The Summer of Glory always comes up on us real fast and, sadly, can come and go far too quickly.
So, instead of wallowing in the desire for more elite Harness Racing action, lets soak up the weekend of amazing Group 1 contests with a more than adequate serving of entree and dessert.
Friday night sees an all-trotting card highlighted by the $300,000 Great Southern Star which returns to the heat-into-final format of years gone by. Emphasising the phenomenal constitution and durability of the standardbred, the GSS heats will be run at 7:22pm and 7:52pm then the qualified horses gear up again at 10:22pm in the richest trotting race in this part of the world.
Friday also sees a small but richly talented FFA and the Group 2 Mares VicBred Platinum Sprint Championship – rounding up a fabulous Friday night of trotting action.
Then, once we’ve devoured all that we go again with the crown of the Victorian Harness Racing jewel as the Del-Re A G Hunter Cup is run and won over the extended 2760m trip for half a million bucks.
Alongside the Hunter Cup are a pair of Group 1’s – one for the four-year-olds and one for the mares – and four other Group races on a magnificent card.
Here’s how I’m seeing them across the weekend;
GROUP 1 GREAT SOUTHERN STAR SERIES
It’s borderline impossible to predict the winner of a race when you have no idea who is even competing in the race, let alone who is drawn where and who will cop the two runs in one night aspect to the GSS.
But, for what it’s worth, I’m with two big guns to take out the cash – McLovin and Majestic Man. It’s hardly a bold call but before last week’s V L Dullard Cup, I suggested folks back Majestic Man for the GSS Final when he was $4 (he’s now inside $2) and now I’m saying we should have something on McLovin as well.
The former Kiwi, under the care of Andy Gath, seems in the zone and I have full faith this guy will thrive on the two runs. He can win sitting parked and come from back in the pack. I like his versatility.
Majestic Man is an obvious choice on the back of his New Zealand form and the way he dismantled a handy bunch last week. He decimated the track record, running along all the way leaving good horses in his wake.
Outside of the big two, I give Tough Monarch a punchers chance as he should also love the hard racing and Magicool, I’m Ready Jet and Pink Galahs all deserve mention. As does Tornado Valley who could pound these on his best day but it’s hard to know where he’s at.
2 Majestic Man
3 I’m Ready Jet
4 Pink Galahs
A few other bets I like on Friday evening;
Race 5, No. 5 Stress Factor $15 – small play at the big price. Perhaps this fella has worked it all out… finally.
Race 7, No. 5 Havehorsewilltravel $1.80 – Cannot knock anything this horse has done. Undefeated since arriving in Oz. He will lose eventually but I’m not sure this will be the race.
GROUP 1 HUNTER CUP
Lochinvar Art has every race he runs in at his mercy but the more I look at this one the more I see things panning out in his favour. Sure, King of Swing stable mate Alta Orlando may be in front after a furlong but Lochinvar Art trails him straight out and can be on the scene immediately.
Even King of Swing pilot Luke McCarthy who oversees most of Alta Orlando’s career says he’d likely hand to ‘Arty’.
King of Swing likely ends up in the breeze, a place where he has not been in major races. He’s won the most recent editions of the Blacks A Fake, Miracle Mile and this Hunter Cup but he was in front for each of those victories. It’s hard to see that being the case here.
Behind the big two, Fourbigmen could lob a handy position whilst Triple Eight and Out To Play will get economical trips but will need late splits to zip home into the big money.
Star Galleria was a boom youngster who has joined the all-conquering McCarthy team so he adds interest and Wolf Stride seems like the horse most likely to take the step to stardom in the next few months.
1 Lochinvar Art
2 King of Swing
3 Out To Play
4 Triple Eight
GROUP 1 4YO BONANZA
Nice bunch engaged but last season’s Bonanza saw Lochinvar Art and Self Assured clash with Hurricane Harley behind those two. ‘Arty’ smashed the Melton track record in that event.
Perfect Stride gets the ace alley and whether Anthony Butt wants to hold up or not will be telling whilst McCarthy runner, Expensive Ego, will be hoping the pole horse holds up otherwise the NSW entrant is in pain.
Kowalski Analysis has improved out of sight and is some hope of crossing Perfect Stride as well. Even from the running line Matt Craven’s gun gelding can feature.
My top pick in the race is Pacifico Dream. He’s not quite a future superstar but his performances have been strong and I do believe he will find the front at some point here. He may even be good enough to go close to winning from the breeze. Perfect Stride may be best suited to handing up as to locking Expensive Ego away on the pegs but still giving himself a hope at winning. This will be an intriguing clash.
1 Pacifico Dream
2 Expensive Ego
3 Kowalski Analysis $4.80
4 Perfect Stride $4.80
GROUP 1 LADYSHIP CUP
I’m predicting fireworks early in this clash between the mares. Delightful Mia is explosive off the arm and Bettor Enforce has become accustomed to pinging the gates from wide barriers. Even Miss McGonagall will have some designs on crossing into a favourable position.
All this means superstar mare, Our Princess Tiffany, could be in some pain. She’s returned to something like her very best but I can see the former Kiwi buried on the pegs, giving her next to no hope.
Off the back row, Rockasaki is in ripping form and The Pantheist is a Group 1 winning mare so must be kept in the mix somewhere. Jenden Strike will need plenty of luck but can run into the cash.
1 Bettor Enforce $1.80
2 Our Princess Tiffany $2.30
3 Jenden Strike $11
4 The Pantheist $18
My selections on the card;
Race One – Major Delico each way $8
Race Two – Jilliby Lorenzo $4.80
Race Three – Tough Tilly $1.40
Race Four – Boncel Benjamin each way $8
Race Five – Pacifico Dream $3.80
Race Six – Sirletic each way $14
Race Seven – Lochinvar Art $1.30
Race Eight – Bettor Enforce $1.80
Race Nine – I Cast No Shadow $2.80
Race Ten – Keayang Destiny $3.80
Enjoy Victoria’s premier night of Harness Racing. I’ll see you trackside for SEN Track, come and say g’day!