Only bad luck can cost talented pacer Buster Brady his third Victorian country cups win tonight.
Lethal combination: Kima Frenning, pictured right holding last year’s Shepparton Gold Cup, won the Group One $50 000 VL Dullard Trotters Cup steering Big Jack Hammer for Avenel trainer David Aiken at Melton last Saturday night.
That is what the betting agencies reckon about the Kima Frenning-trained and driven pacer’s chances in the Echuca Pacing Cup, which has had its prize money boosted to a record $35 000.
Under the conditions of the race, Buster Brady had to get the worst draw in the 2560 m Group Three event, but recent form suggests he will be hard to keep out, despite his challenging draw on the tight circuit.
He has won the Geelong and Cobram cups in recent months and his fifth placing in the AG Hunter Cup last Saturday night makes him the standout in the race.
Apart from Buster Brady, the other 10 runners in the field look an even lot.
In-form Franks Very Much has the hopes of a hometown win in the race after nearly two decades.
The last Echuca pacer to win the race was the John Ryan-trained and driven Jonells Son in 2000.
It was the second of Ryan’s runners to win the race with Media Man having scored in 1989.
One of the interesting runners and the only interstate raider in the race is the NSW pacer Gottashopearly, who won the Tamworth Pacing Cup two starts ago on January 24.
Former Victorian reinsman Leigh Sutton will partner Gottashopearly, who is prepared at Tamworth by Richard Williams and is a winner of 29 races from 64 starts.
The crowd favourite will be the hardy grey mare Hollys Miss Molly, a veteran of 293 starts with 35 wins and 75 placings. From barrier two, she should be in the race for a long way.
It is a huge night at Echuca tonight with the other feature on the card the $14 500 JA Connelly Crystal Bucket, in which the Gavin Lang-trained and driven Pantzup attempts to win his seventh race in succession.
The 10-event card starts at 6.24 pm.
Nice Carlo collect
Superstar NSW pacer Tiger Tara spreadeagled his rivals again in taking the AG Hunter Cup last Saturday night, but Shepparton-trained San Carlo got into some serious money with his third placing in the lucrative race.
Although beaten more than 27 m, the Steve O’Donoghue-trained and Bec Bartley-driven San Carlo picked up a cool $50 000 for his third placing, which took his earnings to more than $400 000.
Law unto himself
Can emerging trotter Enforce The Law again take no prisoners when his fairytale story continues at Melton tomorrow night?
Undera horseman Justin Torney will line up the trotter in an MT0-1 class trot when the son of Lawman will be aiming for his fifth consecutive win.
Not bad for a trotter vets declared would never race after two shocking suspensory ligament injuries.
Enforce The Law, who will be driven by leading driver Chris Alford, bumps into a couple of smart ones including the highly promising Anton Golino-trained Majestic Player, who has won four of his past five starts. But Enforce The Law is racing well enough to make his presence felt.
Another interesting clash at Melton tomorrow night involves two Shepparton-trained two-yearold pacers.
The exciting and unbeaten Laura Crossland-trained and driven The Tiger Army tackles a small field that includes the Steve Boyington-trained Frankie, who won on debut at Maryborough.
Double for Maggs
Euroa horseman Cameron Maggs proved a key player at Albury last Saturday night.
Maggs produced a driving double, winning successive races on the Peter Romero-trained pacers Saving Major Percy and It Is A Glacier, who were favourites.
Maggs bred another winner at the meeting, Ida Thought So, who is trained by Scott Gregory and was driven by Royce Gregory-Jack.
Maggs only just missed being involved with four winners on the night when the pacer he trains and drives, Salvator Mundi, had to be content with a second placing at long odds-on.
Wind in Willo
Dual state trainer Amanda Turnbull had one of her biggest wins with a trotter when Aldebaran Willo upset more fancied runners in the Group Three Central Victorian Trotters Championship at Maryborough last week.
The four-year-old son of Majestic Son, who was driven to victory by Gavin Lang, paid $27.40 for the win to eliminate most quaddie punters in the first leg.
Aldebaran Willo has always shown he has plenty of talent, but has been a bit wayward in his previous six starts, although he had won two of them on raw ability alone.
There was some smart trotters in the field, including two of last season’s three-year-old stars, Kyalley Finn and Stress Factor, who filled the minor placings, so it was a significant success that augurs well for the future for Aldebaran Willo.
The Central Victorian Pacing Championship run at the same meeting also produced an upset result, with the Jess Tubbs-trained Little Peanut winning at tote odds of 18-1 and deflating some reputations in the process.
The Russell Jack-trained Three Summas put in a solid run to finish fourth, only four metres from the winner, when chasing his sixth win in succession.
Jack hammers them
Amanda Turnbull was not the only female to savour a big race win with a trotter last week.
Kima Frenning enjoyed her biggest win on a trotter when she steered the David Aiken-trained Big Jack Hammer to victory in the Group One $50 000 VL Dullard Trotters Cup at the Hunter Cup meeting at Melton last Saturday night.
Frenning parked Big Jack Hammer on the back of the pacemaker and favourite Save Our Pennys and got an inside run near the finishing line to get her second Group One win.
Big Jack Hammer, a six-year-old son of the Andover Hall stallion The Pres, has been a consistent performer since joining the Aiken barn.
In 10 runs for Aiken, he has chalked up two wins and three placings.
Rallied in Time
There was no more deserving winner at Shepparton last week than trotter Majestic Time.
The Faye McEwan-trained fouryear-old gelding went into the race boasting eight minor placings, including five consecutive seconds, from his past 10 starts.
And halfway down the straight it looked like another second placing as Majestic Time, driven by Josh Duggan, looked to be struggling to pick up the $1.30 favourite, Regal Assassin.
But near the finishing line Majestic Time rallied to nab the favourite and get the chocolates.
Yet another woman’s touch with a trotter was also to the fore at Shepparton last week.
Avenel horsewoman Juanita Breen produced Golden Spurs for an impressive first-up win in her return to the racetrack.
A daughter of Pegasus Spur, Golden Spurs had two wins from 15 starts going into the race — her first start since June last year — where she led throughout to hold off a challenge from the talented Graham Lyon-trained mare Getthenet in a two-horse battle to the finishing post.
Finally off duck
Gillieston trainer Wayne Hayes was one of several district trainers in the winners’ circle at Shepparton last week.
Hayes produced Cassiopeia to claim the honours in a C0 only class race.
It was a sweet win as it was her first in 24 tries.
It was also a tough win as she sat parked wide for the 1690 m trip.
Three top-four finishes in her four starts leading into the Shepparton engagement was enough to suggest she was ready to score her maiden win and, as a $4.90 chance on the tote, she was fairly popular with punters.
Triple treat for duo
The David Aiken-Kima Frenning combination rarely misses out when it attends a Shepparton meeting and last week was no exception.
Frenning reined the Aikentrained trio Mach Diva, Shelby Bromac and She Envy to successive wins.
Mach Diva returned to something like her best form to take the honours in a C1 only class race at nice odds of $10.
Shelby Bromac, a $1.40 chance and expected to win, did it in style with more than 13 m to spare over the runner-up in the C2 only class event.
The confidently supported She Envy then completed the hat-trick for the Aiken-Frenning juggernaut with a tough win in a C3-C4 class event.
Alderbeck real deal
Former Kiwi Alderbeck is a serious trotter and if you did not know that and you were at Shepparton last week, you would now be well aware of it.
Another of the Pegasus Spur progeny, the six-year-old mare took on the C0 class pacers and although she got no favours, was still too good.
Alderbeck unsuccessfully contested the Inter Dominion series in November-December when prepared by Phil Williamson, but was left to continue her Australian campaign under the training of Brent Lilley, who has got the mare racing in great heart.
At her previous start and in her second start for Lilley, she won at Melton then followed up that win with a runaway win in a hot field in the Hamilton Trotters Cup.
Her Shepparton win completed the hat-trick under Lilley’s guidance.
The mare boasts a career record of 13 wins and 17 minor placings from 48 starts, which have produced stake money earnings of more than $122 000.
It is cup time in Echuca tonight with the Group Three $35 000 Echuca Pacing Cup the feature event.