Harness racing has taken a bit of a knock in recent years in Australia, but that doesn't stop the most prestigious championship race of them all - the Inter Dominion final. The WA industry has re-launched it, returned to the three heats and final series, and have been rewarded with a great championship. Who'll be the new champ to add their name to the honour roll alongside superstars such as Blacks A Fake, Imthemightyquinn and Our Sir Vancealot?
Making his debut on the blog to share his assessment of the final is Glen McWilliams, @grmc1902. Welcome aboard! He's started off with a big odds tip!
Tabtouch Inter Dominion Final
Group 1, AU$1,100,000
2936m Mobile start, Nine across the front
2130 local, 0030 AEDT, 1330 GMT
What looked two weeks ago as a battle between two stablemates has now, due to the draw and the scratching of the reigning champion, become a very intriguing battle indeed. It will also be the focus of arguments about emergencies slotting into the scratched runner’s gate - and whether they should be running 12 in the final rather than the 10 we will see. At any rate, purists love the fact that the Inters are being run over the traditional format. The 2936m final ensures that the eventual winner has indeed earned the trophy. The tight Gloucester Park track also means a few of them will be no hope a few hundred metres after the start if they don’t get the right run.
1. Bling It On. Punters are funny people. I have never heard so much disregard for a pacer that has won almost $1.2m form 70 starts. But that’s where Bling It On sits on the eyes of the experts. When he wins it is because he got a soft run. When he doesn’t win it is because he is soft. Further to muddy the waters is the only heat win he had this series was over Lennytheshark who has now been scratched due to a hoof abscess which was apparent on that evening at Bunbury. Regardless, this is a top shelf conveyance with the best draw in Australian harness racing (just research GP and gate 1 winners). You want a soft run? Got it, You want late speed? Got it. You want a horse that can run a strong 2900? Mmmm, more question marks, McCarthy needs to take a trail, he can’t lead and win. He will certainly be around the podium but in a race like this you can’t back something hoping others do the work for you.
2. Run Oneover. This guy could not have been more impressive during the series. Everything that he was asked to do he did with interest. Assessed 80/1 in heat 1 he ran second and followed that up with two straight victories. The draw is perfect. He can cross Bling It On with ease and then decide whether to lead or hand up from there. I think he gets to the pegs and hands up. That’s his best option as there is too much quality drawn outside to hold out. If he gets a late split he wins. Clinton Hall will let us know all about it. I’m going to say that the extra lap and the occasion will be just beyond him however. Only just though. He’s in the mix.
3. Our Jericho. The ugly duckling of the final (I would give anything to own one this good by the way!). He’s done great placing fourth, second, fourth. Earned his way to the final and drawn a great marble. 50/1 due to the draw. If he was out wide he would be 200+. I can’t see him going forward to press but just drifting off the arm and seeing where he lands. Driven for luck and not talented enough to cause an upset.
4. Lennythshark - Scratched
5. John Of Arc. I’m a huge fan of this bloke and he has performed brilliantly in this series. A real credit to Clive Dalton in bringing his A Game when it matters. Despite three consecutive placings in the heats he never seriously threatened to win and this race will be no different. AC Lewis can’t push him forward as he doesn't have the motor to burn against this lot. Will more than likely drift to the back few and plug away late. Not in my reckoning,
6. Franco Nelson. I think he’s lucky to have made the final. I think he was driven far too conservatively during the heats. I think that was a deliberate ploy. I think he wins. This is the night we get to see the real Franco Nelson and Australasia's best driver in Dexter Dunn will work him to the lead by the winning post for the first time and keep him there. Upwards of 30/1 on offer at the moment. What are you waiting for? He’s been saved for the final, not winning heats and appeasing crowds. Class act. Get on. He crosses here and then sends them to sleep for two laps. You couldn’t ask for a better driver to be in the gig either. Ice cold and knows when to pull the trigger. GP is a tough track to get by a leader. Dexter will rate it to perfection.
7. Smolda. Here is your breeze horse. Tough as old boots and loves a scrap. The tight circuit will cruel his chances as they heat up a lap and a half out and he needs to handle the bends at speed. The only way he can win is if Franco Nelson hands up (which should not happen), or Bettors Fire gives him cover. If he death seats, and I see him being there, he won’t win. But I do see him running a place and have invested heavily on that occurrence,
8. Bettors Fire. If he drew in the inside four I would have him high in my predictions. This draw: he has to go back and follow someone home. That’s probably going to be The Bucket List or Our Jericho. Not a train I would want to be on. He can’t win and won’t place.
9. Hectorjayjay. The fave! And after the draw still the fave. I hate saying this buty if Chris Alford was driving and not Josh Aiken I would have him almost winning this. He needs the NZ racing mentality of ‘hand up to the fave’. This never happens at GP. I see him being posted three-wide for a lap to a lap and a half and then going back to the rear to take the late train with Our Jericho and co. He is brilliant. Point to point speed is superior to any other animal in the barn on the evening, And probably the best horse at the track. But this is GP and barrier draws are so important. And brutal. It couldn’t have been any worse for Hector. But it couldn’t have been any better for the race. I think he shoots home late in a tragedy-beaten type of loss.
10. Beaudine Boaz. Best draw he could have got. There are several horses I would have rather seen in the race ahead of this guy. Really don’t like him but the peg line means he is in business. Saved for one run I think he could squeeze a fourth or fifth but certainly not win. Not good enough.
11. The Bucket List. Gets in with the scratching of the champ. Drawn to follow Run Oneover through and then get the trail of Smolda. He won’t be able to keep up after that. Love that he gets in and great for connections but he’s not a threat.