness racing action in our weekly review, thanks to Darren Clayton.

THE GOOD

Leonard Cain made a successful homecoming last week, steering seven winners in two days at Albion Park.

All seven winners were trained by Craig Cross, with the stable landing a treble on Friday before striking with a quartet of winners on Saturday night.

Friday’s winners were Franco Hampton, Oaxacan Dream and Lets Katchmeifucan.

The stable dominated Saturday night with Cruz, Balraj and No Win No Feed all claiming feature races, capped off by Mister Donald, who was successful in a Band 5 event.

Cruz picked up where he left off from his winter campaign, taking out the Group 2 Queensland Cup when leading throughout over a gallant Colt Thirty One, claiming his sixth victory at The Creek with the win.

Sent straight to the front, Cain dictated the pace perfectly and was able to sprint home the closing quarter in a slippery 26.9 seconds, making it almost impossible for the chasers.

Stablemate Balraj landed an off the canvas victory when successful in the Ted & Edna Badcock Memorial 4YO Championship.

Sitting outside the leader L L Cool J, he was under pressure swinging for home where Cain had to get busy on the gelding.

Responding to Cain’s urgings, Balraj was able to lift himself and arrive in time to claim victory by a head margin over Escalera, with L L Cool J hanging on for third.

The third of the feature races to go the way of the Cain/Cross combo was the Forever Gold Mares with No Win No Feed.

Fresh from her victory in the Group 2 Breeders Crown Final at Melton, the daughter of A Rocknroll Dance was never in danger in scoring an all the way two-metre victory over Georgie Martin.

All three winners will be nominated for the Blacks A Fake, where they will face a showdown against the number one seed from their own barn.

King Of Swing will be heading north this week for the Grand Circuit event, with the reigning Miracle Mile champion likely to prove extremely hard to beat.

Cain will likely stick with Cruz for the Blacks A Fake, with Luke McCarthy also set for a homecoming of sorts to partner King Of Swing.

The Cross stable will be set for another big night, with Franco Hampton tackling the No Band Final and Lets Katchmeifucan in the Band 5 Final looking well-placed for successive wins.

Ranger Bomb - who was an eye-catcher after a massive run when third to Governor Jujon - will look for redemption in what will be a cracking 3YO contest.

It will be hard to top seven winners in two days, but the Cain Plane is airborne.

 

THE BAD

The Dux stable is in good form at present and would have been keen on the chances of one of their two runners on Saturday night at The Creek.

The two runners were at opposite ends of the night, with Riverleigh Rocket landing barrier 10 in the opening event, while Key Largo was barrier two in the final race of the evening.

It can be a long time waiting with such a big gap between runners, yet trainer Mark Dux would have been buoyed by the chances of landing a rare Saturday night double following the success of Riverleigh Rocket in the opening race.

The gelded son of Courage Under Fire has been a great bread-and-butter performer for his connections, who are long time clients of the Dux stable.

Claiming the 17th victory of his career to go with his 40 minor placings, Dux always felt he could win a qualifier, yet it has proven elusive - with over 30 attempts prior to claiming the breakthrough.

With Saturday night’s race over his less-preferred 2138-metre distance, drawn the second line and starting an outsider according to punters, it appeared that it might be a case of not this time once again.

However, after settling at the rear of the field, driver Paul Diebert was able to secure a three-wide trail from the 800 metres.

Approaching the 400-metre pole, he was left exposed three-wide but continued to surge forward and claim victory with a winning margin of three-and-a-half metres.

With the long wait until race ten, the stable would have been quietly confident of snaring the double, especially when the field swung for home.

Last start winner Key Largo was fired off the gate to find the front and after running the field through a steady middle-half, hit the stretch in front and travelling.

Despite setting a 27.1 closing quarter, Key Largo could not hold off the challenge of Mister Donald, grabbed in the closing strides to be a neck away in second.

Second place is still a great result - especially backing up from his smart win on Monday - yet it looked like it was the one that got away in an attempt to claim a rare bookend double.

 

THE WILDCARD

‘Hollywood’ John McMullen created a wonderful legacy in Queensland harness racing and Albion Park recognised those achievements on Saturday with the running of the JC McMullen.

A pioneer ahead of his time, John McMullen had success with many horses, as well as both imported and exported racehorses and stallions over the years.

JC McMullen trained his last winner on February 25 2012, when Riverboat Star was successful for the last time in his career, driven to success on that occasion by Pete McMullen.

Yet one of his proudest moments came in 2009 when Riverboat Star, which he also owned, contested the 2009 Inter Dominion.

It was a special moment with three generations of the McMullen clan coming together with son John (Jnr) training the gelding and grandson Pete taking the reins as a fresh-faced seventeen-year-old.

Fast forward to 2020 and the second running of the JC McMullen, it was a fitting victory to Will The Wizard who came with a powerful finishing surge.

Driving the winner was Pete McMullen, wearing the silks of his grandfather - red with a white sash - to claim an emotional victory.

It was a poignant win with the gravity of the moment evident when McMullen raised his whip for a celebratory salute.

Narissa McMullen added to the moment when finishing second with Colby, securing the quinella for the family.

As for Will The Wizard, he has been a six-time winner this season and connections could only dream he can make the rise in his four-year-old season the same way the inaugural winner of the JC McMullen did.

That winner was Self Assured.

 

THE MILESTONE

Allman Park at Warwick played host to an eight-race card on Sunday with the country track providing a great spectacle of grass trotting action.

It was local trainer and driver Dayl March who was able to steal the show, landing a treble - including the big one of the day - the Warwick Pacing Cup.

Used to travelling upwards of five hours for a return trip to Redcliffe or Albion Park, the chance to race in their hometown proved welcome and rewarding outing for the March stable.

With just six harness horses in the barn at present, March had four of those entered for the Warwick meeting - Atomic Pete, Artful Maid, Our Major Day and Timenpatience.

On paper, March looked to have a strong book of runners, but after his first runner he may have been left thinking luck was not with the team after Atomic Pete bombed the start at his maiden race outing.

But it was the only hiccup of the day, with the remaining three runners all scoring decisive victories.

Artful Maid was next onto the track with the mare returning from a spell while Big Bang Leonard was sent out a white-hot favourite to claim the race.

March chanced his arm and sent the mare straight to the front and from there was never headed in a comfortable victory.

The highlight of the treble was without doubt the gritty win of Our Major Day in the Warwick Pacing Cup, with the six-year-old scoring in smart time on the grass surface.

Our Major Day has now landed successive wins, adding to his last start Albion Park victory when successful on November 24.

Timenpatience also made it successive wins when claiming the last race of the day.

Breaking her maiden status at Redcliffe at just her third career start, the Warwick victory takes her figures to two wins in four starts.

The trip home from the races is always shorter after good success, and the best bit of the March treble is that Dayl only had ten minutes to travel home.

 

THIS WEEK

Five race meetings will be held in Queensland this week, kicking off at Albion Park on on Tuesday and Friday afternoon, before the mammoth night of action on Saturday.

Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon will be the regular fixtures from Redcliffe.

All eyes will be fixed on The Creek this Saturday with the running of the Group 1 TAB Blacks A Fake, which will also be featured on free-to-air television via 7Mate.

The crescendo of the Summer Carnival arrives with the running of the Grand Circuit event over the long trip of 2680 metres.

Colt Thirty One will be out to defend his title after winning the last running of the Blacks A Fake back in July of 2019.

The trotters will do battle in the Group 2 Trotters Sprint, while Ultimate Tools sponsor two-year-old and three- year-old feature events, as well as finals of the No Band and Band 5 following heats and a prelude held last Friday.

Hall of Fame Horseman Bill Dixon will also be honoured with the second running of the Bill Dixon, and Virgil looks a top chance to go back-to-back.

 

Darren Clayton
for Racing Queensland

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