Jan Aitkenhead records rare two code milestone

On Wednesday evening at Redcliffe pacer Take A Chance got the money in maiden grade.

The Jan Aitkenhead stable recorded a rare dual code-winning double last week but it is the future prospects of a juvenile pacer that has the team most exciting.

Aitkenhead has long prepared a small team of gallopers out of Deagon in Brisbane’s north and has recently returned to the harness code, as well.

The second week of June in 2023 will be a period of time that Aitkenhead and her partner Trent Smith will never forget.

On the Wednesday evening at Redcliffe, pacer Take A Chance got the money in maiden grade before galloper Chance At Midnight also broke through for the first win of his career at Gatton on the Friday. 

Aitkenhead is trainer by name while Smith owns both racing animals but it is most certainly a team effort at their Deagon barn.

“When you have a week like we did last week – it is a good one,” Smith said.

“I was taken aback by it all, really.

“The gallops have been good to us over the years but we have not had one like this pacer before.

“It would be nice if we had a galloper with this kind of ability that the harness bloke has (laughs).”

Take A Chance is a son of the 2015 3YO Colts and Geldings Group 1 QBRED TRIAD champion A Good Chance.

Smith bred and raced A Good Chance – who was prepared by his brother Donny – to win 24 races before he was sold to the USA to continue his racing in the middle of 2019.

A Good Chance won more than $250,000 in stakes in Australia as well as being competitive in numerous Group level races.

Smith is hopeful that his two-year-old progeny in Take A Chance might just be better than his father.

It is a big statement after one maiden victory at ‘The Triangle’ but the long-time breeder and owner believes there is positive signs about how Take A Chance is doing his racing.

“This little bloke is doing things better than his father, there is no bottom to him yet,” Smith said.

“He is doing the little things correct and there is no cap on him. He is right there, I think. He is exciting.

“It is incredible and I think he is going to take us on a bit of a ride this horse.

“You do not want to get ahead of yourself but he is showing signs that he is going to be pretty good.”

Take A Chance placed in three of his first five career starts this year before nabbing his first victory with Matt Elkins in the bike on Wednesday of last week.

The 26-year-old Elkins provided the Smith and Aitkenhead team with positive feedback after he got the cash as a short-priced favourite.

“The way he did it was arrogant, Matty came in after the race and told me it was one of the easier wins you would ever get,” Smith said.

“He ran a good time and he was in second gear. It was an older horse maiden, as well.

“He is a four or five lengths better horse than he was previously and he is just on the up.”

Aitkenhead has consistently worked a small team of gallopers in Queensland but has only just returned to the standardbred code.

The victory on Wednesday was her first in the harness code as a licensed trainer.

On Wednesday evening at Redcliffe pacer Take A Chance got the money in maiden grade.

The 56-year-old Aitkenhead had three start in her name back in the 2009-2010 campaign before returning this year.

While Aitkenhead has not trained in her own name much recently, she has worked extensively in the code around the world, spending around five years in the USA as well as across the ditch in New Zealand.

Even though the team have not prepared any pacers themselves until this year, Smith has continued to breed one or two and sold them at the Redcliffe Yearling Sale.

“It was a bit of a mid-life change where she wanted to dabble into the trotting again and has been wanting to do it for a while,” Smith said of his partner.

“It is all hands on deck, it is just us there and we usually have four or five in work.

“We are glad we decided to keep Take A Chance instead of selling him.”

The team keep their handful of gallopers and two standardbreds at their Deagon stables.

The harness horses will head to Donny Smith’s facility or the Redcliffe track for their work during the week.

Take A Chance will now head to the heats of the Redcliffe Yearling Sales Series on Friday, aiming to land in the big Final later in the month.

Back to the gallopers, the combination of Smith and Aitkenhead believe Chance At Midnight still has a couple more victories left in him after grabbing his first at his 16th attempt.

“We knew he had ability but he is mentally weak,” Smith said.

“It is a matter of time but he will win a couple then we will put him out. He is probably a prep or two away.”

By Jordan Gerrans