In two rounds of heats so far, there has certainly been some very competitive and exciting racing.
The New Zealand contingent has progressed well, with all three pacers having won a heat and Cruz Bromac actually winning both heats he has contested to date and in the trotting ranks Speeding Spur has had a win and a third placing and Monty Python has had a 4th and a 6th that should see him through to the Final.
So, from a total representation of seven competitors, it looks likely that New Zealand will have five runners in the respectivepacing and trotting finals, which is an excellent effort.
It should also be noted, on a breeding front, that the Kiwi-bred runners were very much to the fore with every winner in the first round of heats being bred in New Zealand and another three of the five heats contested in the second round, also won by Kiwi-bred horses. Two trifectas in the first round and one in the second round were also Kiwi-bred and from the 30 placings up for grabs so far in the 10 heats contested, remarkably 19 placings have been filled by Kiwi-bred horses.
The first round of heats at Tabcorp Park Melton last Saturday, of course saw the New Zealand training partnership of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen to the fore, producing a winning double with the Breckon Racing Syndicate part-owned Spankem and Cruz Bromac in the pacing ranks, with the third of the heats being taken out by Western Australian Galactic Star trained by another well-known training partnership in Greg and Skye Bond. Spankem’s win was a strong one, having made a move to go and sit parked with a lap-to-go he went on to win in a 1:54.3 Mile Rate by 3.2m over Im Pats Delight, repeating the quinella they achieved in the Kaikoura Cup, with favourite Tiger Tara getting back and charging home late for third placing. Galactic Star showed gate speed in his heat to lead and win, holding out San Carlo by 1m and Mach Doro in third placing, in a 1:54.1 Mile Rate. Cruz Bromac was caught wide early but pressed on to take the lead and went on to win easily by 5.1m over the Breckon Farms bred Cash N Flow and Maximan in the fastest heat of the night in a 1:53.8 Mile Rate.
The two trotting heats on the first night were taken out, as expected, by Tornado Valley for Victorian trainer Andy Gath and Speeding Spur for New Zealand father-and-son training partnership John and Josh Dickie. Tornado Valley made a quick beginning but wascaught 3-wide into the first bend, so pressed on to take the lead and won with something in hand by only 1.4m to Save Our Pennys with 13.3m back to the third placed Tough Monarch in a 1:57 Mile Rate. Speeding Spur showed gate speed to lead and win as he liked by an 8.5m margin from Maori Law, with Rompers Monarchy a further 5.2m back in third, in a sedate 1:58.7 Mile Rate.
So, after Round 1 of Heats, Cruz Bromac, Galactic Star and Spankem have all secured the maximum 16 points in the Pacing Championship,with Cash N Flow, Im Pats Delight and San Carlo earning 13 points for running second in their respective heats and Mach Doro, Maximan and Tiger Tara having 11points for their third placings and in the trotting series Tornado Valley and Speeding Spur are on 16 points, Maori Law and Save Our Pennys 13 points and Rompers Monarchy and Tough Monarch on 11 points.
Now the focus was to turn to Tuesday night’s second round of heats at Ballarat, where the feature of the night was to be the clash of Tornado Valley and Speeding Spur in the trotting section, with them having been drawn in the same heat. Both were wide on the Front Row, with Speeding Spur at No.5 and Tornado Valley at No.7 and with so many of the other stars from the opening night having awkward draws for this round, many getting 2nd Row marbles over the 1710m sprints, the racing was going to be interesting.
In the pacing division an oversight from ex-pat Kiwi trainer Tim Butt was to end the hopes in the series of his pacers Let It Ride and Italian Delight, when they had to be withdrawn from their respective heats and therefore the remainder of the series, after blood was taken off them the day before for a routine blood test, which resulted in a $1000 fine in the process. These two pacers joined local star Shadow Sax,who was also withdrawn from the series after being found to be sore after the first round of heats.
The first pacing heat of the second round saw Wrappers Delight, trained by David Aiken, show gate speed and lead from his ace draw to hold on and win by 1.2m from Tiger Tara and a fast-finishing Spankem, in a1:53.6 Mile Rate and running home the last half in a very fast 53.9 and the last quarter in a slick 26.1 seconds. The second heat saw Im Pats Delight, trained by Cran Dalgety, also show gate speed to lead and win emphatically, doing so by a 3.7m margin over Cant Refuse and Im The Boss, in the quickest Mile Rate of the night of 1:52.2, to become the third of the three Kiwis to win a heat in the series. In the final heat on the night Cruz Bromac came from a 2nd Row draw to settle at the tail of the field before going around to sit parked inside the last lap and went on for a strong win by 2.8m from Audi Hare and Galactic Star third in a 1:53.5 Mile Rate, to take out his second heat and lead the points table and elevate himself to co-favourite for the Final with stablemate Spankem.
The first of the trotting heats was taken out by the 11-year-old USA-bred Kyvalley Blur, trained by ex-pat Kiwi Brent Lilley, who started from the outside of the 2nd Row and settle back before gettinga nice trail into the race, to storm home down the outside and win by 1.7m in a track record 1:55.6 Mile Rate, from Big Jack Hammer and Sky Petite. In the second and feature trotting heat of the night, first round winners Tornado Valley and Speeding Spur were to lineup, with Tornado Valley getting out the quickest and crossing Speeding Spur to lead them throughout, with Speeding Spur having to face the breeze for the duration, Tornado Valley dictated terms and dashed home in 56.4 and 27.0 to win comfortably by 2.1m from Save Our Pennys up the passing lane and a brave Speeding Spur, in a 1:56.1 Mile Rate.
After Round 2 of Heats, Cruz Bromac has the maximum 32 points, Im Pats Delight has 29, Galactic Star and Spankem have 27 points and Tiger Tara and Wrappers Delight on 24 points, while in the trotting division Tornado Valley has the maximum 32 points, Speeding Spur has 27, Save Our Pennys 26, Big Jack Hammer 22, Kyvalley Blur 21 and Tough Monarch 20 points.
The third round of heats is now scheduled for this Saturday, the 8th December, at Cranbourne, where Spankem faces another tricky draw at No.9 (No.2 on the 2nd Row) in Heat 1 of thepacing heats, Tiger Tara looks well placed to control Heat 2 from No.4, while Cruz Bromac has drawn No.4 and will be favoured to make it three-from-three in Heat 3, with Im Pats Delight drawn the inside of the 2nd Row in this heat.
In the first of the trotters heats Tornado Valley hasdrawn No.4 and looks certain to make it three-from-three for him too, with other Kiwi contenders Alderbeck (No.8) and Wilmas Mate (No.10) having both drawn the 2nd Row, while in Heat 2 Speeding Spur has drawn No.2 in his attempt to finish the heat rounds with the second-highest points tally,with the other Kiwi drawing difficultly at No.11, the outside of the 2ndRow.
Let’s hope the Kiwis will gain enough points to progress to the Grand Finals at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday, the 15thDecember.
GOOD LUCK & GO THE KIWIS !!!