Dan & Gus- A Showdown Looms

The Darrell Alexander Trotting Championship is the flagship race on the Queensland calendar for the square gait, first held in 2008 when claimed by Maybe Hall.

With the quality of the race increasing each season, the 2024 renewal began with strong performances in each of the first two heats.

Trainer Jason Grimson showed that his Constellations Carnival raid will not be solely for the pacers when Royal Dan won the opening heat in impressive fashion.

Despite having never raced from a standing start, the five-year-old showed all the manners of a trotting veteran, stepping safely from his 20-metre handicap.

Banff was best away to find the front before relinquishing that role to the 2022 DJA Champion Global Flight which worked around to take over at the 2200 metre point.

The moves continued to come as Rogue Gentleman pressed on and worked to the front as the field was strung out as they passed the post with two laps left to travel, through a slick lead time of 79.5.

With the field tightening approaching the 1200, Jack Callaghan sent Royal Dan on a three-wide move, taking the front with one lap to travel as the first half was covered in 59.6 seconds.

Rogue Gentleman broke gait to end his chances at the 700 and that allowed Call Me Trouble which had been left parked to slot in behind to trail the leader before angling off in the stretch in attempting to issue a challenge.

However, it was all in vain as Royal Dan cruised home untouched for Callaghan to post a 5.8 metre winning margin over Funny Face which sprinted home in the closing stages to grab second for Pete McMullen and Chantal Turpin.

Call Me Trouble for trainer Mark Rees and Adam Richardson held on for third, a further one metre away with the 1.59.7 winning mile rate equalling the track record of Sir Fahrenheit over the 2647 metre journey.

Royal Dan and driver Jack Callaghan

In the second heat, the Chantal Turpin trained Gus proved that he will be a worthy challenger to Royal Dan in this year’s series.

Ceepeekay was the best away off the front line before the 10-metre runner Zealous Spur moved forward to take control with 2100 metres remaining.

The 20-metre back markers, Constantinople and Gus were both safely away as the field spread out in a similar manner to the opening heat.

Moving past the bell, Trista Dixon and Zealous Spur had been able to run the field through a lead time of 81.3 and an opening half of 62.9 as Constantinople continued to pull the field up towards the leader.

After a steady 29.8 third split, the race developed into a last quarter blitz as Gus loomed ominously three-wide around the home turn.

With Pete McMullen barely moving, Gus powered home over the top to take the win in a 27.8 closing quarter, with Zealous Spur holding second and Constantinople battling into third.

Gus following his McNeil victory.

Gus will be looking to become just the second horse to secure the McNeil / DJA in the same season, with the only other trotter to complete the double, also a Turpin trained runner, Majestic Simon completing the double in the extended 2020 season.

The second-round heats are scheduled for this Friday night where Gus and Royal Dan will clash in heat four, race nine at 9.23pm, with round two heats over the shorter 2138 metre journey.

Heat three is scheduled as race seven at 8.19pm where another battle of the back markers looks set to materialise with Constantinople and Funny Face from 20 metres appearing the main hopes along with Call Me Trouble from 10 metres.