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Golden ticket to ID22

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Race 7: Bendigo, Saturday 30-7-2022 Haras des Trotteurs Wagon Apollo Trotters Free for All (Group 3) (Nr 80 to 120.) Winner: Nephew Of Sonoko (7) Trainer: Ross Graham; Driver: James Herbertson Race Distance: 2,150 metres, Mile Rate: 1.59.2 photography: Stuart McCormick

By Michael Howard (HRV)

To become the champ you’ve got to beat the champ and that was what Nephew Of Sonoko did at Bendigo last Saturday night, along the way securing himself a start in the 2022 Inter Dominion Trotting Championship.

The Haras Des Trotteurs Wagon Apollo Free For All was the first of eight races that give their winners a place in ID22 and trainer Ross Graham and James Herbertson combined to pluck the first ‘golden ticket’.

Nephew Of Sonoko found the front and then held out reigning Inter Dominion champion Maori Law to secure the win and the opportunities that come with it.

“To at the moment have a (Inter Dominion) runner and have a drive, as a 22-year-old, it’s very exciting,” Herbertson told TrotsVision.

“And to be on a trotter as well – I’ve had a lot of success on trotters – to be able to keep it going and get into a race (series) like that is very exciting.”

While Nephew Of Sonoko’s season, which has included wins in five of his last six starts, would have him in good stead to contend for the Inter Dominion nevermind qualify, Herbertson said it was nice to have a place in the heats locked away.

“I was thinking that going into the race – if things went a little bit pear-shaped before the Inter Dominion (and) he lost a few points along the way in terms of selectors putting him in the race – this was his golden ticket into it,” he said.

The camp can now start building to the series start in Ballarat on November 26 and, if present forms maintained they’ll be in it up to their ears.

Herbertson got a relatively easy time of it up front, advancing on Nephew Of Sonoko from the widest draw and crossing to the top amid a comfortable 39.8-second lead time after early threats Kyvalley Chief and Sundons Courage miss-stepped at the start.

“I was always in the frame of mind to be working forward and to be staying ahead of Maori Law, if we had to sit parked that was just the case,” Herbertson said.

“Definitely the two main speed horses galloped early, which made it a lot easier just to be able to slide across and get there before the (first time past the) winning post. Everything worked out really well.”

He opened up in a 28.2-second third quarter to test Maori Law, who moved to the breeze before the bell, and finished off in a 28.6-second dash home to secure a 1.7-metre win over the ID21 champ.

“As long as we weren’t doing too much work through the lead time I thought we’d give (Maori Law) a real good run for his money, but on the same token he’s a champion horse, he won the Inter Dominion for a reason.

As for Nephew Of Sonoko, “he’s still got a couple of little things to work on just in terms of his racing and getting things absolutely spot on week in week out, but not many horses are able to do that by the same token”.

And Herbertson said the gruelling Victorian Inter Dominion, which kicks off with three heats in eight nights and then a week’s break before the December 10 final, would suit Nephew Of Sonoko to a tee.

“There’s all those little things that can happen day-to-day that could stir him up and bring him undone, but from a fitness point of view I think it would suit him down to the ground,” he said.

“He loves that week to week (racing) and, I think it’s about four days the closest heats are, that will be right up his alley.”

The next ID22 qualifying race for trotters will be The George Gath at Shepparton, while the first pacing golden ticket will be claimed via the Westburn Grant Free For All on August 13 at Tabcorp Park Melton.