By Adam Hamilton
YOU hope to leave a night like Breeders Crown having seen some potential superstars and that was certainly the case on Saturday night at Melton.
The series was built to showcase the emerging young stars of the sport and, despite being COVID compromised like so many of our feature events this year, the Crown still delivered in spades.
Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin had 20 runners across the 10-race card, won four of the finals and produced the two brightest stars in juvenile winners Ladies In Red and Major Moth.
You could argue their four-year-old Hurricane Harley, who downed Lochinvar Art in track record-equalling time, and their unbeaten three-year-old trotter Cover Of Darkness rounded-out the top four performances of the night.
But it was the filly Ladies In Red, a Mach Three half-sister to Our Little General, who left everyone in awe after doing all the work and stretching her unbeaten record to seven wins in the $300,000 2YO fillies’ final.
Ladies In Red’s clash with star stablemate Tough Tilly, who looked a certain leader, was billed as THE showdown of the night and it delivered in spades.
As hard as Tough Tilly tried in front, Ladies In Red had all the answers and overpowered her late to win by 2.4m in a brilliant 1min54.5sec mile rate for 2240m.
“She’s some sort of filly,” driver David Moran said. “When I got outside the leader I wanted to eye-ball her and I was able to do it on my terms. It took some work to get past the leader, but my filly was still strong on the line. I think she’d have found more again if something had come at her.”
Ladies In Red’s lethal combination of speed and strength have stamped her as one of the best juvenile fillies we’ve seen in Australia for many years.
She capped a big night for Bill and Anne Anderson’s Lauriston Bloodstock, who also raced Hurricane Harley.
As powerful as Ladies In Red was, stablemate Major Moth turned heads more for his sheer brilliance in arrogantly winning the $300,000 2YO colts and geldings finals for Stewart and Tonkin with Damian Wilson aboard.
Major Moth had the run behind the leader, main danger and stablemate Act Now, but it was the ease with which he roared past the leader in a 26.5sec last quarter (Major Moth ran his in 26.2sec) which astounded onlookers.
It marked a career high for Wilson, who has been in-and-out of the game and only had the drive on Major Moth through the 20 years of support and loyalty owner-breeder Len Parker has shown him.
“All thanks to Len. We’ve had some good moments together with some nice horses, but this tops them all,” he said.
Wilson’s previous biggest win was the 2009 Kilmore Cup on Ohoka Nevada.
Cover Of Darkness led throughout to take his unbeaten record to six wins for Stewart/Tonkin and driver Jodi Quinlan in the $80,000 Group 1 3YO trotting colts and geldings finals.
Despite his relative inexperience and scaring Quinlan pre-race by bucking and kicking in the warm-up, Cover Of Darkness led from gate two and never really looked in danger on his way to a two metres win in a 1min57sec mile rate for 2240m.
“He’s sort of come from nowhere a bit to win this and when you considered he’s nowhere near as seasoned as most of these horses, he should just keep getting better as well,” Quinlan said.
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NSW trainer Paul Fitzpatrick added some interstate flavour to the Crown when his talented former Kiwi colt Zeuss Bromac led throughout to win the $200,000 3YO colts and geldings final.
The son of Bettors Delight had to burn to hold the lead early then overraced throughout the middle stages for driver Kerryn Manning, but still ripped home in 54.7 and 27.2sec to win by five metres over Jilliby Nitro.
Zeuss Bromac was Manning’s third Crown final win, following three-year-old trotter Djerriwarrh (2000) and three-year-old pacer Emmas Only (2004).
“He got a bit keen after the early burn and I tried to bring him back to me without cutting off his wind. It was really only at the bell he settled better so he did a good job. He battled on really well,” Manning said.
COVID meant Fitzpatrick couldn’t campaign the horse in the Victoria, so his good friends Noel and Ruth Shinn were caretaker trainers for the stint.
It was a similar story, but more official with Watts Up Majestic’s win in the $100,000 2YO trotting colts and geldings finals.
Rickie Alchin of Tough Monarch fame wouldn’t been in Victoria were it not for COVID, but sent the youngster to Chris Svanosio to train and drive for the Crown series.
Svanosio drove Watts Up Majestic superbly and pounced late for a runaway win.
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IT wouldn’t be a Breeders Crown trotting series without the powerhouse Yabby Dams team snaring a big one.
This time it was lightly-raced Quaker Jet filly Im Ready Jet who went back-to-back, adding the three-year-old fillies’ title to the two-year-old crown she won last year.
It came thanks to an inspired Jason Lee drive, seizing the gaps and opportunities while others galloped and weaving through from an inside back row draw to take the lead.
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NOT even all the experience and genius of Chris Alford would lift gifted but wayward three-year-old filly Sweet Louise to a fairytale win in her $200,000 Crown final.
She’s just one of three horses trained by hobbyist Phil Chircop and raced by John Dorrington, who has owned horses for decades without winning a Group race.
Sweet Louise worked to lead from the pole but raced greenly and switched on-and-off at times, eventually being out-dashed along the sprint lane by Greg Sugars aboard The Panthiest, who won by 1.7m in a 1min54.7sec mile rate for 2240m.
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THE night finished on a high for the Caldow family with wins in the last two races courtesy of Sangreal and No Win No Feed.
Sangreal, raced, trained and bred by the Caldows, caused a huge upset when pick-up driver Daryl Douglas weaved through the field late in an incident-packed race to win by a neck as a $50.60 outsider.
The race was over at the start for star Kiwi raider Mexicana when she galloped away from the pole and lost all hope.
John Caldow then made the most of a pick-up drive on NSW raider No Win No Feed for Craig Cross when he blasted to the front and gave nothing else a chance in the $60,000 Group 2 Crown 4YO Mares’ final.
Glamour former Kiwi mare Our Princess Tiffany moved around to sit parked, but never really looked a hope and just battled into third spot.