Rhonda ends quiet run in style

\"\"Caption: North Queensland trainer Rhonda Essery with Saltarello after victory in the Versatility Final (498m) at Townsville. (Photo: Louise Partland)

QUEENSLAND WRAP by MIKE HILL

LEADING trainer Rhonda Essery couldn’t believe her luck after a highly successful night at Townsville last month.

Essery, who has been a bit quiet of late after a virus went through her Burdell kennels, landed five winners – half the program –  including Saltarello’s victory in the night’s feature, the Versatility Final (498m), and she rugged up the trifecta in the opening 380m maiden event.

“I couldn’t have asked for much more,” Essery said after the meeting.

Her winners were Above Ability ($5) and Cryptic Diamond ($5.50) – both the maiden winners – Mickey Two Rums ($3.50, 4th/5th grade), Samshu ($2.70, 5th grade) and Saltarello.

And she was full of praise for the club’s new Versatility series.

A concept introduced by newly elected vice-president Brad Belford, runners competed over 380m in the heats before stepping up to 498m in the final.

It proved a big winner as the club strives to become a trend setter for the sport.

“We’re trying to make the club better,” said Belford. “We want to be a leader, not a follower and we have some big ideas in the pipeline.

“This was the first time we had programmed the Versatility and we were more than happy to get three heats.

“And the final didn’t disappoint, it was a great finish.”

Saltarello, a $21 outsider, won in the last stride, running down pacemaker and $2.10 favourite Diva Valentine, trained by Michael Hickmott, with Laurie Wode’s Wynburn Cruz ($4.80) one-and-a-half lengths back third.

Essery said: “The trainers seem to like the new concept.”

She said it encouraged them to run their dogs over the longer journey.

Saltarello, a litter sister to Essery’s outstanding sprinter Stratford, had only raced over 498m once before without success.

“It’s something different and it’s a good opportunity for young dogs to be tested over the longer trip,” she said.

Belford said next month the club was staging another Versatility – but this time in reverse.

“Our heats will be over the 498m trip with the final over the shorter 380m,” he said.

“We want to do things a bit different.

“There’s a good vibe up here and betting turnover is going through the roof.”

TOWNSVILLE has been blessed with the arrival of a group of talented young chasers.

Owner-trainer Harold Hovi, based at Gumlu  between Ayr and Bowen, has already refused a big offer for his super smart litter brothers Excuse Me Jack and Redemption Day.

The pair are by the superbly-bred young sire My Redemption from the smart race bitch Fancy Dancer (Head Bound-Little Bit Fancy).

At his first start in late April Excuse Me Jack ran a super quick 21.70s – the day’s best time and only .28s slower than Tipsy Four’s 380m track record of 21.42s.

And since then he has clocked 21.47s (novice BOM) and late last month equalled the record with a flying 21.42s.

On the same night Redemption Day began his career with a runaway maiden victory, clocking a slick 21.77s, and rumours say he is the quicker dog.

Meanwhile, Brad Belford’s super smart sprinter Still Tough landed his eighth straight victory from just 10 starts.

The black dog (Fabregas-Princess Ellie) arrived at Belford’s kennels in late March with a win and second from three starts.

Since then the wins have kept coming over 380m with a PB 21.73s. Then last month Still Tough, stepping out for the first time over 498m, ran a smart 28.94s for an easy victory.

Jay Schafer’s talent bitch Next Stop is also stringing wins together.

Last month the daughter of Fernando Bale and Ms Ticket took her winning sequence to five with a narrow victory and boosted her career record to six wins and seven placings from just 16 starts, while Scott Atkinson also has a smart young chaser in Fancy Pants – three wins and a second from four starts.

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IT’S A Rush smashed the Bundaberg 550m track record with an explosive all-the-way performance in last month’s $5250 TAB Anniversary Cup.

The son of Fernando Bale-It’s A Fling ran 30.96s – almost three lengths faster than the previous best.

The Gerard Bowe-trained sprinter beat Ron Brook’s game chaser Not Scared – a $7.50 chance – by three-and-a-half lengths with the Ron Hawkshaw-prepared Zuleika ($6) a similar margin away third.

It’s A Rush, a $2.10 favourite following his narrow victory in the $7875 Rockhampton Cup Consolation (510m) 10 days earlier, has now won 18 of his 42 race starts and the victory pushed his prizemoney beyond $65,000.

The brindle speedster won the Bundaberg Derby last year and has since made the final of the G2 Richmond Derby and the G3 The Ambrosoli at Wentworth Park.

Meanwhile, the Brett Hazelgrove-trained Cool Change was impressive in winning the $5250 TAB Anniversary Sprint (460m) at Bundaberg.

Cool Change (Fernando Bale-Hazy Jane) beat Allen Kelly’s Savuro by four-and-a-half lengths with the David Raines-prepared Extra Coins a close-up third.

ZILZIE-based trainer Bill Boon narrowly missed a quinella in the Anzac Day Sprint (407m) at Rockhampton.

In a near triple dead-heat, Velocity Atom just beat Gary Weeding’s Tuesday’s Gone with another Boon runner Skilled just centimetres away third.

The winner clocked 23.63s with the two placegetters both recording 23.64s.

At Townsville, the Henry Parker-trained Sprightly Bro won the $3675 Anzac Day Trophy (498m), while Peter Hare’s Inquisitive Me was victorious in the Anzac Day Cup (460m) at Bundaberg.

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