Photo courtesy Hamilton Content Creators and Club Menangle
HOT off the back of Just Believe’s breakthrough Swedish campaign, another star Aussie trotter will chase international glory.
Connections of Victoria’s multiple Group 1 winner Aldebaran Zeus have accepted an invitation to tackle some of the world’s best trotters in the $US1mil MGM Yonkers International Trot in New York on September 9.
Aldebaran Zeus has won 18 races and almost $420,000 for trainer Brent Lilley and high-profile owner-breeder Duncan McPherson OAM, who has been a leader in promoting trotting in Australia.
Crucially, Aldebaran Zeus led throughout to beat Just Believe at Group 1 level at Menangle in March. It was Just Believe’s last run before heading to Sweden where he ran a second and third against elite company in his three starts.
Lilley, a former Kiwi, is no stranger to taking on global challenges. He took former brilliant mare Maori Time to the Elitloppet in Sweden in 2018, but she made a mistake and lost all chance.
Aldebaran Zeus is one of two star trotters in Lilley’s care. The other, Queen Elida, has already been touted by the trainer as a possible Elitloppet raider for next year.
Most recently, Aldebaran Zeus campaigned in NZ’s biggest trotting races, starting with a Group 2 win at Cambridge over the flying mile before he was unplaced in subsequent longer distance races.
“I’m so thrilled to be invited and we’ve all jumped at the chance to go,” McPherson said about Yonkers.
“Sure, it’s nice for me and the team around the horse and Aldebaran Park, but I’m equally excited that our southern hemisphere trotters are attracting the attention they deserve and can show their racing prowess on the international stage.
“As we saw recently with Just Believe’s campaign in Sweden, our trotters here in Australia are more than competitive in this company and the world is now watching with a different level of expectation.
“These types of opportunities don’t just happen. I appreciate the work that goes on behind the scenes and thank HRA for its continued efforts to promote our industry in new markets.
“I’m pleased to be a small cog in what is a bright and exciting future for our sport.”
Lilley cannot wait to take on the world again.
“The experience I gained through Maori Time’s trip to Sweden will be invaluable in having my horse ready for Yonkers in September,” he said.
“He’s handled his interstate and NZ travel without missing a beat, so I expect he’ll handle the flights and quarantine in Chicago without issue. We’ll time it for him to peak on the day.
“The track suits, the (racing) pattern suits and an Australian horse is due to draw well in a big international race. I’m expecting big things from my horse.”
The man behind Aldebaran Zeus’ invite, Klaus Koch, has long been a follower and fan of Australian trotting.
He made Knight Pistol’s historic Scandinavian raid happen in 1997 when Kerryn Manning became just the second female to win Group 1 race in that part of the world in Norway’s Harley Davidson Trot.
“I was so thrilled to see what Just Believe did in Sweden and in my role as the recruiter for the Yonkers club, I’ve had my eye on Aldebaran Zeus for some time,” he said.
“He is a fast trotter with good early speed and the mile racing around a track like Yonkers should really suit him. And, of course, he beat Just Believe over a mile when they last met.
“I’m sure he’ll be very competitive, especially with a good post position (barrier draw).”