The Interdominion Series moves back to Victoria for the first time since 2008 and will also be held under the traditional format, albeit with minor tweaks with two rounds of heats being held away from Melton, with Round Two at Ballarat and Round Three at Cranbourne.
Night One saw heat victories go the way of Spankem, Galactic Star and Cruz Bromac, with Nat Rasmussen the star of the show, driving the winners of two of the three heats conducted with the wash-up from the meeting leading to multiple scratchings leading into the 2nd round.
Second Round heat winners at Ballarat were Wrappers Delight, Im Pats Delight and Cruz Bromac winning his 2nd heat of the Series. Night three shifted to Cranbourne where Spankem and Tiger Tara were successful. The 9th and final heat of the series was claimed by Cruz Bromac, becoming the only entrant to win all three heats contested.
The Trotters Series has seen two heats conducted in parallel with the pacers heats. Night One saw Speeding Spur and Tornado Valley claim maximum points. Night Two went to Tornado Valley and Kyvalle Blur. Heats five and six were a repeat of the opening with Speeding Spur landing victory and Tornado Valley proving he will be mighty tough to beat in the final by making a clean-sweep of the heats.
Finals for both the pacers and trotters on Saturday December 15 will be run over 2760m when the series returns to Melton for Grand Final Night.
Showed gate speed to lead in the first round of heats from barrier 4 and fought them all off to claim a 1m victory. His performances in each of the next 2 rounds were solid when starting from 2nd line gates in each, placing 3rd to Cruz Bromac over the Sprint trip and 2nd to Spankem at Cranbourne. He has the speed to dictate what happens early and after being partnered by Toddy McCarthy in the heats will be re-united with Ryan Warwick- his regular pilot in WA.
Why he can: Holds all the aces from the gate.
Why he can’t: The flipside of holding the aces- he might end up buried away.
Trainer/Driver Matt Craven has performed a stellar job to get this guy through to the Final, taking the short-cuts and the runs as they presented. Looking hopelessly locked away in the sprint round at Ballarat, Craven was able to thread a passage and was attacking the line strongly to finish 2nd to Im Pats Delight. Gate 2 might not be his best result, however if not shuffled too far back with the moves as they come, he should be in a handy position in the run.
Why he can: Tactical speed when saved for a closing sprint is a huge asset.
Why he can’t: Untried at the longer distance poses a query.
One of two 4YO pacers to qualify for the final, the Kiwi has shown great versatility in the three rounds of heats. In the first round Gavin Lang was off and around them early when the pace settled to face the breeze when fighting strongly for 2nd to Spankem. In the sprint round he was sent straight to the front and never headed and then he worked home from the running line in the final round. Trainer Cran Dalgety has been bullish all week talking about leading throughout in the Final.
Why he can: The versatility in running pattern combined with his gate speed.
Why he can’t: He has progressed through the Series in great order.
One of two horses for NSW trainer Craig Cross to make the final with premier reinsman Luke McCarthy opting to drive Mach Doro. His best result through the series came in round 1 when using the passing lane to zoom along the inside and finish 3rd to Galactic Star. Ending up three back along the markers in the sprint round, the 7YO was hitting the line strongly when he found open space.
Why he can: Excellent gate speed can see him find a forward position early.
Why he can’t: Might just lack the knockout blow if he uses too much petrol.
The other 4YO in the Final, Spankem has been able to secure victory in two of the three rounds. Strong from the 2nd line when sent around the field early to find the position outside the leader, he packed too many guns to score. Securing a cart into the contest in the Sprint round, he found the line in good order when 2.5m from the all-the-way winner Wrappers Delight. His final round win was the biggest winning margin of any of the nine heats and Mark Purdon will take the reins for the Final.
Why he can: Brings the All-Stars polish, the winners of the past two ID Crowns and has looked superb in all three rounds.
Why he can’t: Where he positions in the run from the middle of the line is a query.
What a story it would be if Maximan were able to claim the Final. Claimed less than six months ago, trainers Shane and Lauren Tritton have been able to transform the veteran 10YO into some career best form. His early gate speed is a big asset but from the wide gate he is likely to be snagged back early and driven for luck. With a 3rd and a pair of 4ths from the three heats, his effort to make the final has been superb.
Why he can: Fairy-tales can come true in racing.
Why he can’t: Might just lack the class against the ‘big-boys’.
Trainer Kevin Pizzuto would have a healthy arsenal of frequent flyer miles courtesy of where he has taken Tiger Tara in the past year. After a freakishly brave run in the NZ Cup, he was well below his best in the FFA three days later. That flop was a distant memory when lining up for the first round 15 days later when held-up momentarily in the run but still only 4m from the winner Spankem. Leading all the way in the final round over the longer trip, will the Tiger rise up to the challenge from gate 7?
Why he can: Shows tremendous heart and might just have the fight if it turns into a scrap.
Why he can’t: Gate 7 makes it tough, he has to go forward- at what expense?
The last horse to complete a clean-sweep of a traditional three heats plus final Inter Dominion Series was Im Themightyquinn. Since joining the All-Stars team, he has been at the top of his game and after claiming victory in all three heats, will aim to add the final to that tally. Nat Rasmussen has opted to take the drive on the 7YO after having the choice between Cruz and Spankem, and her record is a perfect 5 from 5 on the gelding. All three heat wins have been without being extended and he is fit and firing.
Why he can: Has been clinical in all 3 heat wins and the 2nd line might just be a blessing in disguise.
Why he can’t: The 2nd line draw certainly makes it a tougher ask with most of the main player off the front.
The short-priced favourite to claim heat three during the first round did not disappoint, rolling to the front and allowed to stroll through the opening 800m of the last mile before steadily increasing the tempo. Lighting the lamps up front, Cruz Bromac was then able to slip home in a slick 26.8 closing 400m stanza after being left alone in front. That gave Nat Rasmussen and the All Stars team wins in two of the three pacing heats, with the 7YO gelding again looking to pace much cleaner after being a horse that has always appeared slightly rough in his gait. With no favours from the second-line over the sprint course, he still looks well placed to go 2 from 2 in the heats.
His position in the final is well-earned with each of his three runs showing a mix of speed and stamina. Working wide off the track in the first two rounds both runs were full of merit when digging in for the fight and proving strong to the line. Locked away on the pegs in the final round, he was charging home along the inside and wen within 1m of landing an upset, forcing Tiger Tara to stretch out in the concluding stages.
Why he can: Has progressed through the series strongly and flown somewhat under the radar and should get a soft trip.
Why he can’t: This might be one season too early but he will certainly take great seasoning from the experience.
Prepared by an Inter Dominion winning trainer in David Aiken, the 5YO started favourite in the first round when finishing 10m from Spankem after not having the speed to find the pegs from gate 2. Making the most of gate 1 in the sprint round, driver Kima Frenning was able to dictate from the front and score maximum points and secure a spot in the final. Luckless in the final round, his chances have been dented by the 2n line gate.
Why he can: Was being talked-up pre-series as one of the main contenders. His performances have been good and he is still a hope.
Why he can’t: Has he proven himself to be one-dimensional and needs the front to be at his best?
Finding the front early before handing over to Cruz Bromac and chasing home to finish second in the first round of heats was the performance that has helped the 2nd of the Craig Cross prepared runners make it through to the final. Finishing 5m in arrears of the winner in that first round is as close as he has been across the three rounds. His chances were made no easier with the extreme gate. John Caldow picks up the drive and amazingly will drive in his first pacers final.
Why he can: will need plenty to go his way if he is to win, but his is there and you can’t win it from the stable at home.
Why he can’t: Looks to be out-classed here on the big stage with gate 13 making it even harder.