Picture: Geoff Durn
Skewbald horse Holstein claimed victory at Shepparton on Monday.
To say Holstein is a colourful pacer would be an understatement.
In fact it was his colour and not his ability that had the unsuspecting curious when he looped the field to win at Monday’s Shepparton trots meeting.
Holstein is a skewbald — a horse who has his coat made up of white patches on a non-black base coat.
Skewbalds are rare these days in harness racing.
In fact almost extinct. Trained by Shepparton’s Steve O’Donoghue and Bec Bartley and driven by Abbey Turnbull, Holstein was making his debut at Shepparton.
But punters were well aware there was a bit more to this pacer than his unusual pretty boy looks and he was sent out a $3.40 second favourite.
And he got no favours, settling at or near the rear of the field for the first half of the race and then proving up to the challenge of racing wide over the final circuit and still proving too good for his rivals.
Holstein’s winning mile rate of 2:01.1 for the 2190 m trip wasn’t mind boggling, but considering it was his first start and where he had come from to win was certainly a noteworthy performance.
O’Donoghue said Holstein had been a work in progress and he had expressed doubts, particularly early, about his future as a racing proposition.
But Holstein happens to be owned by his wife Anne and a neighbour Leanne Hulm, who had a lot more faith and expectations in Holstein than he did.
‘‘He gets his colour from his dam’s side. He is no champion and I thought he may be able to win a race to two, but after his win it could be now three or four,’’ O’Donoghue said.
The O’Donoghue-Bartley team struck again at Tuesday’s Shepparton meeting with the well bred Galactic Girl.
Bartley worked Galactic Girl three deep over the first circuit to take up the front running a lap out and held all rivals at bay in the run to the judge.
By Always A Virgin, Galactic Girl is out of the former extra smart mare The Milky Way (by French Chef) who won 10 of her 23 starts.
The Milky Way has also done well in the breeding barn, producing eight winners, including Teo Enteo, a winner of 33 races and more than $440 000 in prizemoney and Shady Secret who won 22 races and more than $150 000
Avenel reinsman Josh Aiken almost owned the Shepparton meeting on Monday afternoon in the first taste of regional racing for district trots fans.
Aiken drove four winners, all favourites, and a second and third placegetter on the eight-race card.
Two of the winners — Major Delico and Leonidis — were for his trainer father David, while the other two — Cloudlet and Major Vinnie — are prepared by David Moran and Amanda Turnbull respectively.
Three-year-old filly Cloudlet kicked off Aiken’s quartet, continuing her consistent form to account for the Mark Watson-trained and Doc Wilson-driven Esternia and the Simon Turnbull-trained and driven High Flux.
By top sire Art Major, Cloudlet has not finished further back than fourth in seven starts that have produced two wins.
Her 1:57.7 mile rate for the 1690 m trip was a PB.
The Turnbull-trained Major Vinnie made it two wins from two starts in claiming a 52-55 class race in impressive style.
A five-year-old by Art Major, Major Vinnie was returning to racing with his only other start in late November 2018 when he won at Ballarat when driven by his trainer.
Major Vinnie’s mile rate of 1:56.7 was the quickest of the meeting.
Aiken’s next two winners were for his father David.
Major Delico made it three wins in his past five starts and his fifth win when he saluted in a photo finish with the Mark Thompson-trained Ajay Breezy Rose in a 56-69 class event over the 2190 m trip.
A son of Art Major, Major Delico has now won five races with 11 placings in 23 starts.
The fourth winner for Aiken was former NSW-trained pacer Leonidis who was on debut for David Aiken.
A four-year-old Mach Three gelding Leonidis was a winner of 15 races and more than $117 000 in prizemoney from 34 starts in NSW when prepared by Blake Fitzpatrick.
He snuck in by a head from the inform Isabel Walsh-trained Shoshone Brave with another of the Aiken runners Blingittothemax filling the minor placing.
Maggs makes magic
While Josh Aiken was the star of the Monday meeting at Shepparton, Cameron Maggs stole the spotlight at the Tuesday morning meeting.
The talented Euroa horseman landed a driving treble plus two seconds to go with his winner (Gunning) from the Monday meeting.
Two of his Tuesday winners, Renway Reactor and Miss Fandango, were for Chiltern trainer Peter Romero.
He completed the hat-trick on Weeks End for Rochester trainer Mark Thompson.
Maggs dictated the terms on all three winners, taking them to the front early.
Grey mare Weeks End is proving a great money spinner for her connections and it was her 14th victory with 21 placings from 51 starts that have netted more than $84 000 in prizemoney.
Great training feat
Nanneella trainer Col Godden rocked punters on Tuesday at Shepparton when he produced well-travelled 10-year-old pacing mare Cheval Charette for an upset win.
And to make the win and Godden’s training feat more remarkable it was only Cheval Charette’s fourth start — all in March and April of this year — after nearly four years in the spelling paddock.
Driven by Damian Wilson Cheval Charette, who had 14 previous wins to her credit, paid a handsome $43.90 for the win.
Five of these wins were achieved in seven starts at King Island in Bass Strait in 2013.
Cheval Charette, who started her career in Victoria under Peter Salathial, went amiss when racing in Queensland in 2016 and didn’t resume racing until March 3 this year when she stepped out for the first time for Godden at Echuca.
She was unplaced then and also in two further starts at Cobram and Shepparton.
But she stormed from three back on the outside four wide straightening up to prevail over the Peter Romero-trained and Cameron Maggs-driven Imapest and the Wayne Potter-prepared and Ryan Sanderon-driven Our American Princess in a busy finish.
Godden said a good client in Leonie Carr of Swan Hill had talked him into giving the veteran mare another chance on the racetrack and she had improved as her training progressed and in her three previous starts in her unlikely comeback.
‘‘In her previous start she ran home in 56 something, so she was getting better with each start,’’ Godden said.
It’s raining winners
While Josh and David Aiken had a big day out on Monday at Shepparton, local horseman David Moran also enjoyed his day although not at the meeting.
He produced Bathurst Gold Crown runner-up from the previous week Lochinvar Chief for his first home state win and also won with Cloudlet.
Lochinvar Chief, a son of boom sire Captaintreacherous driven by Doc Wilson, didn’t get it all his own way racing without cover for most of the trip.
He had to withstand a determined challenge from the Aiken runner Electric Eye with the Steve Boyington-trained and driven Lester also showing ability with his third place finish.
Moran completed the training double with the Josh Aiken-driven Cloudlet.
Due to the new state border crossing rules at present Moran was unable to drive at the meeting as he is still in self isolation for driving at Bathurst on Gold Crown final night two weeks ago.
Gunning goes good
Russell Jack was another Shepparton trainer to enjoy wins on Monday.
Jack is Victorian stable foreman for trainer Amanda Turnbull who produced Major Vinnie for a win and prepares Gunning who claimed the 56-120 class trot at the meeting.
A five-year-old son of top sire Majestic Son Gunning, driven by Cameron Maggs, was able to hold out the two Group One winners, the Neville Pangrazio-trained and driven classic winner Moonshine Linda and the David Aiken-trained Big Jack Hammer in a tough effort.
The other race for trotters at the meeting was won by the Clive Dalton-prepared Allwoods Sunbeam who got home in a photo finish from the Susan Hunter-trained Caprioska with the John Newberry-trained Imperial Count debutant Bella Contessa filling the minor placing.
Allwoods Sunbeam has won four and been placed 10 times in 33 starts for Dalton.
Bella the ball
Benalla trainer Matt Berger hasn’t wasted any time returning pacer Bella Mystique to the winner’s circle.
On Tuesday at Shepparton the four-year-old Falcon Seelster mare was having her second start for Berger and after working to the front early was able to fend off all challengers in the run to the judge.
Her mile rate of 1:57.4 for the 1690 m trip was a PB.
Bella Mystique, who started her career in South Australia, had not won for 11 outings and had produced three wins and 13 minor placings from 35 starts before joining Berger.
Finally gets it right
It’s only been a matter of trotting all the way for trotter Cmon Carl Lee to open her winning account and Tuesday at Shepparton was the day.
Trained at Shepparton by Darryn Rowney and driven by Laura Crossland, the four-year-old son of Red Samurai gave a faultless front running display to account for the Fay McEwan-trained and Cameron Maggs-driven favourite Majestic Time and the Brian Bourke-trained and Damian Wilson-driven backmarker Starlight Storm.
Cmon Carl Lee, who was having his 14th trip to the races obviously gets a lot of his ability from his sire, the deceased Sundon stallion Red Samurai, who had 24 wins.
More than talking
Trots racing has craved publicity, but now in these coronavirus times is getting more airtime than ever.
The launch of Talking Trots on Track, a two-hour weekday program that celebrates all things harness racing has now hit the airwaves in these trying times to command a lot more attention than it has been receiving in recent years.
Hosted by Jason Bonnington and Blake Redden, the program is broadcast on SENTrack in Melbourne on 1377AM, but the easiest way to tune in is either online or via the SEN app.
In addition to the weekday show, Talking Trots on Track also hosts a special 6 pm-10 pm show on Saturdays, with Bonnington and Redden taking in the night’s trots not only on SENTrack, but also on SEN’s showcase station 1116AM.
It’s a must listen for all trots fans, who can now have SENTrack entertaining them throughout the night while enjoying the live and free streaming coverage on Trots Vision at thetrots.com.au