A GOOD drive by Portland owner-trainer Robert Nugent yesterday ensured Trans Continental was the first horse through to the final of the Arthur Davis Memorial Pace (2240m) at the Highlands Paceway next Friday.
Enjoying the run of the race one-out one-back, the six-year-old mare had plenty in the tank when running away from her rivals to win the first heat by five metres, with the Jack Butler-driven Linshera ($7.50) snaring second a half-head in front of Victor Birnie’s Melways ($8.30).
Nugent was understandably pleased with his mare’s performance although he suggested things went his way.
“I got a bit of good luck in the run but she’s pretty strong, she keeps going,” he said.
Tote favourite Miss Sonic ($2.20), starting from gate one, took up the pacesetter’s role with Linshera and later Crystallise (Tony Turnbull) challenging but it was Birnie’s Melways that opened the race up heading into the straight. Nugent trailed Melways before overhauling the mare.
“She’s been racing really well, I thought she’d win,” Nugent said.
“I got a good sit and she came home strong, barrier four was a good gate, she likes being amongst them and she just ran on.”
Nugent was given control of Trans Continental, which started a $5.50 chance, from Shadford pacing identity Sammy Davis.
Trans Continental stopped the clocked at 2:55.1 for a mile rate of 2:04.7.
In the second heat trainer/driver Damian Davis’ decision to put Jack Butler behind his gelding Scotty Will paid off.
Scotty Will won by a head in 2:55.1 (2:05.7 milerate) from the Colin Lees driven Hooter with King Of Country, driven by Kel Winnell, seven metres away third.
Butler, who boarded a plane straight after his commitments at Orange to drive Smooth Dixie in last night’s Ben Hur at Harold Park, backed up with another win in heat three driving the Steve Turnbull-trained Starlight Express.
It won by a neck from Geofffrey Simpson’s Longshipp.
The Falcon (Jason Turnbull, 7-4) won the fourth and final heat by two metres from Sealee (Kel Winnell, 5-4) and Preferred Copy (Allan Molloy, 7-1), who was a neck away third.
Time was 2.54.8, mile rate 2.05.8.
The final, to be fought out by the first two in each heat and the two best performed thirds, will be held next Friday along with the Stan Pratt Christmas Sprint.