FULL STRIDE: Aspen Lad will line up in the $31K QTIS 2YO Handicap (1200m) in Mackay today.
FULL STRIDE: Aspen Lad will line up in the $31K QTIS 2YO Handicap (1200m) in Mackay today.

Rocky’s juvenile speedster faces litmus test today

HORSE RACING: Brilliant Rockhampton short course juvenile speedster Aspen Lad faces his litmus test when he races over 1200 metres at the Mackay TAB races this afternoon.

The Darryl Johnston-trained Aspen Lad (Race 1 – TAB 1) is one of four Callaghan Park trained youngsters in the $31K QTIS 2YO Handicap (1200m) to be run at 11.50am on the nine-race card.

Burdened with 60kg, Aspen Lad will face up against Nick Walsh’s Aleysa’s Dream, Zoe Hohn’s Dacxi Kaboom and Adrian Coome’s Starfilly.

Bernie Beel, Real Ana and Imali all trained locally by John Manzelmann make up the rest of the field.

Aspen Lad has looked awesome with two back-to-back all the way wins at Townsville (1000m) on June 4 and then at Cairns a week later over 950m.

However, the stretch out to 1200m is a factor that Johnston admits to be concerned about.

“He could be suspect at the distance but I have to give him a go. There are no others races around for him,” Johnston said.

The stable accepted with Aspen Lad at Doomben for last Saturday in a juvenile event over 1110m but when the youngster drew wide, he was scratched.

Johnston said Aspen Lad was “100% fit” for today’s race while conceded that the big weight of 60kg could also be a telling factor.

At both his recent wins Aspen Lad carried 57.5kg and 59kg.

“Yeah, they (handicappers) haven’t missed him but he is a big horse so he should carry it,” he said.

Regular rider Natalea Summers has reluctantly stepped aside from riding her favourite horse as a precaution because of medication she has taken from a buster at Rockhampton races last week.

Instead, North Queensland jockey Wanderson D’Avila who is based at Tolga is making the 744km road trip to Mackay to ride Aspen Lad.

“Aspen Lad was stabled with the Davila’s leading up to the Cairns race and they were good to us so I felt I owed him the ride,” Johnston said.

Aspen Lad has won two of his only three starts but he is opposed to some proven opponents that have been successful at 1200m.

Nick Walsh trained Aleysa’s dream (TAB 2 – Beau-Dene Appo) has won three of her nine starts and scored over this race distance in Rockhampton.

Aleysa’s Dream will get 0.5kg off Aspen Lad.

As well the Coome trained Starfilly (TAB 5 – Brad Pengelly) is not only a winner at the 1200m trip but also a placegetter at 1300m.

Complicating matters even further, Zoe Hohn’s Dacxi Kaboom was the horse that lowered Aspen Lad’s colours at his only defeat.

It will be a “must watch” race made all the harder for Aspen Lad given that he will need to do everything right from his near outside gate if he is to prove his doubters wrong and win.

Sunshine Coast trainer Garnett Taylor rarely makes the long road haul up to Mackay with horses unless he things they are capable of winning.

So, the signals are out for Bluey’s Ready (R 4 – TAB 2) and Bold Hunter (R 7 – TAB 4) with both to be ridden by in-form Brisbane hoop Ryan Wiggins.

At yesterday’s Keppel Park barrier trials at Yeppoon, the Jamie McConachy-trained pair of Little Hunter and Bauhinia Ted were most impressive in their 900m heat wins.

By far the most talked up heat winner was Tom Smith’s Whittington youngster Oswana who in winning in the fastest time of the morning looks a ready-made winner when the young trainer places him to advantage.



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