McLean Has A Free Hit With Netra

Jarrod McLean is making the most of a free hit at the Essendon Mazda 55 Second Challenge this Friday night at Moonee Valley.

The young horseman is making the trek from Warrnambool to tackle the 10th heat of the series designed to see who can become the fastest horse over the novelty 955-metre course.

McLean is in the enviable position of being the trainer of the horse who has clocked the fastest time in the nine heats to date. Waltzes went 55.62secs when he won the third heat on October 29.

Predicted warm conditions and the rail out two metres lends itself to fast times and while McLean would love to see Waltzes hold on to the fastest time, he won’t be shattered if Damien Oliver breaks it aboard Netra in Friday night’s $55,000 heat.

He’s not sure that jockey Dwayne Dunn – who partnered Waltzes to his win – will be so keen with the jockey to horse who owns the fastest time at the end of the night racing series to pocket $10,000.

“I hope if anyone breaks it it’s Netra,” McLean said. “It’s no skin off my nose if she does, but Dwayne probably wouldn’t be too happy about it.”

The trainer of the horse with the fastest time at the end of the 55 Second Challenge receives a $55,000 Mazda CX9.

Netra ran second to Sunday Rose in the first heat on September 24 and while she hasn’t figured in the finish at her past three, McLean is confident a return to the Moonee Valley short course can bring out the best in her.

The five-year-old daughter of Testa Rossa is the 57kg top weight in a race containing talented types Alittlevolcanic (56.5kg) and La Bella Roo (54.5kg), but McLean thinks the weight is partly offset by a nice barrier (four).

“Obviously she’s up in weight, but she’s carrying the number one saddlecloth because she’s the best-performer horse in the race,” he said. “I’m delighted with the draw and think she can land right on the speed and give a good sight.”

As always, the Essendon Mazda 55 Second Challenge is the fourth event and will be run at 8.15pm.

Waltzes won’t get the chance to improve his 55 Second Challenge time, but he will have the opportunity to enhance his Moonee Valley credentials later in the night.

The five-year-old will be out to make it three Moonee Valley wins from as many starts this time in the $100,000 Sportingbet Premium Handicap (1000m) at 9.15pm.

The gelding followed up his 55 Second Challenge heat win with a 1000m success on November 20, prompting McLean to give the son of Bel Esprit a crack at the likes of Broken, Global Warming, Big Spirit and Trusted Partner.

“He’s had a great prep, overall his record’s very good and he’s a horse who appreciates time between races so six weeks since his last run is no problem with us,” McLean said.

“It’s a handy field, it’s his biggest test to date and he’s also up in weight, but we’re going to be pushing forward from out there (barrier 10) and I’d say for a long way he’s going to look the winner but the swoopers will be coming.”

The 55 Second Challenge and Sportingbet Handicap are two of eight races on a big night programmed to help racing fans see in the new year. There will be a host of on-course amusements, including kids’ activities, live band and prime viewing of the fireworks in the city from 9.15pm.

The Moonee Valley Racing Club also has four dining options for those who want to celebrate the night in style.

For $175 members and members’ guests can get access to the committee room where they will receive a four-course meal, premium beverages and live entertainment until 12.30am.

The other options conclude at 10.45pm but offer great value. There is the members’ Premium Buffet Dinner for $59; the $99 Carvery Dinner – which includes three-course meal and drinks – is available to all, as is the $125 A La Carte Dinner in the Valley’s premium dining boxes.

Full details on the night’s activities and dining options are available at http://www.mvrc.net.au/

Full fields for the Moonee Valley meeting are available by clicking on the link

Grand Campaigner Fit For Another Duel

Melbourne racegoers probably thought they’d seen the last of Grand Duels as a feature-race key player.

The Marechal sprinter had been competitive with the best, logging thirds in both the 2008 Newmarket Handicap and the 2009 Lightning Stakes, but hasn’t been seen at the top level in Victoria since failing to beat home a runner in last year’s Oakleigh Plate.

But a dominant win at Caulfield on December 4 – his first Victorian success away from Flemington – has earned Grand Duels a shot at Sunday’s $100,000 Listed Christmas Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield.

The seven-year-old has now won two of his past three, following a similarly impressive win in Adelaide, convincing trainer Byron Cozamanis to have a crack at one of the features on one of Victoria’s most popular days on the racing calendar.

“We just wanted to try and pick the races out over the summer, where they’re a little bit easier (than Spring), and the Christmas Stakes came up and it looked like a good race for him,” Cozamanis said.

“We were tossing up between that and the Standish (Handicap, on New Year’s Day), but he’s definitely running on Sunday.”

That Cozamanis committed to running with 59 kilograms after drawing the outside barrier in the slick field of 16 plus three emergencies indicates how well Grand Duels, a winner of eight of his 35 starts, is going.

Melbourne Cup Week winner Keano, last-start Adelaide feature winner About Ready, explosive finisher Huxxsen, the capable Gold In Dubai and last-start hard-luck story Offenders are among his rivals, but Cozamanis is placing his faith in superstar heavyweight hoop Steven Arnold.

“He’s probably better off drawn out there because he’ll jump pretty quickly and he still should get a forward position,” he said. “It’s a bit of weight, 59, but there won’t be much dead weight on him with Stevie Arnold.

“I’ll be going there positive. I won’t be 100 percent confident because I think the field’s a little bit harder than last time, but with a bit of luck I think he’ll be around the mark.”

Grand Duels was installed an $11 chance in TAB Sportsbet’s initial market. Offenders opened the $5 favourite, clear of Huxxsen ($5.50), About Ready and Miss Octopussy (both $6.50) with Gold In Dubai and Keano both at $8.50.

Aloha is the raging $1.50 favourite for Sunday’s other $100,000 Listed event – the Lord Stakes (1700m).

The last-start Flemington winner has just seven rivals to contend with in the event that precedes the Christmas Stakes and will be run at 4.40pm.

Full fields for Sunday’s Caulfield meeting are available by clicking on the link

Toorak Toff Retired

Racing Victoria stewards have today been notified by trainer Rick Hore-Lacy that Toorak Toff was examined this morning by veterinarian Dr. Alistair MacLean, who found the colt to be a Grade 3 to Grade 4 roarer.

Rick Hore-Lacy advised that he has decided not to operate on Toorak Toff and the horse will now be retired and sent to stud.

Toorak Toff was entered for the $1 million Gold Coast Magic Millions 3yo Guineas (1400m) at the Gold Coast on Saturday 15th January, 2011.

Melham Makes Mark Again With Treble

You’d understand if Ben Melham didn’t want to 2010 to end. The emerging jockey continued his stellar end to the year when he partnered a winning treble at Flemington on Saturday.

The 21-year-old, who celebrated his maiden Group 1 success aboard Black Caviar in the Patinack Farm Classic at the same track last month, won three of the first six races. He finished runner-up in a further two races.

His got the ball rolling aboard the David Brideoake-trained Warm Love in the second event before riding two of Danny O’Brien’s three winners. Pins On Ice won the TAB Sportsbet Handicap (Race 3), while Impressive Eagle won the Cleanevent Sustainability Handicap (Race 6).

Melham – who also celebrated a winning treble at Moonee Valley on November 20 – said it was great to see his hard work paying off, but didn’t take all the credit for his success.

“You don’t get there without doing the hard yards and fortunately I’ve got a good manager, Matthew Alesci, who is on the ball,” he said. “You can’t do it without the rides and he puts a lot of time in doing the form and getting me on the right rides.”

Melham produced a gem of a ride to complete the treble with Impressive Eagle. He had her well-positioned in the running line off a fast tempo set by the well-backed Sheedy before sprinting sharply at the 300m.

The five-year-old daughter of Rubiton, who started at $5.50, had to withstand a late surge by Orbit Express ($9.50), but held on to score by a head with Okay Oky ($8) running into third.

Impressive Eagle atoned for a luckless run last start at Caulfield to make it two wins from her past three following previous Moonee Valley success, justifying Widden Stud’s decision to purchase her with a breeding career in mind.

“That was another excellent ride, he just couldn’t have ridden her better,” O’Brien said. “She only had a head to spare and the ride probably won her the race.

“She’s been a bit dependent on her luck on the day. She’s had four starts for us; two she’s had no luck and two it’s gone the right way and they’re the two she’s won.

“She’s won two races since the boys have bought her and on that, it was a good open-class field, we’ll probably give her a chance in the autumn in some mares’ stakes races.”

Impressive Eagle’s win completed a great day for Thompson, who also has a share in the Mathew Ellerton and Simon Zahra-trained Lucky Eighty Eight, who made it two Flemington wins in as many weeks with victory in the first race.

Where Impressive Eagle came from off the pace to win, Pins On Ice ran her rivals off their hooves. The heavily-backed Pins four-year-old ($5 into $4) was beautifully rated by Melham to score by 1.8 lengths from easing favourite Lady Gaga ($2.70).

Pins On Ice was one of two market movers for O’Brien, who won the last with At The Hands. The talented four-year-old returned to form with a strong win, justifying the punters’ faith in backing him from $6 into $4.40.

Jamie Mott steered At The Heads home by a neck from Dusty Star ($7.50) with Utah Saints ($12) grabbing third.

Melham was one of two jockeys to make multiple trips to the winner’s stall with Chris Symons registering back-to-back wins in two of the day’s feature events.

Symons first scored a last-stride in Bagot Handicap hopeful Butwaittheresmore in the $100,00 Cleanevent Handicap (2500m), before backing up with Éclair Mystic in the $70,000 Red Tempo Handicap.

The Robert Smerdon-trained three-year-old made it five wins in a row when he resumed with victory over Broken and Secret Flyer in the 1000-metre scamper.

The Red Tempo Handicap was also notable for the return of Golden Rose winner Toorak Toff, who settled last of the outside division and never looked a winning chance under his big weight (59kg) and had to settle for fifth, 2.8 lengths from Éclair Mystic.

Full results from Saturday’s Flemington card are available via the link

Randwick Saturday Selections

Randwick Meeting – Saturday December 18

Race 1 – 1. Demanding Miss 2. Sincero 9. She’s Choice

Race 2 – 4. Streets Away (SPECIAL) 1. Kossack 2. Kettledrum

Race 3 – 1. Hot Snitzel 2. Aashiq 10. Pane In The Glass

Race 4 – 1. Gigas 5. Counterpane 8. Kiss ‘N Chase

Race 5 – 4. Daintree Road 9. Winning Glory 6. Joe Blow

Race 6 – 13. Delago Star (EACH-WAY SPECIAL) 7. Mentality 8. Parthian

Race 7 – 1. Swift Alliance 13. Funtantes 7. Ahdashim

Race 8 – 13. Sherzando 7. So So Sure 3. Fusakeo