By Duane Ranger
Colt Thirty One’s five points for finishing ninth in the first Inter Dominion heat in Auckland, situates him in 18th place (of 25) and fighting for a finals berth in tomorrow’s (Tuesday) second round of heats.
But Grant Dixon, who is experiencing one of the best weeks of his life, wasn’t too perturbed by the run, saying there’s still plenty of time to qualify for the Final.
He would also be encouraged by Colt Thirty One’s outstanding race sectionals.
“The main aim at this point is to now make the final. A lot of people have told me it was a top run and he did feel great. He certainly wound up late real good, but I would have rather finished say sixth or seventh - than ninth. A few more points would have been better,” trainer/driver Dixon said.
Colt Thirty One’s performance in that 2,200m was nothing short of phenomenal - considering it was run in New Zealand record time.
Heat One winner, Ultimate Sniper not only beat his stablemate, Chase Auckland, by half a neck, but smashed the national 2200m mobile record by 0.7 of a second.
Dixon drew the outside of the front row and had no option but to go back and sit, rather than eye-ball the powerful Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen powerhouse in the face.
According to Sectional Timing at Alexandra Park Colt Thirty One’s last quarter (400m) was 27.2. The winner’s time was 27.5. His last half of 55.1 was half a second quicker than the winning race result.
Ultimate Sniper stopped the clock in 2:35.4 with a 1:53.6 mile rate.
But Dixon is also aware that this week’s sprint from gate five is 500m shorter (1700m mobile) than last week’s record breaker. Colt Thirty One also has Chase Auckland and Heat Two winner, A G’s White Socks, drawn inside him (at 5.20pm Queensland time).
“I’ll certainly have to push a bit more forward with him this week. He’s adjusted in well to his surroundings (Ardmore), and seemed to go good on the track,” said Dixon, who trains his team both left-and-right-handed at Tamborine.
Dixon said he would stay in Auckland for the third round of heats three days later (Friday), and would then return to Albion Park on Saturday. The $500,000 Inter Dominion Grand Final will be staged the following week on Saturday December 14.
Spare a thought for globe-trotting Dixon. The 47-year-old has had to come-and-go – all while experiencing one of the greatest moments in his life last Wednesday (November 25).
That’s the day his wife, Trista, gave birth to Cooper William Dixon. He is the couple’s third son. Big brothers Thomas (7) and Jai (5) are pictured below with their new brother.
“Trista’s well and the baby is healthy. That’s the main thing. We are all very happy and very proud. But that’s it though! No more,” Dixon joked.
Meanwhile, Dixon set the pace in Empire Bay’s track record in the feature trot at Albion Park on Saturday night – the $13,000 Ultimate Tool November Trotters Cup.
The Wayne Graham trained and Peter McMullen driven squaregaiter served it up to pacemaker - Our Overanova and Dixon at the 400m, and then both cleared out at the top of the straight for a two-way dual.
After sitting back and being patient early in the race, Empire Bay, proved too strong in the straight winning easily by 7.4 metres.
The 6-year-old son of The Pres trotted the 2,680m mobile 3:20.8. His mile rate was 2:00.6 and his sectionals were: 29.9, 31.6, 30.1, and 28.6.
The previous tracked record holder, Quietly Spoken, trotted 3:20.9 on April 27 this year.
Empire Bay has now won 20 of his 75 starts, placed in 19 others, and banked $187,628 in stakes for his owner and breeder - New South Wales businessman, Michael Taylor.
McMullen paid a tribute to Graham’s training, especially heading into the Albion Park Harness Racing Club’s annual Summer Carnival over the next three Saturday nights.
“He really rounded his old mate up well and was strong at the line. I’ve been in many races with Our Overanova and it’s been a different result. They are great ole rivals.
“But can Wayne get the horse any better after running a track record time? He was superb tonight,” McMullen said immediately after the feature trot.
Birnam-based Graham also trained the Paul Diebert driven, Justalittle Torque, to win Race Two. That was also a good training effort considering Justalittle Torque was the only mare in a 2,38m mobile against nine geldings.
Another highlight at ‘The Creek’ on Saturday was Jack Butler’s three training successes. The master Logan Village horseman got his hatrick with Seeuinnashville and Chris Geary in Race One; and then Brendan Barnes brought home Sabrage (Race 3), and the above average Zahven Banner in the last event (Race 8).
Pacing highlights included the Donny Smith trained Free-For-All-destined, Always In Command (Nathan Dawson), notching up his seventh win in a row in the fifth event; and the Ian Gurney trained and Kelli Dawson driven Mach Alert downing the big guns in the Feature Pace – the $14,000 remembering Pocket Battleship Open Pace (R7).
It was the Mach Three gelding’s 36th career win, and he’s now amassed $630,055 in purses – not bad for a 12-year-old trotter having his 128th race start.
“He doesn’t know how old he is. He showed a lot of sprint getting past a good younger horse like Sams The Master. Ian has done a brilliant job with the old boy,” Dawson said.