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Century Sunday - Group 2 Saturday?

by Duane Ranger

Gun cricketer and ace driver, Matt Elkins, knows all about raising the bat for a century.

He’s achieved that feat more than half a dozen times in his brief cricketing career, but at Redcliffe Paceway last Sunday night (August 11), the gifted 22-year-old reinsman notched up a century of another kind: a hundred winning drives in a season – for the first time.

Not only did he win his 100th race behind the Donny Smith trained Our Uncle Alan in race two, but he also drove half the card winning four of the eight races.

“I’m rapt and very proud of the 100 because it was something I targeted at the start of the season. Last year I got to 90. I’ve been driving for six seasons and this is the first time I’ve got to the ton.

“I’ve known for a while I’ve been getting close. I suppose having played a lot of cricket I am a stats, numbers man. Hopefully this will be the first of many centuries to come. I love driving and get a big thrill out of winning – no matter how big or small the stake is,” Elkins said.

“This is obviously my best season yet. The target is now to do even better next season,” he added.

Elkins, who played First Grade cricket in Brisbane at the age of 17, and was captain of the Queensland Under 16 side, still believes he made the right career decision, despite his scary-good cricket talents.

“Achieving milestones likes this validates my decision to go with harness racing. It pays the bills and I’m driving okay. I’ll always remember the night I got my first harness century at Redcliffe.”

Elkins is now nearing the 340 victorious career drives mark. His 101st triumph in 2018-2019 came thanks to the Donny Smith trained Indys Approval in race three.

He then drove the Ron Sallis trained Valiant Gem to win the fourth race, and victory 103 was in the last of the eight races when Elkins steered the Jarrod Alchin trained My Ultimate Star to a 4.2m win.

Elkins has had another winner since then. Uncle Alan won again, this time in race six at Redcliffe yesterday (Thursday).

Elkins is one of eight Queensland drivers to salute the judge 100 times or more this season. As at 11am today (Thursday) they were:

(1) Grant Dixon 227 wins ($1.8m), (2) Peter McMullen 175 ($1.1m), (3) Nathan Dawson 135 ($859,588), (4) Narissa McMullen 126 ($798,784), (5) Adam Richardson 110 ($604,637), (6) Kylie Rasmussen 106 ($890,135), (7) Brendan Barnes 104 ($727, 671), (8) Matt Elkins 104 ($619,449). Completing the Top 10: (9) Hayden Barnes 84 ($573,584), (10) Adam Sanderson 83 ($748,648).

And Elkins’ week of milestones may not stop at 104.

The former Rosewood State High School will be looking to win his first Group Two race when he gets in behind My Ultimate Star again at Albion Park tomorrow night (Saturday).

My Ultimate Star, who has drawn nicely at four in the Group Two $50,000 Australian Pacing Gold Championship. The Bettor’s Delight gelding is the $2.60 second favourite in the 1,660m mobile for 2-year-old pacers.

The Chantal Turpin trained and Peter McMullen driven A Rainbow Delight (3) is the $2.40 favourite.

My Ultimate Star is one of three drives for Elkins on Saturday. Two of them are paying $3 or less.

Here’s what the gifted horseman had to say about the trio (with trainer, draw, and opening odds):

Race 5: The Trevor Lambourn trained THE SHADY ONE (5) $11 - "He’s flying lately and to be fair he’s been luckless despite his form being real good. He’s drawn tricky out in middle and I’ll just have to play by ear at the start and see where we end up. If he gets some luck he can go close. He’s racing well he’s certainly up to this handy field.

Race 7: The Jarrod Alchin trained MY ULTIMATE STAR (4) $2.60 - "He’s an ultra-consistent Bettor's Delight gelding. I drove him for the first time last week and he felt real nice. He should be improved by run drawn, and from gate four I can see why he is the second favourite. He’s a little fella who tries his heart out. There’s plenty of ‘go’ about him. His heart should take him a long way here. Each-way chance.”

Race 8: The Greg Elkins trained BEE GEES BANDIT (1) $3 favourite - "He finally gets a good draw and is my best winning chance of the three. He’s done a lot of work, or been parked in his last four runs, and tonight he finally gets the draw he wants after copping six last week. I’ll be looking for the front and can lead all the way with him. I know the horse quite well. Each-way.”