We’re at the halfway point of the year.
And we’re approaching the halfway mark of the 2021 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit with the third leg of the seven-race series taking place this weekend with the running of the Gr.1 $250,000 TAB Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship at Albion Park in Brisbane.
Naturally, the 2680m mobile start feature at the famed Breakfast Creek oval has attracted a star-studded line-up spearheaded by reigning Grand Circuit champion King Of Swing.
The Brisbane feature provides a perfect opportunity for the Cobbitty Equine prepared stallion to establish a tidy lead on the APG Grand Circuit leaderboard.
Currently, he leads the way with 140 points while his nearest rival Lochinvar Art (100) is currently sidelined owing to injury.
King Of Swing finished third behind Lochinvar Art in the opening leg of the 2021 season, the Gr.1 A. G Hunter Cup at Melton in February before recording his second Miracle Mile triumph the following month at his home track of Menangle in Sydney.
Oddly, the only other listed pacer on the leaderboard that starts in this weekend’s feature is his younger and richly talented stablemate Expensive Ego.
The four-year-old finished second behind King Of Swing in the Miracle Mile and currently sits equal fourth (60 points) with Wolf Stride.
If successful, King Of Swing will sit atop of the leaderboard with 240 points, well clear of his nearest rival with only four legs remaining.
And the next leg is the Gr.1 $300,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Victoria Cup on October 9 at Melton, and it is a race the McCarthy stable would dearly love to win given that he was a runner-up behind Lochinvar Art last year.
The Rocknroll Hanover entire had not tasted defeat since the Hunter Cup loss until last week, beaten by a nose margin by New Zealand star Copy That in the Gr.1 Sunshine Sprint after starting from the outside of the second line in the 1660m feature.
He clocked the fastest closing half of any runner last week.
It was also the first time he’d been beaten at Albion Park from four starts.
But he’s clearly the horse to beat after landing the prized inside gate.
King Of Swing led throughout in the Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship back in December during the Queensland Summer Carnival, the event was moved from its traditional winter timeslot owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The last pacer to record back-to-back victories in the Queensland Pacing Championship was North American import Mr Feelgood (2010/11) while giant pacer Terrorway recorded victories in both the Queensland Pacing Championship and the Winter Cup in 2013.
Queensland officials combined the QPC and Winter Cup in 2016 and renamed the event in honour of the state’s and arguably the country’s greatest pacer of all-time, Blacks A Fake (72 wins from 105 starts - $4.5 million).
Interestingly, the common denominator for both Mr Feelgood and Terrorway was the McCarthy family.
Luke McCarthy is the regular driver of King Of Swing and his record in the Queensland features is better than anyone else, he’s won it 10 times!
Luke and his trainer wife Belinda have four runners engaged this weekend which includes King Of Swing (gate 1), Spirit Of St Louis (gate 3), Expensive Ego (gate 10) and Bright Energy (gate 13).
It is the second straight time they have provided a quarter of the field in the Blacks A Fake.
Last start feature race winner Copy That (gate 5) is looking for another feature race victory over King Of Swing and connections were joyous following his tenacious victory last week in the Sunshine Sprint after doing plenty of mid-race work.
But their joy quickly turned to anguish following Monday’s barrier draw.
Trainer Ray Green has his four-year-old primed and star reinsman Anthony Butt will again take the drive.
While Butt is yet to win the Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship, he has finished second twice; My Field Marshal was a runner-up behind Hectorjayjay in 2017 while Alta Orlando was the runner-up behind Colt Thirty One in 2019.
The Goulburn prepared Rockin Marty (gate 6), beaten a nose by a nose in last week’s Sunshine Sprint behind Copy That and King Of Swing, will also require luck from his awkward draw for father/son combination of David and Brad Hewitt.
His closing split was better than any other runner last week.
The Bathurst prepared Bundoran (gate 12) is looking provide Amanda Turnbull her maiden Grand Circuit victory, both her father (Steve) and legendary grandfather (Tony) have won multiple Grand Circuit features
Bundoran has been luckless in his two Albion Park starts to date and did finish second behind King Of Swing at Menangle four starts ago.
Local trainer Vicki Rasmussen has two runners engaged, Turn It Up (gate 8) and L L Cool J (gate 11) will represent her stable.
Turn It Up finished third behind King Of Swing and Colt Thirty One in the Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship back in December and draws ideally, directly behind King Of Swing while L L Cool J continues his excellent form which includes recent feature victories at Redcliffe (Gold Cup & Patrons Purse).
At his most recent start, L L Cool J finished an excellent third behind King Of Swing in the Mr Feelgood Open two weeks ago.
Triple Queensland Horse of the Year Colt Thirty One (gate 9) is chasing his second win in the feature event after scoring back in 2019 but needs to rebound after a devilishly hard run last week in the Sunshine Sprint.
The Mach Three entire possesses an outstanding record in staying events and can’t be taken lightly despite his second line draw.
Refreshingly, two mares tackle the Grand Circuit event, Jeradas Delight (gate 2) is fresh off her Gr.1 Golden Girls victory last week for local trainer Jack Butler and driver Brendan Barnes while millionaire mare Amazing Dream (gate 4) takes her place for Nathan Purdon and Blair Orange.
The champion New Zealand reinsman becomes the third driver in three weeks following Mark Purdon (1st in Rising Sun) and Anthony Butt (3rd in Golden Girls).
The only mare ever to win a Blacks A Fake/Queensland Pacing Championship/Winter Cup event was Tailamade Lombo back in 2000.
Amazingly, the last mare to win a Grand Circuit event on Australian soil was Baby Bling back in 2013 when successful in the Miracle Mile.
And Baby Bling was prepared by Cobbitty Equine.
The team to beat again this weekend.