The cream has risen to the top after the third round of heats of the 2023 Ladbrokes Inter Dominion Series, with just one pacer and one trotter remaining undefeated.
Leap To Fame made a sweep of the pacers heats when strolling home in front of the final pacers heat, with Just Believe stealing the show, the seven-year-old looking to have a mortgage on the Trotters Championship.
The first heat of the night was for the pacers and the Jason Grimson trained Nerano was shuffled to three back along the pegs from gate 1 as Speak The Truth rolled forward to set the speed.
After a steady lead time of 79.2, Blacksadance moved forward to sit at the wheel of the leader as they ran through the opening half in splits of 29.9 and 29.7.
With a 27 quarter down the back, no moves had been made until between the final turns with Blacksadance the first to feel the pinch, with Speak The Truth also looking vulnerable to the sweepers.
Spirit Of St Louis was the first to loom before Nerano which had shaken free, set sail down the outside and showing electric closing speed arrived on the line.
With a closing quarter of 26.8, Nerano stamped his ticket to next week’s Final with his second heat win of the Series, with a margin of a head over Spirit Of St Louis with Speak The Truth rallying to hold on for third.
It was a milestone victory for Cam Hart, the win brining up the 1,000th win of his driving career, 994 Australian wins matched with 6 in New Zealand.
Swayzee started a long odds-on favourite in heat 9 for the pacers but with questions on his speed off the arm, a few drivers were prepared to take their chance early.
Tommy Lincoln was the first across with Deus Ex then moving to the front as Angus Garrard and Classie Washington pressed forward from outside the front line to find the front.
Through a lead time of 79 and opening quarters of 29.9 and 29, Garrard was nursing the leader, trying to wait as long as could before asking the six-year-old for more.
As the runs started to come from the rear, Swayzee was blocked in heavy traffic and he looked to be relying on a miracle as Better Eclipse loomed strongly wider on the track.
L L Cool J was tracking Better Eclipse into the race, with Kanena Provlima also securing the cart up.
It was Greg Sugars and Better Eclipse that prevailed, finishing off strongly in a 26.5 last split, with Classie Washington brave in defeat, finishing just a neck from the winner in a career best performance to ensure his place in next week’s Final.
In just his first Inter Dominion Series, Garrard will take his place in the Final’s of both gaits after Sir Fahrenheit was also able to progress, and the young reinsman was rightly buoyed by the results.
“I thought Swayzee would get crossed, and anything that got there would then hand up,” Garrard said.
“I wanted to be positive, and I really looked after him off the back, we didn’t get moving until the 600”.
Series favourite Leap To Fame is on target to make it a clean sweep, claiming an effortless victory in the final pacers heat, once again recording the fastest overall time of three heats and also the biggest winning margin.
Petes Said So held the front and after resisting an early challenge from Manila Playboy, was content to hand over to Leap To Fame once Grant Dixon came calling.
It was smooth sailing in front for Dixon and Larry thereafter, the pair taking a 9.9 metre winning margin, with Petes Said So holding on for the second for KerryAnn and Robbie Morris.
Needing to finish in second place or better to secure a berth in the Final, Cantfindabettorman was strong to the line for third place, and has been listed as the first emergency in the big one.
Running his last quarter in 26.4, Leap To Fame will now be sweating on landing a favourable barrier at Monday’s barrier draw to be held at Tangalooma Resort on Moreton Island.
After finishing as the bridesmaid in the opening two rounds, Queen Elida bounced back with a dominant win in Heat 6 of the Trotters Series.
Sent straight to the front by Chris Alford, the field raced in single file for more than 1400 metres, with Plymouth Chubb eventually the first to move out and slide up to the leaders wheel with one lap to travel.
Sir Fahrenheit stayed glued to the back of the leader, with Funny Face securing the trail on the back Plymouth Chubb.
However, Queen Elida was too strong out in front, pulling clear over the closing stages through a 27.3 closing split, posting a 7.5 metre margin over Plymouth Chubb with Sir Fahrenheit holding on for third narrowly ahead of Mufasa Metro.
The best was saved until last, with Just Believe putting his stamp o the Series and making a big statement ahead of next week’s Final.
As he has done in previous heats, Greg Sugars was content to allow Just Believe to balance up before pressing forward and taking control of proceedings.
With a lead time of 77.9 which was faster than all three pacers heats, the first quarter was quick in 28.9 seconds.
With a 60.5 middle half, the tempo was strong, and Ollivici had moved out of the pack and looked set to issue the challenge.
However, Just Believe was toying with his rivals and Sugars had plenty in hand, Just Believe holding ground on the wire in positing an 8.1 metre winning margin over Ollivici.
After an error in the second round soon after the start, Adelle was able to trot cleanly and was attacking the line in good fashion to grab 3rd, just ahead of Constantinople.
Third was enough to sneak Adelle into the field, with the Belinda McCarthy trained Constantinople now the first emergency for the Final.
The winning mile rate of 1.57.5 took over 3 seconds off the track record and Sugars was in shock at just how good his sable star has been through the Series.
“He is just an incredible horse, I’m a bit lost for words,” Sugars said.
Just Believe looks to have a stranglehold on next week’s Final, bad luck looking his only obstacle to recording successive Series clean sweeps.
Three trainers will be represented by runners in both the pacers and trotters Final, Jess Tubbs sweeping the trotters with Just Beleive and two Heat wins to Better Eclipse.
In a great achievement for the locals, Shannon Price and Daren Garrard have both qualified runners in both divisions- at just their first ever Inter Dominion Series attempt- with Speak The Truth and Van Sank and Classie Washington and Sir Fahrenheit respectively.
Meanwhile, local trainers will be represented by one more runner in the Trotters Series than the Pacers, highlighting just how far trotting has progressed in Queensland.
There will be five local trainers represented in the pacers final, while there will be five trainers represented with six horses in the trotters, Jack Butler securing starts for both Adelle and Funny Face in the Final.
The Barrier draws for both Series will be held on Monday.