Capable trotter Jaccka Justy and hardy veteran pacer Cullen's Finest demonstrated their readiness for holidays racing with eye-catching form at the Northern Southland equalizator meeting at Balfour on Sunday.
Jaccka Justy, who has stretched the tolerance of trainer Charlie Smaill, suggested he had turned the corner after many frustrations and Cullen's Finest, a last start runner-up at Gore, scored in the novelty saddle pace for Shannon Lilley and repeated later in the day for trainer Andrew Armour in the Tin Shed Cup.
Brilliant weather and an outstandingly fast grass track made for spectacular racing and a successful day. The fine racing surface was praised by trainers and reflected much credit on the club. Stalwart Robert Wilson, who has put plenty of work into preparing the track over the last two years, said further improvement would elevate it to excellent condition.
Smaill said gear experiments with Jaccka Justy (seven wins) to control his habit of flipping his soft palate about might have sorted out his star, together with being ridden as a farm hack. The soft palate issue had affected his breathing.
''He's not quite ready yet but might run at Gore later in the month,'' Smaill said.
Armour said he trialled Cullen's Finest at Balfour to ''mentally freshen him up and he went really good.''
The horseman identified a suitable race at Ascot Park next Tuesday for the veteran of 92 starts who beat all but Telescope at Gore at his last start and was last successful at Addington on September 13.
Owner-breeders Karen and Ben Calder and trainer Nathan Williamson had cause to be encouraged by Wattie's Sweetheart's slick success in his 2200m maiden exertion, reeling off a fast final 800 of 56.7sec.
''I do like him but he will get another trial or two before we race him,'' Williamson said.
Driver Jonny Cox who was in good touch on Sunday, predicted a worthwhile future for Graeme Anderson and Amber Hoffman's inexperienced maiden pacer Live To Star after her impressive qualifying win.
''She doesn't know a lot yet, in fact she hadn't been off the place until today, but she can stay all day and she might run at Forbury Park on Friday night,'' Cox said.
Expressionist pleased co-trainer Geoff Knight with his success. Knight predicted he might race at Roxburgh next month. ''He is owned by a local syndicate there and should be ready by then,'' Knight said.
Despite his promise to date, the trainer said he might not appeal as a Supremacy Stakes horse as he would be better next season like many by his sire Live Or Die.
Billy Heads expected his handy trotter Russell Galleon might start at Forbury Park on Friday night after a dashing Sunday success. The 3-year-old who set a national record at 2 last season, was just below the best of his age but had the potential to improve after pleasing Phil Williamson initially.
- The Southland Times