Quality harness racing action this weekend from Albion Park in Brisbane. Former Queensland harness handicapper Darren Clayton, @dashman01, previews the trio of features on the Saturday night programme.
Albion Park preview
With three races carrying Group 2 status and one at Listed level, Saturday's Albion Park program has a bit to offer.
Unfortunately, the Seymour Nursery Pace for 3YO's has attracted just seven acceptors (six starters with a scratching already) in the colts & geldings and the fillies could not achieve a full field either with 11 acceptors (10 starters with a scratching).
The third of the G2 events but first set down for decision is the third and final instalment of the Cups Carnival races that have been held in March, April and May.
Cups Carnival Final
Heats were held and the winners of those were Nureyev for Brisbane trainer/driver power couple Pete McMullen and Chantal Turpin and the NSW visitor Scotlynn Jiggs which is trained and driven by Dean Cernovskis. Both horses managed to lead all the way in their wins and with barriers 1 & 3 respectively the chance of an early speed duel may not eventuate.
Nureyev looks to be the early leader here, although Scotlynn Jiggs only did what he had to to find the front in his heat win. He may be stoked up to try to cross the #2, Stingray, to then give himself the option of handing over the chair.
With Stingray drawn between these two, his driver Kelli Dawson might want to hold the early position and then hand over. Those horses drawn on the 2nd line in the capacity field will be hoping for the early burn, but it might not come, which would suggest they will have to get moving at some point to get into the race.
Alleluia has managed to run 2nd in both Cup Finals and after running second in the heat of this series behind Nureyev will be hoping to go one better. Nureyev drifted out slightly in the run to the line and it may have cost Alleluia some momentum as he got going again just short of the line, when the race was already gone.
Chattanoogachoochoo was the victor of the April Stayers Cup and draws tricky in gate 7 and may just have to cover too much ground in getting into this race. He was finishing off nicely out wide without looking to have been fully extended in the same above mentioned heat last week.
The regally-bred Epaulette finished fourth in Scotlynn Jiggs' Heat however he was only beaten 1.5m. He was sitting last at the 600m and unofficially timed in a 27.5 sec closing quarter, four wide. Also has the Luke McCarthy touch coming on this week. This meeting last year saw McCarthy land five of the races on the card
Five Card Draw ran sixth in the heat to scrape into the final, but only beaten 6.9m. He was put on an early move and raced the last 1200m outside of Scotlynn Jiggs. I liked this run for the fact he was on a 24hr backup, having won a race at Albion Park last Friday.
Invest Number 9 win
I think Alleluia can finally crack one of these G2 finals. Currently $5 available with UBET. Also an acid test here as if he can't take this out, his Qld Winter Carnival aspirations may not bear fruit. There will also be the lure of the big prize money with only a career and not metropolitan penalty that is the carrot for all in the race. Five Card Draw can run a bold race despite the awkward draw, while Epaulette is the pre-post favourite and a win would not surprise.
Best roughie- Major Moment. Every likelihood to be behind the leader the trip and if can muster anything along the sprint lane a place is achievable. $5 the place shown with Ladbrokes if you can get it looks very appealing.
In last year's Premiers Cup Major Moment capitalised on Five Card Draw (second) and Alleluia (third) carving each other to gain a sprint lane win. De Ja Vu?
Nursery Pace Fillies Final
Smooth Showgirl was the prelude winner here on Tuesday in impressive fashion and will look to become the first winner of the 2 and 3yo Nursery Pace Finals, ironically on the last running of the Series.
The Belinda McCarthy trained filly from NSW will look to win in similar fashion to Tuesday after once again drawing the second line. Allowed to balance up before being sent on a three wide move to control the race from the chair, she was a touch above her rivals.
Bettor Promise ran as the favourite in the prelude, led and was collared by Smooth Showgirl. Bettor Promise, in being saved for this series was first up for a month with some moderate trial performances in between. Tuesday's hitout should tighten her up and she may well be able to take the prize.
The stalemate of Bettor Promise, Bettorthanspecial finished third in the prelude after sitting at the tail of the field for the majority of the race. She hit the line nicely and when saved for one sprint, has an electric turn of hoof.
The chances of Bettorthanspecial in this final hinge on the other NSW visitor Butterfly Princess. After a poor draw in the prelude, the Colin McDowell trained filly has drawn the ace for the final. Possessing gate speed, they should be looking to hold the inside advantage. How long they can maintain that position remains the key to the race. Should they look to hold this brings Bettorthanspecial into calculations as she will then have first crack at the passing lane.
Should Butterfly Princess hand over early, it will make it that little bit tougher, being entrenched three back the noodles for Bettorthanspecial.
If Smooth Showgirl manages to find the top after a 3 wide mid race move, expect Feel The Faith to look to assume the chair, however should she get there, I doubt if she is quite up to winning on current form.
Invest Number 8 win
The danger to Smooth Showgirl taking this is the mid-race pace and pressure. The Luke McCarthy show can roll on here and it is easily conceivable that he can collect all three G2s on the night.
I'm going to go with Bettorthanspecial. The McDowell team like to be in in the action and I envisage them holding top which will allow Bettorthanspecial an economical trip and the chance to unleash if taken to the lane.
Feel The Faith can hang on for some place money, while Bettor Promise might find it difficult to get a shot at them throughout.
Nursery Pace Colts & Geldings Final
For a Group 2 event to attract such a small field is hard to fathom. Nonetheless there is a total purse of $75k up for grabs here with 6 declared starters to battle it out.
Birdy Mach does look to have a stranglehold on the race following his emphatic prelude victory here on Tuesday. First up for five months he made light work of his rivals scoring a convincing 11m win with a brisk last 800m section of 55.5.
Quite simply from what we saw on Tuesday, the battle for 2nd is what might the other drivers will be contesting.
Last years Qld 2YO of the year A Good Chance was brave in running 2nd after having to sit outside Birdy Mach in the prelude. He will have to do it tough again, having drawn to the outside of that fellow.
Admiral Bronski is not suited by the distance with just one win from seven tries at the middle distance. That win however was in the G2 Breeders Classic.
Birdy Mach should win. That said he has only had two starts since August last year. One was in December where he finished last after breaking gait twice in running and being stood down to trial. The other on Tuesday in the prelude to this. At about the 100-150m point he did race roughly and did not look fully comfortable in his stride. If any of the others can be close enough to apply some pressure, there just may be a chink to exploit. Although in astute hands, corrections to negate this may have occurred? If the race transpires into a single file procession, then it will most likely mean A Good Chance has to do the bullocking work.
Giving Admiral Bronski a cosy trip following up A Good Chance with one run to make sees him fill second place for mine, with A Good Chance to run third. Corporal Luna can weigh in with the other two runners outclassed here.
Invest 4-6-5 straight trifecta.