Day At The Track

Dangerzone claims opening 2YO feature

05:00 PM 29 Mar 2021 NZDT
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Dangerzone, Harness racing
Dangerzone
Dan Costello Photo

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

THE GOOD

Jack Butler’s great start to the 2021 season took another step on Saturday night when claiming the first two-year-old feature for the year.

The Changeover Classic was run and won in impressive fashion by the first starter, Dangerzone, a homebred gelding owned by Butler’s wife Tara and long-time client and friend Tim Malloy.

Dangerzone is out of the former handy race mare Sheza Machstar, with that mare also trained by Butler when based in Bathurst.

Sheza Machstar was no stranger to Albion Park however - being a QBRED - campaigning at two and three in Queensland when chasing Triad success.

By Mach Three, Sheza Machstar retired a three-time winner at Albion Park and finished second in the 2009 Two-Year-Old Fillies Triad Final when narrowly beaten by Abbey Tiara.

With a sharp trial in preparation for his first appearance at the races, Dangerzone was allowed plenty of time to settle from gate six, easing from the start to secure position.

With the odds-on favourite I Am Sparta forced to work hard in the run as Gotta Go Milking speared out form gate seven to lead, Dangerzone had managed to find a great spot one out and one back.

Running down the back straight, driver Brendan Barnes made his move, taking Dangerzone three-wide as I Am Sparta started to feel the pinch at the 400-metre mark.

By the time the field had swung into the home stretch, Barnes had sent the gelding to the front and thereafter cruised home to claim an impressive victory with a winning margin of over 17 metres.

Leap To Fame snuck through the centre to grab second, while Arnold Street - who was hampered by a tiring leader - was able to arrive for third place.

Dangerzone was able to record a winning mile-rate of 1.56.1 in claiming the win.

QBRED eligible, the son of Gotta Go Cullect also landed connections the QBRED first win bonus with the $12,000 added on top of the $12,700 winner’s prizemoney.

The Breeders Classic and Triad are the obvious targets with Dangerzone, a gelding that looks set to have a bright future off the back of his impressive debut performance.

 

THE BAD

Huge rainfalls along the eastern seaboard were the order of the last week, and Queensland was squarely in the firing line of the big wet.

Numerous trainers have reported damage to their training tracks and stabling resulting from rising floodwaters throughout the south-east.

Last Tuesday saw the rain have the most impact, with numerous scratchings from trainers and drivers becoming isolated in some areas.

Amazingly, despite the sheer level of rainfall, there was not a single harness race meeting lost in the past week as a result of the devastating rain.

Track staff at Albion Park and Redcliffe were kept busy through the week with preparing the racing surface, and to their credit, were able to produce tracks that held up to the rain and raced fairly throughout the week.

In all, Albion Park was able to complete 24 races across their three meetings, along with 16 at Redcliffe across Wednesday and Thursday.

Redcliffe still produced a sharp 1.56.5 mile-rate to Scarlet Babe, a time that was just two-tenths outside the mare’s track record.

At Albion Park, there were a pair of pacers that were able to break 1.54.0 for the mile, with the wins occurring on Tuesday and Saturday, proving the consistency of the track’s performance.

Both sizzling winners claimed new PB wins; The Harvey Bay ran a 1.53.4 mile when successful in the last race on Tuesday, while Our Madiba ran 1.53.2 when taking the second race on Saturday night.

A tremendous effort all round to get through one of the wettest weeks on record without the loss of a single race.

 

THE MILESTONE

Despite training a team of pacers and usually engaging another driver, trainer Greg Elkins has always taken the occasional drive when the need arises.

This season, it has been the enigmatic Tearaway Diamond that Elkins has opted to partner regularly after the gelding started to have tractability issues midway through last season.

The partnership has been ticking over nicely and on Friday, Tearaway Diamond was able to score a strong win when leading throughout over the Albion Park mile.

Sent forward in the early stages from gate five, Elkins was content to press the issue and soon worked to the front.

Dictating the pace, Tearaway Diamond was never in danger and went on to claim victory by over six metres, making it successive wins following his win earlier in the week at the Monday fixture.

The win was the fourth success this season for the gelded son of Western Terror, with Greg in the sulky for all four victories.

Since moving into the driver’s seat, the pair have developed quite the combination, with 18 starts together returning four wins and eight placings.

The win broke new ground for Elkins, surpassing his total from the previous two seasons combined where he had driven a total of three winners.

Developing a strong combination with owners Peter and Lesley Medhurst, Elkins has been able to put the polish on over 150 winners for the South Australian-based couple.

With the top strike-rate from driving Tearaway Diamond, Greg Elkins might be tempted to take up a more permanent position as stable driver.

 

THE WILDCARD

It was a bittersweet week for Jeroen Nieuwenberg.

The week started with the huge rain event, with the volume of rainfall resulting in the training track at Nieuwenberg’s Tamborine property suffering immense damage.

It was however able to end on a much brighter note - landing a two-state double as an owner thanks to wins with the trotters Great Fantasy and Arnold.

Great Fantasy was the first to salute, with the newly arrived Kiwi import remaining undefeated after two starts in Queensland.

Trained by Nathan Dawson, the seven-year-old son of Great Success backed up his win from the mobile with a win from the tapes under standing start conditions on Friday.

Stepping cleanly to go straight to the front, Dawson never looked in danger despite a late dive from the runner-up Aladdin Sane to get within a metre of the winner.

It was another seven-year-old gelding to help complete the double when the enigmatic Arnold was able to score at Menangle, with Luke McCarthy taking the winning drive.

Arnold was a winner of the Group 2 Trotters Sprint at Albion Park back on December 12, however since that win, not everything has gone to plan.

Finishing second in two runs and unplaced in two runs since the Group 2 victory, Arnold bounced back to wining form with the all-the-way triumph.

Passionate about the square gaited standardbred, to end the week with the double would certainly help ease some of the frustration of seeing the track washed away for Jeroen.

 

THIS WEEK

With Easter this coming weekend, the racing calendar in Queensland is a little different this coming week.

There will still be six meetings held from Monday to Sunday, but with no racing to take place on Good Friday.

Redcliffe will host their regular Wednesday and Thursday fixtures, while Albion Park will have just the two meetings for the week - Tuesday afternoon and Saturday night’s metropolitan card.

Marburg steps up this week to host two meetings that will be headlined by their Easter Sunday eggstravaganza, where the Oakwood Capital Goldstrike Final will be decided.

Four heats for the standing start feature will be held on their Monday afternoon programme with the series once again being well supported by trainers and owners.

The four heats look evenly matched with several new arrivals in Queensland stepping out for the first time as connections look to strike gold.

Sunday’s meeting at Marburg is being promoted as an Easter Sunday Funday and their will be plenty of off-track activities to complement the on-track action.

Stakeholders should remember to check altered nomination and acceptance deadlines - for both races and trials - for this week and next week owing to the Easter Break.

 

Darren Clayton

for Racing Queensland

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