By Duane Ranger
Valentine’s Day 2004 was the last time Wellington Point horseman, John Stariha, trained a Saturday night winner at Albion Park.
Stariha was a spritely 63-year-old when his Fake Left mare, Commitment, won the February 14 Diana Cameron Academy Pace.
Today he’s 79, and on Saturday night at Albion Park, Stariha will train and drive his Mach Three mare, Kotare Elite, in race three.
The five-year-old, who is one of three in work for Stariha, has drawn two and opened up a $4.50 second favourite behind the Tony Turpin trained Our Delight (7), who is quoted at $3.50.
“I think the horse on our back, Jovial Julie (priced at $5.50), is the horse to beat,” Stariha said.
“She will be driven by her trainer, Grant Dixon, and they don’t come much better than him.
“I think my girl can win and if she can cross Chromozone and Trent Moffat then I think the race is ours.
“She can also win from the trail and the death seat.”
Kotare Elite has only been in Stariha’s stable since the start of the year since making the move over from New Zealand, where she won her last race at Dunedin’s Forbury Park on December 18 over 2200 metres.
The bay has raced 50 times for six wins, nine placings and netted $48,564 in prize money since making her debut at Addington Raceway on April 15, 2017.
“I’ve lined her up three times since she made her debut at Albion Park in mid-February, and she seems to be getting better with each run,” Stariha said.
“She only finished sixth two starts back, but that was a big performance.”
Kotare Elite was an eye-catching last start third behind Miss Moneybags and Our Delight in the Changeover At Burwood Stud Mares Qualifying Pace.
“She also drew two that night and Isobel (Ross) drove her - I like to use Isobel, because she has always done a good job for me,” Stariha said.
“The mare trailed and then ended up three-deep when Miss Moneybags went around.
“My girl has trained on well since and I think she can win from the kind draw.
“It’s been a long time between drinks, I’m due a Saturday night city winner.”
Stariha, a retired small crop farmer, has been involved in harness racing since 1956, and rates the 1980 Black Tie gelding, Scientific (21 wins) as one of the best standardbreds that he had trained and driven.
“I’ve won a lot of races at Redcliffe over the years and also at Albion Park, but it would be great to get back on the winner’s list at ‘headquarters’, after all this time,” Stariha said.
The TAB says the race favourite in Our Delight with Peter McMullen at the helm can come from the outside of the front-line and win, after starting from seven last Saturday and got within 3.6m of the favourite, Miss Moneybags.
That pacer aside, McMullen looks set for a good night; he sits second on the Queensland Driving Premiership with 115 wins – 14 less than pacemaker, Nathan Dawson, and 14 more than his sister, Narissa.
The 28-year-old’s best chances of saluting the judge should come the first race behind the Peter Greig trained Corey William (3) $3.80; race two behind the Chantal Turpin trained Some Excusesomewhere (1) $2.40; and race eight behind the Chantal Turpin trained Innocent Cricket (5) $3.20.