Two More Ladbrokes Protostar Slots Confirmed

By Andrew Smith (RQ Media)

There’s no questioning slot holder Jamie Durnberger-Smith’s confidence ahead of The Highlight Reel lining up in the inaugural Ladbrokes Protostar.

The two-year-old, along with boom filly Bittersweet, have been confirmed as the latest runners for the new showpiece event to be held as part of the Queensland Constellations’ final night on Saturday, July 27.

They join emerging Queensland pacer Fate Awaits and colt My Ultimate Barney in the $500,000 Albion Park race over 1660 metres.

The Highlight Reel has posted three wins from three starts so far in his career, the latest coming in the $250,000 Listed Nutrien Equine Classic Final at Melton last month.

After consulting trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin, Durnberger-Smith had no hesitation in selecting the young colt for the slot.

“We think he’ll win, we’re super confident he’ll win,” Durnberger-Smith said.

“He’s a horse who has got brutal speed, and if he draws good, I’m sure he’ll be extremely hard to beat again.

“For us going over the current form, Fate Awaits is the one to beat and if Emma’s other runner Cigano gets a run, they look the top three contenders in our eyes.

“I know he won’t have many runs in between; he might have maybe one or two tops before the Protostar.

“Emma and Clayton set them for big races – they’re the best in the business, so I’m sure they’ll have him peaking at that race, especially going for $500,000.”

The Highlight Reel claims the Nutrien Classic Final at Melton- Picture: Stuart McCormick.

Emerging New South Wales superstar Bittersweet has also enjoyed a sizzling start to her career with four wins from as many starts.

Confirmed as the first filly in the race, she will race in the Goozdolphin Racing slot for owners Phil and Denise Thurston.

Trainer Brad Hewitt said Bittersweet had just returned from a month-long spell following the win in the Group 1 Gold Tiara Final in Bathurst in late March.

Before she even won the Gold Tiara heat, there was interest in the Protostar then and I just wanted to get through that series to try and win that Group 1 first,” Hewitt said.

“She drew good in the Tiara obviously but she’s so versatile, she can lead and win.

“She won on another night, where she drew inside the second line and came from back in the field but she’s just got such a great gait and temperament.

“Sometimes you’d swear she’s a four-year-old mare and she’s just such a real professional – she’s gone as good as any of the boys so far.”

The Goulburn-based driver and trainer said the two-year-old would likely stick to trials before the Protostar, with a possible race start at Menangle.

Hewitt said that Grant Dixon’s Fate Awaits is sure to provide the toughest competition in Queensland’s richest annual harness race.

“He got beat down at Melton his last start but is obviously a really good horse – the owners of Bittersweet bred Fate Awaits too,” Hewitt said.

“I know My Ultimate Barney has been confirmed for it so there’s obviously going to be really good horses.

“But if we get any sort of luck, with the right barrier draw, I’m pretty confident she’s as good as anything – we need the right luck on the night.”

Bittersweet on the way to victory in the Bathurst Gold Tiara Final.

Hewitt is eyeing off further Constellations Carnival glory with Captain’s Knock to be aimed at The Rising Sun, having already been confirmed for the $2.1 million TAB Eureka at Club Menangle on September 7.

Taipo is also a chance to line up for the Sunshine Sprint and Blacks A Fake Championship.

The first Protostar will be restricted to 10 starters with five open slots still available, alongside one further Ladbrokes slot.

It will be held on the same evening as the state’s Grand Circuit event – the Ladbrokes Blacks A Fake – alongside three further Group 1 features – the Queensland Derby, Queensland Oaks, and Queensland Trotters Cup.

Click here for more information on The Protostar.