With Sunday’s huge international meeting at Hong Kong set to capture considerable focus, domestic action presents a rare opportunity for the harness racing world to shine with plenty of intrigue surrounding the build-up to Friday night’s Inter Dominion Grand Final (Race 8) at Gloucester Park.
Having once had a stranglehold on betting, the David Aiken-trained pair Hectorjayjay and Lennythesharkenter the 2936m event with question marks against their names courtesy of the barrier draw and injury respectively.
Hectorjay appeared bulletproof in his three heat victories but connections would have been hugely concerned after he drew the extreme outside of the front row (9) and it will be fascinating to see what tactics driver Josh Aiken adopts in pursuit of victory.
On a circuit that naturally favours front-runners, Aiken may burn forward and charge for the lead. But the horse has proven to be versatile in the past, judging by wins in both the Len Smith Mile and Sunshine Coast Sprint this year where he spotted the leaders a decent start and ran them down.
With that in mind, we’re inclined to believe that Hectorjayjay has the class to overcome the gate and punters should be encouraged by the strong recent record of favourites in the event.
Defending champion Lennytheshark arrived in Perth as arguably the horse to beat but after claiming victory in his opening heat he has looked out of sorts since.
He lacked his customary dash when finishing fourth at Bunbury before a shock defeat at the hands of Run Oneover last Friday.
With a subsequent inspection finding that the ace had sustained ‘no structural damage’, his performance was attributed to an abscess which has had to be drained and treated.
Connections have taken no chances and flew in their own vet over from Perth to ensure the most adequate treatment.
Strangely enough, ‘Lenny’ has been the best backed runner since markets were released on Sunday but with his participation only to be confirmed following a further medical inspection on Thursday punters may be best served waiting until raceday to confirm their selections.
Outstanding local trainer Gary Hall Snr, who has a storied history in this race through the exploits of three-time winner I’m Themightyquinn, is also set to have a say in proceedings with the in-form Run Oneoverdrawing ideally in gate two.
While the camp have also been keen to talk up the chances of Beaudine Boaz, who will start from the back row and look to finish over the top of them.
Of the others, John McCarthy’s Bling It On is a proven performer and should benefit from the inside but often seems to find one better at the highest level while Smolda has been as prominent as ever through the heat stage but the awkward draw is a deterrent.
2. Run Oneover
3. Bling It On