By Kyle Galley
Four-year-old pacer Perfect Stride produced a track record breaking performance in winning Easter Sunday’s $35,000 The Downtowner Warragul Pacing Bowl Cup.
Driven by talented young reinsman Zac Phillips for Melton trainers Anthony Butt and Sonya Smith, Perfect Stride was patiently driven, settling at the rear of the nine horse field from the start of the 2627 metre event.
Phillips moved his horse three wide on the track heading into the final lap, before a sweeping run up to the lead horses on the home turn.
Perfect Stride overhauled the race leader Fourbigmen in the closing stages to score a three metre victory.
Majestic Cruiser also made good late ground to run second with Fourbigmen holding third spot at the finish.
The winning mile rate took half a second off the track record set in the 2016 Cup race, courtesy of a solid tempo set throughout.
Perfect Stride won the Cobram Pacing Cup earlier this year, and now boasts a record of 13 wins and 14 minor placings from only 38 starts for owners the Stride family, and looks set to continue his rich vein of form in coming starts.
Not long after their Warragul win, Perfect Stride’s and trainers landed a second feature race win, when Wolf Stride won the $100,000 Riverina Championship Final at Wagga, to cap a big day for all concerned.
Elsewhere on the Cup program there were small fields in most events but still some entertaining racing.
The Eddie Evison Memorial Trotters drew plenty of attention, with Stress Factor taking out the handicap race for trainer Brent Lilley and driver Daryl Douglas, in his return visit to Logan Park since making a comeback to race driving.
Douglas has now driven the winner of the Gippsland trotting feature three times, with his other pair of winners, Homer Hawk and Our First Jewel, being among the top trotters of their time.
Stress Factor collected the feature trot at Echuca at its previous run, and may continue to work towards being compared to those other two trotters – the six-year-old has now won 13 times from only 43 starts.
Douglas wore the club’s colours of white with the blue W, normally a bad omen for the wearer if you believe the old racetrack talk.
However this set of silks were also sported by the winner of the first race of the day, Bonnie Belle, for driver Greg Sugars and trainer Alan McDonough.
Eleven-year-old gelding Wonderforce won race two for trainer Julie Mifsud and driver Monique Burnett, the veteran pacers latest victory coming almost a year after his last triumph.
Young local reinsman Kyal Costello steered the Ahmed Taiba trained pacer Major Mal to a nice win in the third event, while Cranbourne horseman Scot Ewen won the Trotters Handicap with Trouble Giero.
Reinswoman Taylor Ford landed her first winner at Logan Park with The Chancer in the sixth event for trainer Jodi Quinlan.
One lucky punter left the course with a broad grin after Croydon trained pacer Lotakevi scored an upset win in the last race of the day.
Lotakevi gave reinsman Daryl Douglas a winning double, and the lucky punter, who had his name drawn out of the barrel for a $10 TAB betting ticket, managed to turn his free flutter “on the nose” on Lotakevi into a return of just over $1000.
The nine-year-old pacer scored at odds of 100/1…and for the sake of the punter in question the horse picked the right day to score just his third career win at start 85!
Warragul Harness Racing Club officials were pleased to welcome back a crowd to the racetrack for the first time in over 12 months.
Though numbers are down on traditional crowd sizes as the racing industry eases its way back to how things used to be, there was a still a good atmosphere trackside on Sunday.
Patrons were impressed with upgraded spectator facilities at Logan Park, which now sees Warragul offer one of the most comfortable places to watch the racing action, certainly as far as the smaller trotting tracks in Victoria are concerned.
Racing returns to Warragul on Monday afternoon, May 24th.