The 2016/17 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit season comes to a close this weekend.
And the race to be crowned Grand Circuit champion is very much alive.
The season started back in November at Addington following a pacing masterclass delivered by four-year-old megastar Lazarus in the 3200m New Zealand Cup feature which was repeated in the Victoria Cup in January.
He was also placed third in the Miracle Mile behind Lennytheshark and Smolda.
Other Grand Circuit winners this season include Smolda (Inter Dominion), Dream About Me (Auckland Cup), Chicago Bull (WA Pacing Cup), Bling It On (Hunter Cup) and Lennytheshark (Miracle Mile).
So, Lazarus sits atop of the leaderboard with 240 points, comfortably clear from Smolda (185) and Bling It On (165).
But while connections have one hand on the trophy, it’s not a forgone conclusion.
Champion pacer Lennytheshark can still share the glory if he proves successful in the weekend’s feature, the Gr.1 $200,000 UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship at Albion Park over the staying distance of 2680m.
Ironically, Lennytheshark deadheated last season as Grand Circuit champion with Smolda.
The David Aiken trained multi-millionaire must win to join Lazarus as the co-winner of the title.
And he’s got an excellent chance despite being slammed with an awkward second-line draw in the Brisbane feature.
His major victory this season came via the Miracle Mile at TABCORP Park, Menangle while also being placed in the Hunter Cup at Melton.
The Four Starzzz Shark entire has been a model of consistency this season with 7 victories from 15 starts, last week he finished third behind stablemate Hectorjayjay and My Field Marshal in the Sunshine Sprint.
Former New Zealand pacer Tiger Tara looms as a major stumbling block for Lennytheshark after landing a favourable front-line draw, the Bettors Delight entire is racing in terrific form including his last start victory at Menangle last week.
Tiger Tara, now prepared in Sydney by Kevin Pizzuto, was a runner-up in the New Zealand Cup while finishing 4th in the Auckland Cup before his sale to Australian interests.
Currently sitting on 80 points, Tiger Tara can finish as high as third on the leaderboard if successful this weekend.
Speed machine Hectorjayjay, fresh from his success last weekend in the Sunshine Sprint, must overcome a tricky second-line draw to claim the Sunshine State feature.
Last season, he finished second in this same race behind Ohoka Punter.
Hectorjayjay sits on 75 points this Grand Circuit season with his best effort coming via the Inter Dominion when second behind Smolda at Gloucester Park in Perth.
Victorian trained pacer Major Crocker, a runner-up behind Lazarus in the Victoria Cup earlier this season has drawn ideally in gate two and will command respect.
The Art Major gelding finished 4th in this same race last year.
Another Victorian trained pacer lining up this week is the Kerryn Manning prepared Mr Mojito, a last start runner-up behind Heaven Rocks at Ashburton on Jewels Day six weeks ago.
In what will be his maiden start in Brisbane, the richly talented four-year-old has drawn the second line.
New Zealand pacer My Field Marshal has been the star of the Australian winter with victories in the Len Smith Mile, 4 & 5yo Championship and the Golden Reign FFA plus being a game runner-up last week in the Sunshine Sprint behind Hectorjayjay.
Like last week, he must overcome a second-line draw.
Prepared by master horseman Tim Butt, the Art Major entire will be driven by Anthony Butt this week who replaces Dexter Dunn.
New South Wales trained performers include Spare Me Days, My Chachingchaching and Mach Doro.
The talented trio have all drawn the front-line.
Local talent comes from the leading stable of Grant Dixon with Alleluia, Majestic Major and Joys A Babe all representing his operation.
This is the first time the Blacks A Fake event has carried Grand Circuit status, the race was formerly known as the Winter Cup but also combines the Queensland Pacing Championship which was formerly a Grand Circuit event until it was discontinued in 2015.
The event was re-named in honour of Queensland’s greatest ever champion, a four times winner of the Inter Dominion among many other features.
Fittingly, this year’s race carries great depth befitting of the champion.
The UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship is listed as Race 8 and will start at 8.38pm local time.