by Michael Guerin
The trots’ newly-crowned ‘Mr 6000’ says Kiwi mare The Orange Agent can test Aussie pacing superstar Lennytheshark given the chance.
But first Victorian horseman Chris Alford and The Orange Agent will need to justify red hot favouritism in the final leg of the Triple Mares Crown at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday.
The Orange Agent has bolted away with the first two legs of the Victorian crown and will be red hot for the final, the $100,000 Queen Of The Pacific, even after drawing the second line.
She remained unbeaten in Australia at Melton last Friday night and Alford says the ease of the win was almost embarrassing.
“She just cruised up to them down the back straight and at the 400m she actually got in a bad mood with me and threw her head in the air because I wouldn’t let her run past them,” says Alford. “She is a very, very good mare and over 2760m this week she should be even better.”
Alford became the first Australasian trots driver to record 6000 career wins at Melton on Monday night, capping a remarkable last 18 months in which he has won the Inter Dominion, Victoria Cup and Miracle Mile, all with Lennytheshark.
That last win, over a Kiwi trio of Smolda, Lazarus and Our Waikiki Beach, had many Australians suggesting Lennytheshark is the actual king of Australasian pacing, even though Lazarus’s body of work this season is clearly stronger.
But his recent drives on The Orange Agent put Alford in a unique position to judge the mare against Lenny and he says a potential clash in the Len Smith Mile in Sydney next month would be interesting.
“Lenny is a champion and I’d have to say the best horse I have driven now,” says Alford, who turns 50 this week. “But this mare is flying and if she sat on Lenny’s back she would run him close. I am not saying she would run past him because not many horses can do that.”
Managing owner John Green says the Len Smith Mile clash is definitely on should The Orange Agent come through this Saturday well.
“That is the plan. A $30,000 mares lead-up race at Menangle then the Len Smith Mile, with Tony (Herlihy) being offered the drive since Chris will be driving Lenny,” says Green.
And The Orange Agent has already proven she can beat pacing’s big boys, having downed Smolda and Have Faith In Me at Alexandra Park in March as part of a stellar comeback after 14 months on the sidelines with injury.
While The Orange Agent appears to have the triple crown at her mercy the Australian campaign for fellow Kiwi mare Our Golden Goddess has proved a disaster.
Not only did she drop out behind The Orange Agent last Friday but she was found to be off colour after the race and will now miss this Saturday as well as the Harness Jewels for which she was second favourite for the four-year-old Diamond.
Also missing from the Jewels will be northern Group 1 winner Mach Shard, who trainer Barry Purdon has put aside for the season after a dull performance at Addington last Friday.
“I think a spell is the best thing for him so he will come back an be aimed at the Sires’ Stakes,” said Purdon.
Many Jewels contenders will have their final warm ups at Addington on Friday, with the track’s second strongest meeting of the year after Cup week.
Bonnie Joan has been the big winner in the draw for the NZ Oaks, looking the likely leader while Spanish Armada faces a second line marble and Partyon the outside of the front line.
Alta Maestro and Spankem draw alongside each other in the Sires’ Stakes two-year-old final while many of the country’s best young trotters meet in two and three-year-old features and the Winter Cup gives Jewels favourite Piccadilly Princess her last chance to qualify for the June 3 extravaganza.
And the main trot sees Marcoola return against fellow four-year-olds Lemond, Wilma’s Mate and Rowe Cup winner Temporale.
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