Last weekend, Ballarat presented us with an insight into what the summer of Harness Racing holds in store.
28 quality three-year-olds competed in the Victoria Derby heats, we saw the reigning NZ Cup champ steal Group 1 glory from a hometown hero and we watched another handful of pacers and trotters go round in what were effectively warm-ups for this weekend and beyond.
We’ll give our usual selections for each of the 10 races on the card but we’re going in-depth to try find the winner of the four Group 1 events.
VICTORIA DERBY (2240m, Group 1, $200,000)
The Major Players;
5 Another Masterpiece – Was given a peach of a drive in the heat but the way he put away Muscle Factory showed a class few others have. You see very few All Stars horses beaten from in front and he looks poised to capture the lead pretty easily.
7 Max Delight – Looks untapped and was given an easy time in his weak heat. Moves like a good horse, but he’d need to step up to match the big guns.
9 Hurricane Harley – Draw hurts because favourite looks to get a cosy lead but he has brilliance and sheer speed. We’ll learn exactly how good he is.
10 Lochinvar Art – He just hangs onto his status as a major player but you’d like to see him driven tough and prove he actually is a future superstar. Another poor alley does hurt him. Can he make a mid-race move and be a factor ?
2 War Dan Delight – The barrier brings him into the conversation and watching his heat run will give many confidence to have a wager on him.
6 Muscle Factory – Got things his own way in the heat but Another Masterpiece put him away with ease. The 1:49 mile is hard to forget but he looked well out of his depth last week.
11 Hardhitter – Got in behind Hurricane Harley in the heat but never challenged him and doubt he can be a factor here.
12 Malcolms Rhythym – A superb heat performance but again suffers a debilitating draw. Will need them to go stupid quick up front.
Hundred to One;
3 Arggghhh – A nice horse who’s run some nice races in important races. Draws well but will be looking for a suck run.
4 Perfect Major – Nice run in a sedate heat but despite good gate, he’s up against the best ones here.
8 Pete’s Big Jim – Good horse, but given next to no hope despite potentially being three-pegs in a hard run race. Could spring a surprise and go top 4.
13 Crime Writer – Made the Final thanks to a dream draw in the heats but suffers from a fatal draw here. Finishing in the top half of the field would be huge.
1 Another Masterpiece (5)
2 War Dan Delight (2)
3 Hurricane Harley (9)
4 Max Delight (7)
LADYSHIP CUP (1720m, Group 1, $100,000)
The Major Players;
1 Soho Burning Love – So many times has she been a bridesmaid in Group 1’s – this is her chance. She’s reeled off some excellent splits leading at this venue and she will need to be close to producing a PB to win this.
2 Tell Me Tales – An amazing mare with brilliant speed and tactical qualities. Coming in first-up concerns me but she’s so classy it may not matter. Will she apply the heat or take a trail on the Kiwi and sprint hard from the bend ?
4 Utmost Delight – Many will take her on as she’s such an unknown. Was a $2.50 all-in favourite but having two major rivals drawn inside her makes things tricky. Looks to be the breeze horse and we know how tough that role is in big races at Melton.
10 Carla’s Pixel – Projecting so much early and mid-race pressure brings this girl right into proceedings. She loves the short trip and thrives when the speed is on. You can do worse than back her at 10/1.
8 Makes Every Scents – Dream draw gives her a punchers chance, especially to place but it’s hard to see her overcoming so much class.
9 Delight Me – Has these covered in vintage form but she’s nowhere near her best and has been struggling in Country Cups.
Hundred to One;
3 Juice Brogden – A former New Zealander who can match it with the best but rarely defeat them.
5 Nikkibadwagon – A speedy mare with quality but she will not be able to get to the pegs where she’s so dangerous.
6 Ima Mystery Girl – A horror gate with the big guns drawn inside. Has to drop back and hope for amazing luck.
7 Without You – Super mare in great form but gate seven seals her fate. May have to force the issue and make a move but it would be at significant cost to the energy stores.
1 Soho Burning Love (1)
2 Tell Me Tales (2)
3 Carla’s Pixel (10)
4 Utmost Delight (4)
GREAT SOUTHERN STAR (2760,, Group 1, $250,000)
The Major Players;
2 Tornado Valley – The dominant horse of Australian trotting. He’s explosive off the arm, strong throughout and refuses to allow horses to run past him. He’s in a zone but this will be his biggest test.
3 Marcoola – Opinions I rate – albeit Kiwi opinions – say this guy at his best will smoke Tornado Valley. Well, bring your best Marcoola and lets see. We know what Tornado Valley will do, so you’d be dirty to see anything less than Marcoola’s A-game. Can he beat him ? I’ve no idea.
1 Tough Monarch – All this race’s questions lay with the guy. Will he trot throughout like his most recent run or get out of his gait like many are fearing ?
4 Sky Petite – An honest mare. She is yet to reach that peak form from ID18 Final night but we know it’s there. Predicting she will get involved early to try settle handily.
7 Speeding Spur – A million dollar trotter but gate seven is pain. He’s probably forced to go and park out for the duration which hurts for two reasons; he probably cannot breeze and beat the fave and horses on his back will come from everywhere.
8 Save Our Pennys – Deserved the win in the Cochran Cup but has never been able to overcome Tornado Valley. The draw could be troubling should the pole-marker get rough.
9 Red Hot Tooth – Her George Gath win was effortless and must’ve filled fans with confidence. She will be hard on the back of Tornado Valley early which could see her land in a really prominent position. A great place hope.
5 Pizza Queen – An improving type, she knocked off fancied stable mate Dance Craze a month back and produced a really nice run in the Cochran Cup last week.
10 Kyvalley Blur – Another typical trip in transit awaits. Chris Alford will be hoping Tornado Valley is being pushed along and he can nab a beautiful cart into proceedings.
11 Big Jack Hammer – His run of handy draws has subsided when he needed it the most. One of many quality horses who will need early speed and late luck.
12 Temporale – An up and down Kiwi who’s best can go with anything. The draw is tough so he either runs for luck or makes a bold move early on.
13 Dance Craze – She’s supremely talented and her last start second to Save Our Pennys was admirable but she will need something to be carving up Tornado Valley to bring her into things. We do know how deadly her sprint is, though.
1 Tornado Valley (2)
2 Marcoola (3)
3 Sky Petite (4)
4 Red Hot Tooth (9)
FOUR-YEAR-OLD BONANZA (1720m, Group 1, $100,000)
The Major Players;
2 Pat’s Delight – The draw suits and he’s almost certain to lead but his price smells. His ID18 sprint win at Ballarat was full of merit but you think he might need to go even better here to win.
4 Poster Boy – A speed demon, you’d think Chris Alford will want the one-one to ensure he is doing as little work as possible but also ready to sprint the last 600m.
7 Spankem – Entered the summer as a nice horse, now stands as a genuine Chariots of Fire and Miracle Mile hope. Tough, genuine and loves work, his speed will also need to be on display here but he’s my top pick.
8 Rackemup Tigerpie – A heroic effort in his hometown Cup – and first go in Group 1 company. Will be winning better races than this across his career but gate eight might mean he has to wait at least one more race for Group 1 glory.
3 Konan – Heavy support in early betting markets. I tend to think he’s a rung below these but the barn has always had a high opinion of this guy so keep him safe at a big price.
1 Jean Luc – A nice horse for sure but not even gate one can help him win this. First four not unreasonable.
5 The Brooklyn Brawler – Finally broke a string of placings last weekend against far far inferior opposition to these. Not a factor here.
6 Maratei – May get up outside the leader and ensure this race is genuine but even fully wound up he’s not quite up to these.
9 Duke of Wellington – Nice horse, progressive horse but this is well beyond his means right now – despite following through Pat’s Delight.
1 Spankem (7)
2 Rackemup Tigerpie (8)
3 Pat’s Delight (2)
4 Poster Boy (4)
Tabcorp Park Melton Selections;
R1: Beach Surge (9) from 1-5-10
R2: Monty Python (2) from 4-5-9
R3: Born To Rocknroll (5) from 2-4-6
R4: Wrappers Delight (2) from 3-4-7
R5: Soho Burning Love (1) from 2-10-4
R6: Tornado Valley (2) from 3-4-9
R7: Another Masterpiece (5) from 2-9-7
R8: Spankem (7) from 8-2-4
R9: Moonlight Dream (3) from 11-10-1
R10: Mister Ohanzee (7) from 1-8-4