by Adam Hamilton
Dual Group 1 winner Better Eclipse is back in winning form as he prepares for his assault on the $1mil Race by Grins at Cambridge on April 14.
Jess Tubbs and Greg Sugars’ Chariots Of Fire and Sunshine Sprint winner added Saturday night’s $50,000 Group 3 Melton Plate to his terrific CV.
It came courtesy of a superb Sugars drive to land the one-one trail and Better Eclipse just did enough for a head win over flying former Kiwi pacer and leader Outlaw Man in a 1min56.2sec mile rate for 2240m.
It was part of a big night for Tubbs and Sugars who also won another of the features, the 1200m Stampede, with rejuvenated veteran Kiwi pacer A Gs White Socks.
The nine-year-old has now won two on end for Tubbs and Sugars.
Better Eclipse will be joined by another of his veteran stablemates, Triple Eight, when he heads to NZ In coming weeks.
“He (Better Eclipse) freshened-up well after those couple of runs in Sydney and did a good job tonight,” Tubbs said. “It looked a good race for him.
“It’s been good to have his slot in the Race locked away for a while now and we’d love Triple Eight to get a slot as well. His last run at Menangle was fantastic.
“Regardless, Triple Eight will head across with Better Eclipse. They are great mates around the stable.”
Tubbs said a decision on whether stable star Just Believe, Australia’s top trotter, will also head to NZ in coming weeks.
“It’s a definite option,” Tubbs said. “He’s had a bit of a freshen-up, but we’ll get him back and make the final decision.
“He won’t go when Better Eclipse and Triple Eight go across, but he might join them later for the Anzac and Rowe Cups in May.”
Tubbs said A Gs White Socks’ return to form was a big thrill.
“He’s just a lovely horse and he stayed here all those years ago with ‘Hopey’ (Greg Hope) when he won the Ballarat Cup,” she said.
“He did a good job to sit parked and win at Geelong and then backed it up with this good win. He seems to have some of his old form back.”
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Former Kiwi pacer Wheres The Gold capped a meteoric rise through the ranks to win the $150,000 Group 1 Ladbrokes Tasmania Cup in Hobart.
The son of Somebeachsomewhere made it six wins (and a second) from just seven Aussie runs for trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin.
Wheres The Gold was plucked from NZ’s North Island by the growing ownership force that is Summit Bloodstock and Aaron Bain Racing.
The same group also bought maiden mare Major Grace from NZ late last year and have watched Stewart and Tonkin take her to five wins from as many starts,
Major Grace made the most of a pole draw to win Tasmania’s biggest mares’ race last night, the George Johnson final.
Mark Pitt drove Wheres The Gold and Major Grace.
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The rise and rise of former Kiwi pacer Diego continued with another feature win in the $50,000 Group 3 Governors Cup (2130m) at Gloucester Park last Friday night.
The seven-year-old Bettors Delight gelding has won six of his past eight starts and is WA’s top seed going into the inaugural $1 million Nullarbor slot race at Gloucester Park on April 14.
Diego has been blessed with good draws of late and driver Maddison Brown made the most of gate three last Friday but blasting to the lead and winning as she liked by 3.5m over Sangue Reale and Minstrel in a cosy 1min56.2sec mile rate.
“He’s absolutely flying,” trainer Gary Hall Sr said. “He did that easily and keeps going from strength to strength.”
Diego is poised to run in Hall’s stable “slot” in the Nullarbor where the only confirmed interstate raiders so far are Spirit Of St Louis and Jason Grimson’s exciting former Kiwi pacer, Betterzippit.
Gifted pacer Magnificent Storm only finished seventh behind Diego, but really caught the eye late.
“It almost felt like a win,” trainer Ray Williams said. “He made up a stack of ground and had nowhere to go in the last 80m.
“He’ll back-up in the Bunbury Cup next Saturday and that me his last run before the Nullarbor.”
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The Jason Grimson juggernaut was on full display at Menangle on Saturday night.
Grimson snared a treble as well as a second placing in the free-for-all with Fire Fox, who chased home another former Kiwi pacer Stingray Tara for trainer Jack Trainor.
There was plenty of satisfaction for Grimson when he won the opening race with the injury-plagued but talented Abouttime.
The son of Art Major won 12 of 22 starts for Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin before injury and being sent to Grimson almost a year ago to try and resurrect him.
Grimson has long been in awe of Abouttime’s sheer speed and it was on full display when he led and blazed a scorching 1min49.3sec mile to win as he liked last night.
Abouttime is mainly owned by Danny Zavitsanos, who is also the key owner of four-year-old mare Jo And Jo, who won at just her third start for Grimson in the NSW Go Girlfriend final in a 1min51.7sec mile last night.
Grimson capped his big night when speedy mare Tay Tay brilliantly won the final event in a 1min50.3sec mile.
Stable driver Cam Hart drove all three winners.
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Jot down the name Timmy Rictor.
The Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin-trained son of Modern Art was breathtaking winning on debut in a heat of the Bathurst 2YO Gold Crown.
Despite being eased out at the start and sitting three-wide much of the 1730m trip, driver David Moran simply switched Timmy Rictor into another gear on the home bend.
He blazed away to win by 20.8m in a 1min54.9sec mile rate.
And it looked like he had plenty up his sleeve.
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Exciting Captaintreacherous filly Lux Aeterna looks the benchmark for Bathurst’s Gold Tiara final.
Not only did she clock the fastest heat win last Wednesday, but she looked to do it easily and won by 23.2 metres.
Lux Aeterna worked to the front from gate four with trainer Rickie Alchin aboard and blasted home in 56.3 and 27.8sec to win as she liked and make it three wins from as many starts.
Another eye-catcher in the heats was Alta Christiano debutante, who had a good sit behind the leader and won as she liked by 6.1m in a 1min56.3sec mile rate, just 0.2sec slower than Lux Aeterna.
Champion Victorian trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin won the last heat, albeit narrowly, when American Ideal filly Perpetuity sat parked and nabbed a nose win in a 1min58.1sec mile rate.
Alchin also has a strong hand in the Gold Crown for colts and geldings with the unbeaten Soho Spectre.
The son of Art Major made it three from three when he cruised to a 22.9m heat win in a 1min57sec mile rate for 1730m.
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High class former Kiwi trotter Mufasa Metro snared another feature win at Melton on Saturday night.
The fourth placegetter in last year’s Inter Dominion final whizzed to the front and cruised to a 13.1m win in the Scotch Notch Memorial for trainer-driver John Justice.
The five-year-old, who ran second in the Great Southern Star last month, has won 11 of his 38 starts with another 16 placings and is nearing $250,000 in earnings.
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A surprise stable addition has further bolstered the stocks of in-form trainer Andy Gath.
High profile Victorian owners Danny Zavitsanos and Dominic Martello opted to transfer exciting Vincent colt Hammer Dan to Gath after two promising runs for Nathan Jack.
Hammer Dan looked every bit a feature race player when he sat parked and toyed with his rivals in the Prydes Easifeed 2YO Pace (1720m) at Melton last night.
The colt cruised to an 11m win without being extended by Kate Gath.
“He’s only been in the stable a week-and-a-half and we weren’t going to run him this week, but there weren’t many nominations for the race so we threw him in late,” Andy Gath said.