By Duane Ranger
Maitland reinsman, Brad Elder, should taste that winning feeling again, in what will be just his second visit to Albion Park on Saturday night.
The 20-year-old will drive the warmest favourite of the evening, the Cristina Monte trained Ashkii ($2.10) in race three. He also singled out the Darren Elder trained Shannonsablast in race 10 as another top drive. All-up he has seven horses to sit behind on Saturday.
“I’m driving three for my father, Darren and sister, Melanie (Elder), and have two each for Donny Smith and Cristina Monte. I’m delighted with seven in just my second visit to the track.
“I’ve got some nice drives. I can’t believe Shannonsablast opened at $11. If I was doing the odds he would be favourite.
The concession reinsman has two drives at Newcastle tonight (Friday), including one behind the Craig Ross trained $1.45 hot favourite - Bright Energy (10) in race eight.
He then gets on a plane to Brisbane where he will then look to increase his tally of about 260 career wins, starting with Melanie Elder trained, Liukin, in race one at 5.03pm.
Two races later he gets behind the Elsu gelding owned by his Uncle Michael Elder, Ashkii.
“My Uncle wanted a change of scenery for the horse and that worked a treat because he won there first-up last Friday. He went 1:53.8 that day, and he won pretty easily from a worse draw (5)
"I'm hoping he can repeat the dose from gate two this time," said Elder, who has achieved two Group Three victories behind Bright Energy, in four years of driving.
The former Maitland Grossmann High School student then went through his book of drives for Saturday.
Here are his comments (with trainer, draw, and opening odds):
Race 1: The Melanie Elder trained LIUKIN (1) $8.50: "He’s a really nice horse who went 1:54 when winning at Newcastle three starts back. He looks a good chance from his nice front-row draw.”
Race 2: The Donny Smith trained COURAGEOUS LEO (11) $5.50: "This is my first drive behind the horse, and even though he's drawn poorly the market said he can win. Donny will have him spot on for this, and if we are close enough on the turn he can win."
Race 3: The Cristina Monte trained ASHKII (2) $2.10 favourite: “He won real well on Friday and from the good draw I can see no reason why he can’t go on with it. I’ll be looking to hold the front and control the pace from there.”
Race 4: The Cristina Monte trained SALOON PASSAGE (9) $14: “I don’t know much about this horse, but it is an even field and if close enough he can return to form in this.”
Race 5: The Donny Smith trained MY ULTIMATE FELLA (8) $12: "He's drawn in behind the likely pace-maker and one of the favourites (Bondi Beach - $3.50). I'll be looking to follow that horse around and then hopefully slide up the passing lane. He's not the worst in this."
Race 6: The Melanie Elder trained DAYS END (5) $14: "He won well at Newcastle last week and if I can get a nice sit not too far off the pace this fella has a lethal final 200m sprint. Each-way."
Race 10: The Darren Elder trained SHANNONSABLAST (3) $11: “ I can’t believe the price this horse is paying. If I were doing the odds he would be favourite. He went under 1:50 a few starts back. I think he’s good enough to cross them in this small field and hold them out. He has good gate speed. If I can hold the top he’s one of our best winning chances.”