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Queensland Pacing Championship preview

Harness racing in Australia steps into the spotlight this weekend, not only with the Kilmore Cup previewed earlier, but also the Queensland Pacing Championship, the first race in the Australasian Grand Circuit. Making his debut on the blog is astute harness racing analyst, Darren Clayton. You can follow him via @Dashman01.

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Queensland Pacing Championship

Track: Albion Park
Distance: 2680m
Starts: Frontline 7


The Garrards Queensland Pacing Championship (QPC) is the first leg of the Australian Grand Circuit and to be fair, it is disappointing that a race of this stature can only attract two interstate trained horses.

Regardless of the reasons, the locals will be out in force to protect the crown and no trainer will play a bigger hand than the Major General of the Black and White Army, Grant Dixon. In a career that has seen Dixon either train or drive the winner of nearly every major race in Queensland, the QPC is one that still eludes the premier trainer. Although he had some involvement with the immortal Blacks A Fake who won 2 QPC titles, there is no doubting Dixon's fire in landing the biggest race on the Queensland trotting calendar and is this year launching a quartet of pacers in his quest to land the valued prize.

The biggest attack on the Black and White Army will come from Ideal Scott from Team McCarthy. One stat that Ideal Scott will have to overcome to take the spoils here is that only three horses have completed the Winter Cup/QPC double in the same year. Each of those three have been champions of the sport, with Wondai’s Mate, Double Identity and Blacks A Fake being the triumvirate.

Field:
1. Pub Blitz is slow to muster speed and will most likely be deeply entrenched along the fence and will need to get some luck to figure in the finish. Young trainer/driver James Wanless will be lining up in his first Grand Circuit event, just 5 days after falling heavily in a maiden event at Albion Park on Monday. The Wanless name is synonymous with both codes of horse racing in Queensland and James certainly has the breeding to call upon.

2. Vegas Bound is one of four Grant Dixon trained runners and has drawn favourably however his form is just not strong enough at present to worry these. The 9YO will most likely be back in the field and looking for the breaks to fall his way taking the cheap runs wherever they appear.

3. Devil Dodger. Dixon stays with Devil Dodger who draws much better in this than he has in the 2 lead up races of the Gold Coast Cup and Be Good Johnny Sprint. He found the front last week but burnt plenty of gas getting there and it told, ending up 13m from the winner in 7th place. An easier lead will be on offer here and he could find himself lighting the lamps well into the home straight. Could there be a sign of Grant’s confidence and desire to win this race by opting to wear his Black and White Checked silks for this race. All through October he has been helping support the Leigh Plunkett Foundation by wearing specially designed silks with top drivers from each state wearing them, however he will be sporting his own silks tonight.

4. Alberto Contador is a query runner, as no horse was going as good as this fellow prior to a brief let up. Since leaving the Shaky Isles and joining the Dixon barn, he has won 9 of 11 and he has shown that the staying journey is his forte. However being scratched from last week's Gold Coast Cup just hours out from the race certainly places some question marks over his chances here, however he appears to have strong endurance, much the same as his human namesake.

5. If Saucy Legend was a footballer, he would be dubbed a journeyman. Starting his career in New Zealand he has since been trained in NSW and WA and now finds himself in the stables of trainer/ Mark Dux. Saucy Legend will start from barrier 5 and will look to push forward at the start and if he can gain some cover can prove that his win in the Be Good Johnny 2 weeks ago was no fluke. Forced to do it tough last week and race 3 wide for a sustained portion of the race, the run had merit and if able to get away without doing too much work, can find himself in the firing line at the finish.

6. Lebron is able to ping the machine and although he is drawn a little wide, is a real chance of finding the top should they set him alight off the arm. If he is able to do that he has options to choose from but the likelihood of him staying the trip appears slim as he is a noted sprinter and the mile journey is his caper.

7. Sign To Inverell for trainer Darrel Graham and driver Adam Sanderson has drawn wide off the front in 7 and will find this grade too steep from the draw. Although he did finish 3rd in the Sunshine Sprint here in July, he is not going well enough presently to offer much to punters here.

8. Field Officer will need all the luck after drawing inside the second row. Following out only a moderate beginner in Pub Blitz, it looks likely that he will be buried along the marker line early and will need all of last season's leading driver Mat Neilson's guile to work into a position to issue a challenge. Breaking the track record of his stablemate and fellow QPC aspirant Devil Dodger in last week’s Gold Coast Cup triumph, he has in his arsenal a paralysing turn of foot. Fortune favours the brave and Field Officer will certainly need it all this week to land the Group One prize but it is not beyond him if he can charter a clear passage and launch his sprint at the right time.

9. Ideal Scott was the winner of the Group One Blacks A Fake over this course and distance in July and will certainly earn the plaudits if he can salute in Queensland's only other Group One for Open class performers. Ideal Scott was enormous in last week’s Gold Coast Cup and had the trophy on the mantelpiece, until one final lunge from the fast finishing Field Officer saw the spoils go to that pacer. He will have to do it tough, but cannot be denied. Ideal Scott also has the McCarthy factor to call on. Six of the last eight winners of the QPC have either been trained or driven by a member of the all conquering McCarthy clan.

10. Bettor Draw finished third, within a head of the winner last week and has really stepped up since emigrating from Tasmania and joining the Paul McGregor team. However without a win or place in 3 attempts at the distance is a little concerning so will pay to keep safe. If he can reproduce anything near his last run, he is a definite place hope.

11. Ace Light has drawn poorly with his preferred racing style of dictating terms on the front end not suited to four out the second line. Owned by 2 of the same owners as Blacks A Fake, he may well be suited to this race in another 12 months as he continues to develop into a genuine open class horse. Driver Kylie Rasmussen will be looking to emulate younger sister Nat, who has won this race twice with Blackie.

12. Baby Bling could be the knockout runner. The Miracle Mile winner and only mare in the field, Baby Bling was left searching for running room in the home straight last week after being left behind a tiring runner, she never really was able to fully extend. Given the car park draw in the outside second line of 12, it could prove to be a blessing in disguise. If any speed battle eventuates up front off the gate, the mare can be coiled up and saved for one shot at them. Provided she does not get shuffled back to far in the early stages, her chances can not be denied.

Overview
Devil Dodger can get to the pegs first without spending a penny and certainly give the field something to chase. So if that scenario pans out it could be left to the Belinda McCarthy trained, John McCarthy driven Ideal Scott to come around and park in the chair and see if he can outstay Devil Dodger. Devil Dodger will certainly appreciate getting to the front easier than last week and may prove to be a tougher nut to crack than many think. The market certainly reflects the scenario of Ideal Scott outstaying his rivals as he is into tomato sauce odds after opening around the even money or 6/4 mark. Those odds did not last long and he may start as short as $1.50. Field Officer who has been impressive in his two Australian runs can unleash a fast last section and if he gets clear running at any point in the home straight has the zing to blow them all away. Like Field Officer, if Baby Bling can be saved for one crack, she too can zip past tiring runners if the pace on the front end is set up for the swoopers. The best of the rest will be represented by Saucy Legend, while Pub Blitz might offer sneaky value up the passing lane.

So while no New Zealand and just two interstate performers will be in action in the opening leg of the Grand Circuit, the locals will ensure it is a great race.

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