Queen Eyes Triumphant Return "Home"

20 March 2024 | Adam Hamilton
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Queen Elida.

Queen Elida. Photo by Stuart McCormick

SUPERSTAR trotting mare Queen Elida will cap her preparation for a feature race raid back “home” when she steps out at Melton on Saturday night.’

Trainer Brent Lilley confirmed the five-year-old, who is chasing her fourth successive win and the 35th of his stellar 61 start career, was booked a flight back to her homeland, New Zealand, next Wednesday.

“Obviously the main target is the big new race, the TAB Trot, on April 12, but we’ll head across in time for a lead-up, too,” Lilley said.

That will be the $60,000 Group 2 Waikato Flying Mile at Cambridge on April 4.

“It fits well. We’d like to get across early and settle well before the TAB Trot, which is going to be such a fantastic race,” Lilley said.

The $575,000 TAB Trot is being run for the first time and is shaping as the strongest trotting race in more than 20 years, headlined by Aussie stars Just Believe and Callmethebreeze, along Kiwi pin-up trotter Muscle Mountain.

Under the preferential barrier draw conditions of the race, Queen Elida, who runs in the TAB NZ slot, will get the huge advantage of barrier one as the only mare in the race.

It’s a special race for Lilley given he is a former Kiwi and Queen Elida is owned and bred in NZ by Gordon McKenzie, Tony Barron and their families.

Queen Elida has looked more dour than brilliant in recent wins and Lilley said there is a good reason for that.

“We had a few issues with her feet after the Brisbane Inter Dominion late last year, so she’s been racing in pads (on her feet),” he said.

“It’s taken away a bit of her speed, but her feet are great again now and we’ll take the pads off this week and for NZ.

“I think you’ll see her a lot sharper, which has been a real trademark of hers.”

Despite only racing her own sex, starting from outside the back row (gate 13) will still make Saturday night’s $75,000 Group 1 Sumthingaboutmaori free-for-all a big challenge for Queen Elida.

“The longer distance (2760m) helps a bit, but there’s some lovely mares in the race and they’re all drawn better than her,” Lilley said. “She’ll to be back close to her very best to beat them from that draw, but we think she is.”

While there are a range of other feature race options for Queen Elida in NZ beyond the TAB Trot, Lilley said she would return home to Victoria.

“There’s a Group 1 race for her in Sydney in early May, which is ideal as it’s just for mares,” Lilley said.

Queen Elida is chasing a hat trick of wins the race, which was called the La Coocaracha in 2022 and changed to the $100,000 Group 1 Macarthur Mile last year.

The other big highlight of Saturday night’s Melton meeting is the first appearance of Emma and Clayton Tonkin’s buzz two-year-olds The Highlight Reel (gate one) and Apollostorm (three) in the $20,000 Shakamaker Classic.

Both have trialled in stunning fashion at Melton in recent weeks, but stable driver Mark Pitt is expected to partner The Highlight Reel from the pole.

Stewart has already earmarked the pair for Australia’s richest juvenile race, the inaugural $500,000 Protostar, at Albion Park on July 27.

·       Adam Hamilton is a paid contributor writing on harness racing for News Corp.

 

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