By Duane Ranger
Jack Butler will lose Saturday night’s Albion Park Open Pace winner, Zahven Banner to New South Wales on Wednesday… but tucked away in his Logan Village barn there lies a more than worthy replacement.
Millionaire and multiple Group One winning pacer, Hectorjayjay will trial for Butler in three weeks to a month.
The 2017 Blacks A Fake champion, Len Smith Mile winner and Interdominion runner-up (both in 2016) hasn’t raced since winning the Popular Alm Sprint at Kilmore on June 30, 2018.
“We’ve had him for 12 months now and one of the owners I’ve trained for thought it might be worth trying to race him again. He’s in good nick, it’s just his legs. They are terrible. He’s very much a day-to-day proposition, but it’s good to have the old boy back in work.
“I don’t want to trial or race him when the tracks are too wet, but he’s coming along real nice. He just feels like a good horse. This will be his last hurrah,” Butler said.
“Ideally if we can keep him sound he will target our Winter Carnival,” he added.
The now 10-year-old brown Dream Away gelding raced 80 times for 43 wins and 21 placings. His stake earnings currently sit at $1.1 million.
Hectorjayjay’s quickest mile was 1:50.5 when winning the Group One Len Smith Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle on June 26, 2016.
Zahven Banner, who was having just his second Free-For-All start on Saturday, paced a 1:50.8 mile at Albion Park on October 25 last year.
On Saturday he and Trent Dawson drew three, and they led from go to woe. He paced the 1,660m mobile in 1:56.2.
It was Dawson’s first drive behind the short course specialist.
Zahven Banneros mile rate of 1:52.6 was meritorious considering the track had experienced infrequent downpours throughout the night. Sectionals: 27.6, 29.3, 28.1, and 27.8.
It was the 6-year-old Bettor’s Delight gelding’s 11th win in 33 starts. He’s also placed 13 times and banked $76,927 for his owners – P.M. & Z.D. O’Shea, and the Fleur De Lil Trust.
Six of those wins have come from 13 Albion Park starts.
“He will return to Luke McCarthy and Craig Cross at Cobbity on Wednesday, and will then line up in an M0 Pace at Menangle two Saturdays later.
“I’m not too sad about seeing him going because I knew the boys down south sent him up here to go through the grades, and he was always going home. It’s something that Luke, Craig and I have sorted out.
“He’s proved he can foot it with open company here. He’s stepped up since he got here and has developed into quite a classy pacer. In saying that though he’s still very green and has a wee way to go before he can foot it with Australasia’s big guns,” Butler said.
The astute trainer said Zahven Banner had come a long way fast, and at six still had his best ahead of him.
“He loves the mile and he is good out in front. It was a pleasure having him here,” Butler said.
Meanwhile, Australia’s leading trainer, Grant Dixon (122 winners), had three more victories on Saturday night – one at Albion Park and two at Tabcorp Park Menangle.
At 5.53pm Dixon trained the Robbie Morris driven Paternity Suit to win an Up to 70 graded Pace at Menangle, and then two races later (6.45pm) Luke McCarthy drove Aqua Miss to win the $14,000 RFS Menangle Ladyship Pace.
Dixon got his hatrick at 8.45pm thanks to his wife Trista, who got $29 outsider, Matron Jujon to win race eight in the last stride by half a head.