Great Southern Star & Vic Derby Night

Great Southern Star & Vic Derby Night

It was a big night of harness racing at Tabcorp Park Melton last Saturday, the 26th January, where several New Zealand-trained runners were to feature in the night’s most prestigious races.

Breckon Farms’ Ken and Karen Breckon were oncourse to cheer on their representatives in two of the Group 1 features, Im Another Masterpiece, the favourite for the Victoria Derby and Spankem, the favourite in the 4YO Bonanza.

The largest staked race on the card was however, the Group 1 $250,000 What The Hill Great Southern Star, for the trotters.

It featured several high-profile Kiwi-trained representatives in Marcoola, Amaretto Sun, Speeding Spur and Temporale, but it was the royally bred Dance Craze who took out the race.

Dance Craze is a 5-year-old mare by the world-renowned sire Muscle Hill, out of the champion racemare La Coocaracha, who was a 6-time Group 1 winner, including the 2002 Rowe Cup in New Zealand. She also won the 2001 Australian Trotting Grand Prix and the 2002 Australasian Trotters Championship Final, in her homeland, among her 23 wins from 31 starts, for $428,911 in stake earnings. Interestingly, La Coocaracha could be termed a freak of nature, as she is an all-pacing bred mare, being by Safely Kept out of the Kentucky mare Poetry and is a half-sister to 8 winners who all raced as pacers, including Blake Castle (1:53.2, 43 wins, $265,498). La Coocaracha is the only trotter in her immediate family.

The race was robbed of some glamour when the long odds-on favourite for the race and reigning Inter Dominion Champion Tornado Valley had to be withdrawn on the morning of the race after a scratch he sustained had become infected.

Dance Craze however, came from back in the field, going 5-wide on the home turn, to finish-off his race brilliantly and run on strongly down the outside in the home straight, to get up and win, beating the Tony Herlihy trained Kiwi Temporale into 2nd placing.

Dance Craze is trained by Victoria’s most prolific trotting trainer Anton Golino and took out Australia’s richest trotting race in the hands of Kiwi driver Mark Purdon.

The other Kiwi runners were all disappointing, with the eventual odds-on favourite for the race Marcoola fading in the home straight and only beating one runner home, that being compatriot and stablemate Amaretto Sun. Speeding Spur led the field throughout, turning for home in front, but fading out of the race soon after to finish in 8th placing and was later found to have bled and has been stood down for 56 days.

Dance Craze’s win gave Mark Purdon a double of Group 1 victories on the night, as just one race previously he had guided the Dean Braun-trained mare Carlas Pixel to an emphatic win in the Group 1 $100,000 Schweppes Ladyship Cup. Carlas Pixel, who it was later revealed is actually in foal to Bettor’s Delight, was locked away 3-back on the markers but was able to get out rounding the home turn and stormed home out wide to get up and win in a 1:51.7 Mile Rate for the 1720m journey. The NZ-trained mare Utmost Delight was a brave 4th placing, after having to sit parked on the fast pace for the last lap.

Immediately following the Great Southern Star was the next most important feature on the programme, the Group 1 $200,000 Downbytheseaside Victoria Derby Final.

This race featured just one New Zealand-trained runner in Im Another Masterpiece, who was driven by his co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen. He received no favours in sitting parked for most of the first 1200m, then getting cover, but having to go 3-wide around the home turn, to finish a brave 2nd placing.

The winner of the Derby was Muscle Factory, a 3-year-old colt by Roll With Joe, out of the Jeremes Jet mare Malena, who ran to the front at the start and ran them along at a good rate to win by 4.7m in a 1:54.0 Mile Rate for the 2240m distance, a track and 3-year-old record. Muscle Factory became the first 3-year-old in the southern hemisphere to break the 1:50 mark for a mile, when he paced 1:49.6 at Menangle 2-starts previous – and that was fresh-up too. He is trained by husband-and-wife team Shane and Lauren (also the driver) Tritton and is part-owned in New Zealand by Rona and Clive McKay.

The other Group 1 feature on the night was the Group 1 $100,000 TAB Multiplier 4YO Bonanza, featuring the NZ-trained Spankem, who went a brave race after being caught 3-wide early, then having to face the breeze for the remainder of the race, but he couldn’t hold out Poster Boy, driven by Chris Alford, going down by a narrow neck margin. It was a great training feat by Emma Stewart to win a Group 1 fresh-up with Poster Boy (4h Somebeachsomewhere out of the Artsplace mare Aston Villa), having last appeared at the Breeders Crown last August, where he finished in 3rd placing in the 3YO Final. The other Kiwi in the field Im Pats Delight, led them throughout, but faded in the last bit to finish in 4th placing.

Of note was that in one of the two Group 2 races on the night, the Group 2 $50,000 DNR Logistics Casey Classic, Kiwi-trained Star Galleria (5g Art Major out of the Tuapeka Knight mare Starlitnight) was to the fore. He was caught 3-wide early before obtaining a brief one-one sit, then was left parked until getting cover with about 1600m to run and came out of the one-one to go 3-wide rounding the home turn, to run down Wrappers Delight for a narrow but good win, for trainer Steven Reid and driver Tony Herlihy.

It was a great night’s racing, however on this occasion Star Galleria was the only New Zealand-trained horse to score a win on the big night and it is notable that Breckon Farms is to offer a full-brother to him at the upcoming NZB Standardbred New Zealand National Standardbred Yearling Sale, at Karaka, in Auckland, on the 18th February. You should check him out as a potential purchase.