OFFICIALLY Friday’s meeting at Tabcorp Park Melton is Empire Stallions night as the breeding establishment sponsors the prestigious Vicbred Super Series.
Prominent owner Martin Hartnett, however, is hoping the program will come to be known as Illawong evening!
Hartnett, who races a large team with his wife Kaye, will be represented by seven runners, including four at Group One level.
“I’ve had some big nights as far as numbers go before, but never had seven at a meeting,” Hartnett said. “It is shaping up to be a good Illawong night.
“A couple of them are pretty much going around for luck, and probably just making up the numbers, but we do have some serious chances as well.”
Illawong Armstrong and Illawong Byron – trained by prominent horsewoman Jodi Quinlan – are the early favourites for their division of the rich futurity.
While Illawong Shimmer is favoured in her Final for astute trainer Ross Sugars, who also prepares outsider, Illawong Bliss.
Successful in his heat, Illawong Armstrong has the opportunity to lead throughout from the pole, with Illawong Byron also expected to make a clean sweep of the series despite drawing wide in six.
Illawong Shimmer, which was also triumphant in her heat, has drawn awkwardly in gate five.
“Those three are definitely big chances,” Hartnett said. “We’re hoping to avoid bad luck more than we’re looking for good luck in the run.
“Illawong Bliss will need luck on her side from the second row. We’ve also got Illawong Peppa, Illawong Helios and Bardot going around.”
- PAUL COURTS