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Rocky star earmarked for trip south

By Tony McMahon

Rockhampton has unearthed another star juvenile in the form of Tuesday’s sensational Mackay winner Aspen Lad.

Trained at Callaghan Park racecourse by Darryl Johnston, the two-year-old belied his detractors who decreed he would not run out the 1200 metres distance by doing so with 3.8 lengths to spare.

Contesting the $31,000 QTIS 2YO Handicap and carrying 60kg, Aspen Lad jumped straight to the front for Tolga jockey Wanderson D’Avila from where he ran his rivals ragged.

Fellow Rockhampton rivals, Adrian Coome’s Starfilly (Brad Pengelly) and Zoe Hohn’s Dacxi Kaboom (Beau-Dene Appo) filled the minor placings.

In winning his third race from four starts, Aspen Lad – paying $1.40 - took his stake earnings for owners Diane Reck, trainer Johnston and Murray Fitzroy to over $60,000.

There was conjecture aplenty leading into the race as to whether Aspen Lad - a speedy winner over 1000 metres and 950 metres at Townsville and Cairns - would get the 1200 metres trip at Mackay.

Even Johnston admitted that there was a concern in his mind but he said his star would be given his chance.

His young star answered in the most emphatic way by winning so brilliantly albeit with contempt for his rivals.

“The distance was always a niggling worry but there was only one way to find out and that was to run him,” Johnston said.

 “He is pretty special that’s for sure.”

The Brazilian-born Wanderson D’Avila stood in for Aspen’s Lad regular jockey and leader of his fan squad Natalea Summers, and he made no bones about his thoughts as he dismounted in the winners’ stall.

“Take him straight down south as he is too good for these”, D’Avila said.

In hindsight the fact that Wanderson drove 722km from Tolga for the ride on Aspen Lad was a big tip in itself.

Johnston had planned to run Aspen Lad at Doomben last Saturday but when he drew widely, he wisely scratched and chose Mackay instead.

Now however, he intends to push the go-fast button and give Aspen Lad a chance in a QTIS 2YO Handicap over 1000 metres at the Sunshine Coast on Saturday week.

“He deserves his chance there but if for some reason we decide against that, there is a back-up plan to come back to Mackay for a QTIS race there again,” Johnston said.

“One thing is for certain, after that he heads off to the paddock for a rest.”

Aspen Lad came into this world as the result of one of his owners having a long time held share in the veteran Riverside Stud stallion Bagger Vance.

Bagger Vance, foaled in 2000, was a dual-winning Victorian juvenile winning son on Gilded Time and he has long produced precocious two-years-old winners in Central Queensland.

Two of his best offspring were from his first crop in the star Brisbane winner, the Vic Vagg-trained Rocky filly Aspiran who won a multitude of races in Rockhampton.

Another from his first season was the multiple winner and speedy juvenile Carry The Clubs.

By siring such a shining star like Aspen Lad as an 18-year-old stallion speaks volumes for Bagger Vance’s resilience and potency.

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