by Duane Ranger
Tamborine trainer, Richard Hutchinson, almost pulled the plug on Caesars Astrum 183-race career after her 16th career win at Albion Park on Saturday night.
Then he looked at her race stats.
“I wanted to win a ‘quali’ with her and as soon as she did that, I thought that would be the time to call it a day with her. She’s been up a very long time and I thought now might be the time to retire her. She deserves it because she never stops trying.
“Then when I got home from the races, I saw that she had won $99,235 in stakes. She’s a ‘Band’ horse now and I think she has met her mark, but she’s only $765 short of the $100,000 mark, so I think I might race her again to see if we can get her past six figures in earnings,” said Hutchinson, who also owns Caesars Astrum.
The punters never gave the 8-year-old Julius Caesar mare a chance in Saturday’s $13,000 Changeover@Burwood Stud Mares Qualifying Pace.
She was the $10 fifth favourite, which surprised Hutchinson.
“She’s a lovely strong mare, but just lacks a metre of pace. She’s a much better horse over the longer distances. She’s paced a 1:56.1 mile rate over 2,138 metres previously and bettered that on Saturday,” Hutchinson said.
Caesars Astrum and Chris Geary led early from gate two and gave nothing else a chance, pacing the 2,138m mobile in 2:34.2 with a 1:56 even mile rate. Her sectionals were 31.2, 28.8, 27.9, and 28.9.
“She got some cheap fractions early and managed to sprint a fast last half. That made it hard for anything back in the field to get into the race,” said Geary.
“It doesn’t look like she’s travelling overly strong, but she keeps on finding. She’s a lovely little mare.”
Hutchinson said she always tried her heart out.
“She’s been honest since the day I got her from Steve Funnell in Victoria in May 2018. I’m not sure what I will do with her when she does retire.
“I’ve got 30 mares I can breed from back home and some of them are from nice families. Whether I breed from this one remains to be seen,” Hutchinson said.
The feature race of the evening - the Listed $25,000 Forever Gold Mares Pace, was won by dual acceptor, the Ian Gurney trained Just Deal It.
Just Deal It, had been scratched as one of the favourites in Race four, and then a race later upset them from gate one at odds of $26.
“That was a step up in class and she travelled well in the trail throughout. She paced fluently from start to finish,” said driver, Kelli Dawson.
Gurney had earlier rated the 6-year-old American Ideal mare, a good chance of upsetting them despite being accepted for the more difficult race.
“We were always going to start her in the Listed race had there been a scratching, and thankfully there was. She’s a half-sister to Mach Alert and he’s the best in my barn.
“She’s still a big baby and has got a lot to learn, but she’s only had 20 starts and is still getting her head around the game. She’s a nice little horse who can continue to feature in the mare’s races with more experience,” Chambers Flat-based Gurney said.
Meanwhile, Menangle Park husband and wife, Robbie and KerryAnn Morris drove and trained their third Christmas Cup winner in four years following Race 6 at ‘The Creek’.
Eight-year-old Badlands Hanover gelding, Bad Billy, who was having just his second start on the track, came from back in the field to win the JLL $21,000 Christmas Cup.
“He’s a quality little pacer, who had to do some work to catch them up. He finished off the race well. That augurs well for next time,” Morris said.
The Morris’s also won the 2016 and 2017 Christmas Cups with Iam Mr Brightside and Aztec Bromac respectively. The Grant Dixon trained and driven Colt Thirty One won the race last year.
Next Saturday night the Albion Park Harness Racing Club will host the Group One $50,000 Darrell Alexander Memorial Trotting Final.
Three heats were staged on December 7 and another three on Saturday. The seven heat winners so far have been the Denis Smith trained Northern Muscle (Adam Richardson), the Stephen Cini trained Quietly Spoken (Nathan Dawson), and the dead-heaters – the Chantal McMullen trained Majestic Simon (Peter McMullan), and the Grant Dixon trained Our Overanova (Adam Sanderson).
Last week’s heat winners were the Wayne Graham trained Empire Bay (Peter McMullen), the Hayden Barnes trained and driven Gee Up Neddy, and the Grant Dixon trained Reign On Me (Paul Diebert).
And speaking of Dixon. The Tamborine horseman trained and drove Colt Thirty One into fourth in the Interdominion Consolation Final at Alexandra Park in Auckland on Saturday night.
The 5-year-old Mach Three entire had earlier had no luck in the three heats finishing ninth, 13th and third.
Queensland’s Matt Elkins was also in New Zealand representing the Sunshine State at the Australasian Junior Drivers Championship.
The 23-year-old finished fifth of 10 in the 10-race Series which finished at Alexandra Park on Friday night – the night before the Interdominion Grand Final.
The Championship was won by Kiwi, Sarah O’Reilly, who had a 12-point buffer over Cam Hart from New South Wales.
The final points were: Sarah O’Reilly (NZ) 101, Cam Hart (NSW) 89, Sheree Tomlinson (NZ) 68, Corey Peterson (WA) 65, Matt Elkins (QLD) 64, John Morrison (SI, NZ) 60, Benjamin Butcher (NI, NZ) 57, Brodie Webster (SA) 49 Zac Phillips (VIC) 46, and Conor Crook (TAS) 42.