Photo by Stuart McCormick
GIRL power has taken over the Inter Dominion.
At the halfway stage of harness racing’s biggest event, all six qualifying heats of the pacing series have been won by female trainers.
The rampaging Emma Stewart, in partnership with Clayton Tonkin, has dominated with four heats wins. Honolua Bay has won two, while Act Now and Mach Dan have won one each.
The other heats have been won by Jess Tubbs with Better Eclipse on night one at Ballarat and Belinda McCarthy trained Spirit Of St Louis to win at Shepparton last night.
The vast majority of the Group 1 Grand Final field on Saturday week is set to be trained by females.
The top nine point scorers heading towards a 12-horse final are trained by females, including Amanda Turnbull’s Bundoran.
Going into the final round of heats at Geelong on Saturday night, Stewart and Tonkin are perfectly poised to have a record-equalling five runners in the pacing final.
Champion Kiwi training combination Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen set the record with five runners in the 2019 Auckland Grand Final when they snared first and third with Ultimate Sniper and Thefixer.
Stewart and Tonkin have the top three and five of the top eight point scorers. They are: Honolua Bay, Act Now, Mach Dan, Narutac Prince and Beyond Delight.
It is also the most open Inter Dominion pacing series in memory with McCarthy’s pair Expensive Ego and Spirit Of St Louis sharing favouritism at $5.
“We couldn't be happier. Our big two in the series are right where we want them,” Luke McCarthy said. “Expensive Ego’s two runs have been outstanding and Spirit Of St Louis was terrific last night.
“We bought them in with room to improve through the series so they should only get better”
Driver David Moran admits Honolua Bay’s improvement has been a pleasant surprise.
“He always had fantastic speed, but the racing at the top level has really toughened him up. I wouldn’t have thought it before the series, but there’s no reason he can’t go all the way now,” he said.
The big watch in the last round of heats at Geelong is one-time pacing final favourite Majestic Cruiser, who has only managed a third and sixth so far.
He is precariously placed in 11th place on the points table, needing at least a top three or four finish at Geelong just to make the final.
And Majestic Cruiser has drawn the back row (gate 10) in the strongest heat on Saturday against stars Act Now (one), Beyond Delight (five) and Expensive Ego (five).