Tontine Series set to start

06 February 2012 | Tony Logan
Bray Raceway will be home to this year's Tontine Series Finals

Bray Raceway will be home to this year's Tontine Series Finals

The time-honoured  Tontine Pacers Series has been given a fresh new  look for its 31st birthday.

With the generous support of Decron Hoof Care, stakemoney for each of the heats has received a healthy $2000 boost and the series format has also been tweaked slightly.

The 2012 version of the Tontine will be launched at Ararat on Tuesday night (Feb. 7th) with two, top-class $7000 contests and six days later, on Monday 13th, further heats will be conducted at Horsham.

Leading qualifiers from the heats will head to Geelong on Cup night, Saturday 18th to compete in the  $7000 semi-finals, with top of the crop to go head  to head in the prestigious, $30,000 Group 3 Decron Hoof Care Tontine Pacers Final at Ballarat on Saturday Feb 25.Six times Tontine winning reinsman Gavin Lang will miss the opening night of this year’s series after incurring the wrath of stewards at Geelong recently, for excessive use of the whip.

Lang first took out the series in 1985 when he saluted with Our Noble Rex at Terang, back in the days when the Tontine pacers assembled behind the tapes for a standing start contest.

Further success came his way in 1992 with Nunkie at Horsham, again at Stawell in 1997 with Black Duke before an amazing Tontine hat trick in 2009-10-11 aboard Jaccka Sandy at Geelong, Atlas Alliance at Terang and Seefeel Pocket at Ararat.

The ace driver was booked for Shifting Sand and Tinkers Taxi in the opening round heats for the Adam Kelly stable and was also set to partner Our Silver Dollar Girl for the same interests at Horsham six days later but is now hoping to be back in the cart for Decron Hoof Care Tontine Finals night at Ballarat.

“It’s disappointing to miss out next week but that’s racing,” said Lang who shared his thoughts on each of Kelly’s runners.

“Shifting Sand has been racing a bit below the potential he showed us when winning 4 of his first 5 starts back in 2010. He’s had a number of niggling issues since but Adam looks to have him back on track now. He comes in nicely as a C2 draws well in what looks to be an extremely strong Tontine series this year.

“Tinkers Taxi is a very lightly raced 4yo, a “veteran” of only 8 starts but has above-average ability and we thought he should be given the chance in this sort of company. He’s had 3 trials to prepare for his first-up run and should be very strong on Tuesday night.”

“Our Silver Dollar Girl impressed with her strong win at Horsham in wild windy conditions on Cup Day. She’s enjoyed a bit of an easy time since and will return there to try and make it through to the semi’s.”  

Ararat horseman Michael Bellman replaces Lang on both Kelly trained runners on Tuesday night and the in-form reinsman has both the advantage of home track knowledge and the coveted pole position to claim a spot in the semi-finals with the up-and-coming pacers.

Tuesday’s Decron Hoof Care Tontine heats promise to be hotly contested affairs with a host of live chances outside the Kelly trained runners - including the smart 3YO Mark Dennis for the Lance & John Justice team, Emma Stewart/ Chris Alford’s classy duo Galleons Prospect and  Mister Sheedy along with wildcards such as Lights And Music, Buriton Bailey, Brutus Smith, Bad Cat & Dodge The Bullet.

Series sponsor Merv Butterworth, fresh from a Group 3 Petstock 4YO Bonanza victory on Saturday night with The Phantom, will be represented in the 2nd heat with Rosewood Rio. The 6yo mare has won 5 from 9 since crossing the Tasman and joining the Kerryn Manning stable.

There’s more to look forward to with a number of serious contenders, headed by Manning’s in-form-mare Muckinbar Lady, waiting in the wings for their crack at the Tontine on the spacious Horsham circuit.

The Tontine series, first staged in 1981 was the brainchild of the late John Fladgate, then President of the Hamilton Harness Racing Club. The inaugural series final was taken out by Kiwi Conference and carried a hefty purse of $10,000, provided by the South West Zone clubs - Ararat, Hamilton, Horsham, Stawell & Terang.

The term tontine refers to a financial scheme in which dividends from an initial pooled investment are progressively increased as investors are eliminated (at death) with the entire fund going to the lucky last survivor.

The Decron Hoof Care Trotters Tontine Series (T0+) kicks off with $7000 standing start heats at Terang on Feb. 11th and Stawell on Feb. 20th with leading qualifiers contesting the $20,000 final at Ballarat.


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