Shepparton’s Steve O’Donoghue is ready for the challenge.
So too is driver Bec Bartley.
And O’Donoghue is quietly confident the star pacer he trains San Carlo and Bartley drives is up to the challenge as well.
The challenge is for a top five finish by San Carlo in the third and final round heats of the Inter Dominion Pacing Championship at Cranbourne tomorrow.
That achieved San Carlo will make his second straight appearance in an Inter Dominion Championship, having made the final in Perth last year.
O’Donoghue is confident San Carlo can be in the finish of tomorrow night’s heat despite another back row draw.
‘‘He wasn’t knocked around too much in Tuesday night’s heat when he ran fifth. Fourth would have been better, but he didn’t have much luck, he hit the line good and has pulled up really well,’’ O’Donoghue said.
‘‘We all thrive on a challenge and this is a good challenge, so we are hopeful.’’
While O’Donoghue is looking to get one horse into the final tomorrow night week at Melton, Avenel trainer David Aiken could have three finalists.
An all-the-heat win by Wrappers Delight in the second round of heats at Ballarat on Tuesday night has just about assured him of his spot in the final.
Like San Carlo he has a second row draw — inside the back row — to contend with tomorrow night, but what appear to be his main two dangers, first round heat winners Spankem and Galactic Star, also have to come off the back row.
The Aiken-trained Audi Hare, who has a fifth and a second in his heats to date, also has a realistic chance of making the final after drawing barrier two in tomorrow night’s heat in which he will clash with one of the top series favourites Tiger Tara and also San Carlo.
A top five finish will probably book Audi Hare his spot in the final and give his reinsman David Moran the thrill of driving in an Inter Dominion final.
Aiken also has a rough chance of qualifying country cups king Im The Boss for the final if the pacer can produce a top two finish in his heat tomorrow night.
But the unbeaten Kiwi Cruz Bromac and second round heat winner Im Pats Delight look the two major chances, so Im The Boss will probably need to pull off an upset to sneak into the final.
Aiken also could have a runner in the Trotters Championship final in Big Jack Hammer following his second in Tuesday night’s heats.
He is another victim of a second row draw, but has banked the fourth most points in the series so far, so is in with a big chance to get through to the final.
Shepparton-owned Sky Petite is sitting eighth on the points list after finishing third in her heat at Ballarat and another forward placing in tomorrow night’s heats can secure her a berth in the final.
But like most of the other Goulburn Valley hopes she also has a second row draw.
Seymour-trained Maori Law is on the borderline in the points to get into the final after disappointing second round effort, but from barrier three in his heat tomorrow night gets his chance to atone and also get through to the final.
Tongala-owned warhorse Kyvalley Blur stormed into calculations for a series win with a second round upset win on Tuesday night.
He has a front row draw tomorrow night and the longer trip should be to his liking, so he should book his spot in the final.
Byrneside horseman Damian Wilson is earning a reputation for his ability to rejuvenate the racing career of horses out of form or considered past their time as racehorses and Miss McManus is another good example.
Since taking over Miss McManus’ training Wilson has given the seven-year-old Grinfromeartoear mare four starts for two wins and two seconds.
Before Wilson took the reins Miss McManus was racing in South Australia where she had failed to win a race in 17 starts.
The latest win for Miss McManus was achieved last week at Echuca when she prevailed in a tight finish to beat Floods Road and the John Newberry-trained and driven Shez Elite.
Miss McManus had run second at Shepparton and Cobram at her previous starts after winning first-up for Wilson at Shepparton in October when having her first outing for the stable.
In recent months Wilson has been able to turn the form around of pacers Bushie and Leakys Smokin after lengthy droughts from the winner’s circle.
Miss McManus now has three wins to her credit and four placings from 44 starts.
Antiope no melon
There aren’t too many, if any, trotters still racing by the deceased sire Straphanger, but the Donna Castles-trained Antiope is one of them.
And Antiope showed he can still trot a bit when he finished strongly with Doc Wilson in the sulky to win last week at Echuca.
Wilson always had Antiope in a forward position and they were able to get the better of the Fay McEwen-trained Majestic Time in the concluding stages.
It was the six-year-old gelding’s first win for 14 starts with his last win achieved at Shepparton in July.
Antiope is out of the mare Golden Antigone who is by former Inter Dominion pacing winner Golden Reign and who has left one other winner, Antiology.
Good golly Miss Molly
It might have been her 285th start, but it was one of the most effortless wins in the 34 triumphs she has posted in her stellar racing career.
There have also been 72 minor placings.
Yes the old grey mare — Hollys Miss Molly — at the moment is everything what she used to be — and that’s being a consistent campaigner for her connections through her career.
The Jet Laag mare again showed there is still plenty of zip in those nine-year-old legs at Echuca meeting last week in what was one of her most dominant career wins.
When reinsman Corey Bell released the brakes on the Robert Walters-trained Hollys Miss Molly she not only reeled in her rivals, but left them in her wake.
She careered away to beat the runner-up, the Clive Dalton-trained Hugh Victor, by 31.5m in track record equalling mile rate time of 1:56.8 for the 2160m trip from the mobile.
Hollys Miss Molly now shares the honour with Michael Joseph who posted the record in June last year.
Once breaking the two-minute mile rate barrier was a rare occurrence on the Frank Ryan Raceway, but a track upgrade with particular emphasis on the bends some years ago has led to the feat of sub two-minute times happening on a regular basis these days.
Echuca officials are also pleased with the response by trainers to their meetings in recent times.
Big fields and nine or 10-race cards have proved that while it may have one of the smallest circumferences of any trotting track in the state trainers have no hesitation about racing their horses on it.
Crocodile too snappy
Nathalia horseman Noel Tyndall’s relentless push at barrier rise to take a forward position on his pacer Crocodile Kid proved a winner last week at Echuca.
Tyndall kept pressing forward wide out early from a backrow draw and finally found the front.
Despite the early burn, Crocodile Kid was still good enough to hold out his rivals in the run to the judge.
He beat the runner-up, the well-supported Fremarksgonzo by 2.9m with the roughie Nelbell filling the minor placing.
Crocodile Kid was a winner at Shepparton four starts previously on October 28 and has now chalked up five wins and 10 minor placings from 35 starts for Tyndall who owns, trains and drives the five-year-old son of Armbro Operative.
Old king ruling again
Former Goulburn Valley trainer Chris Lang hasn’t taken long to show why he was regarded as the king of trotters at one time.
When Lang re-entered the training and driving ranks after a self-imposed four years spell on the sidelines at Kilmore on November 14 he did what hadn’t been done in 10 previous starts in NSW.
He got trotter Miyabomba to win at his first drive back as a trainer driver.
Miyabomba only scrambled in in that race when a short-priced favourite and his 2:06.6 mile rate was leisurely enough.
Second up Miyabomba ran second, again when favourite, to Yankee Commander at Melton on November 21.
Third up at Yarra Valley on Monday Miyabomba put in his best run for Lang and his personal best performance when he won comfortably, knocking six seconds off his previous best mile rate.
Miyabomba’s win came after Lang had produced another trotter he is now training Derrie Aire to win last week at Maryborough.
It was a big night for Goulburn Valley trainers and drivers at Shepparton on Wednesday night.
Kima Frenning drove a double which included her recent Geelong Cup winner Buster Brady, while trainers Russell Jack, Wayne Potter, Mark Lee, David Aiken, Ross Rolfe, Isabel Walsh and Craig Turnbull all geared up winners. Drivers Corey Bell, David Moran and Stacey Towers drove some of the winners.
More on those wins in next week’s Sulky Shorts.
Today: Melton (n).
Tomorrow: Cranbourne (n).
Sunday: Shepparton (d).
Monday: Melton (d).
Tuesday: Mildura (n).
Wednesday: Ballarat (n).
Thursday: Echuca (n).