By Tim O’Connor (HRV)
Queen Elida captured two big prizes last Saturday night with another quality display at Victorian harness racing headquarters, Tabcorp Park Melton.
The Brent Lilley-trained squaregaiter prevailed in the Group 1 Aldebaran Park Sumthingaboutmaori Trotters Free For All, and with that secured overall honours in the Kerryn Manning Trotting Mares Triple Crown.
For her victory in the Sumthingaboutmaori and La Coocaracha two weeks earlier, Queen Elida finished three points clear of Sleepee in the three-round series and pocketed a $10,000 bonus for connections.
Champion reinsman Chris Alford found a spot in behind leader Sleepee through the early stages of Saturday night’s feature and then bided his time with Queen Elida through much of the 2760m trip. Im Ready Jet, who galloped at the start, surged up to challenge Sleepee down the back straight, and while she easily raced past the early pilot, the race favourite had enjoyed a much easier run and eventually moved past to win by 1.8m.
Im Ready Jet was a brave second, with Ofortuna getting home well to finish third.
“She’s just great to drive,” Alford said.
“She adapts to any situation and with the run she had I thought she probably would have won a little bit easier, but she got the job done.
“I always thought we had (Im Ready Jet) covered after its early mistake, but she’s getting a bit clever now – she only does what she has to.”
Alford’s victory was his 131st at Group 1 level and the 54-year-old continues to close in on the magical 8000-win milestone.
“No more goals anymore, I threw all that out a while ago. I’m just happy driving winners now,” he said.
“Big races like this are great for good owners and trainers, but I still get a kick out of driving like a winner at Charlton for Ray Cross the other day.
“Every win is special in its own way.”
Queen Elida has now won 20 of 37 career starts, with prizemoney earnings up over $400,000.