Aussie Shane Graham saluted in his final drive at Georgian Downs on Tuesday night
Queensland reinsman Shane Graham has breathed life back into his World Driving Championship campaign in the final heat on night three at Georgian Downs. The Canadian track will be one Graham remembers for the rest of his life as Hetties Honey, a 7-year old mare scored narrowly on the 1000 metres circuit in Ontario and shot the Aussie into fourth spot overall.
The Georgian Downs meeting was meant to be a successful one for Graham. With a strong book of drives and several good draws it looked to be his chance to open up his winning account. However it turned into a nightmare early as he finished 6th, 8th, 10th and 6th in the first four heats of the night.
In heat five Hetties Honey was down in grade and connections told Graham he could be aggressive in the early stages if he wanted to be.
“They basically left it up to me but said if I wanted to use her up early she would still fight on pretty strongly at the end,” Graham said.
“I tried to cross early but was caught outside Marcus (Miller driving Waikiki Hanover) but when Mika (Forss) charged to the chair I got some pretty good cover. I got going before the bend and got to the leader on the turn and then held on up the straight. The mare was pretty tired but she fought on well.”
Graham admitted it had been a tough night up until his victory.
“The less said the better really. In saying that it is an interesting track, it is a speed track and it is very hard to make ground especially on the final turn.
“I spoke with Marcus (Miller) about it and he said it is the type of the track where you have to get to the leader on the turn, if you haven’t got to them by then the leaders kick away.
“Now that I have won a race over here, I want to make a special mention of my good mate Todd McCarthy, he has travelled across basically as my personal assistant for the week. He hasn’t done much of a job to be honest, Tom Bagrie (Dexter Dunn’s cousin) has done a better job looking after me but it has been great to have the boys here cheering us all on.”
In other WDC action
HEAT 1 – Canadian driver James MacDonald began the night as he did on Monday night at Mohawk by winning the first heat, this time on Shemars Lulu. It turned into survival of the fittest as a fast third quarter led to the horses walking up the straight in 32 seconds.
MacDonald saved as much ground as he could and stayed to the inside squeezing through a narrow gap to score. Last night’s hero Mika Forss finishes second while Malta’s Noel Balacchino was third.
1st Shemars Lulu James MacDonald CANADA
2nd Action Royal Grin Mika Forss FINLAND
3rd Acefourtyfouramber Noel Baldacchino MALTA
HEAT 2 – Produced the biggest controversy of the WDC when first past the post A Boy Named Suuzz driven by Finland’s Mika Forss was placed second after racing inside more than three consecutive marker pegs. The beneficiary was Marcus Miller as he was elevated to first driving Jansen Hanover. The decision by the judges was not a surprise and Forss admitted he had gone inside up to five marker pegs.
“He was such a big horse I couldn’t see around him,” Forss said.
“It was disappointing to lose a race like that.”
The win helped Miller cement third position on the overall standings while Noel Baldacchino picked up more vital points finishing third. Dexter Dunn finished 5th while Mark Purdon was 10th.
1st Jansen Hanover Marcus Miller USA
2nd A Boy Named Suuzz Mika Forss FINLAND
3rd Adamncam Noel Baldacchino MALTA
HEAT 3 – James MacDonald was back into the winner’s circle again when he won comfortably driving Walk The Plank. MacDonald confirmed he was concerned up the straight as his drive became unbalanced.
“I was just hoping he didn’t run (break gait),” MacDonald said.
“He lost his gait late so I was just trying to get up the stretch but he held on pretty well.”
Norway’s Eirik Hoitomt was second while Miller was third. Graham was 10th, Dunn was 4th and Purdon was 7th.
1st Walk The Plank James MacDonald CANADA
2nd Federal Army Eirik Hoitomt NORWAY
3rd Angels Kid Marcus Miller USA
HEAT 4 – In a series first, Norway celebrated a victory with Eirik Hoitomt squeezing through on James And Morgan to score a narrow win. MacDonald had shown a lot of aggression from a wide draw on Art Of The Deal to find the front but a patient Hoitomt squeezed through to score a rare victory on a pacer.
“The more I go around in the series on pacers the more confident I become,” Hoitomt said.
“I was travelling well at the top of the stretch and just needed somewhere to go, I will be celebrating tonight.”
MacDonald’s second ensured he would hold the lead going to Montreal tomorrow night while Belgium’s Rik Depuydt finished a close third. Graham was 6th, Dunn was 8th and Purdon was 9th.
HEAT 5 –
1st Hetties Honey Shane Graham AUSTRALIA
2nd Allies Gift Noel Baldacchino MALTA
3rd Im The Man James MacDonald CANADA
The overall standings after 14 of the 22 heats
1st James MacDonald CANADA 144 points
2nd Mika Forss FINLAND 130 points
3rd Marcus Miller USA 123.5 points
4th Shane Graham AUSTRALIA 97 points
5th Dexter Dunn NEW ZEALAND 93 points
6th Noel Baldacchino MALTA 90 points
7th Eirik Hoitomt NORWAY 89.5 points
8th Bjorn Goop SWEDEN 86 points
9th Gerhard Mayr AUSTRIA 83 points
10th Mark Purdon NEW ZEALAND 69 points
11th Rik Depuydt BELGIUM 68 points