Every owner and trainer in the harness game would love to win a hometown feature and connections of The Penny Drops have on Sunday afternoon the chance to do so in the $20,000 Miners Ridge Wines Stawell Trotters Cup.
Trainer Ray Harvey, his partner Moira and co-owners Jim and Val Pickering already have plenty of silverware on the mantlepiece courtesy of The Penny Drops' Cup victories at Gawler, Globe Derby Park, Kilmore, Swan Hill, Maryborough and Charlton during 2021 and 2022, but Stawell would be "the icing on the cake".
After that stellar streak, the tough campaigner was subsequently sidelined by injury for 15 months and Sunday will be his sixth start since returning to the racetrack.
"Yes, he's going alright," said Harvey. "Not as good as he was back then, but he ran very well at Maryborough before being beaten a fair way in the Swan Hill Cup."
After that uncharacteristic performance, Harvey gave his old favourite a week off before preparing the 16-times winner for Sunday's assignment.
"He's working well and enjoying it, I can't find any problems with him."
Salt Creek (via Great Western) owner/trainer Phillip Giles and his wife Tammy also call Laidlaw Park home and their six-year-old gelding Double Helix will start from the front tape in Sunday's 2600m staying contest.
Giles' trotter is usually a slick beginner from the stand and is proven over the distance with a victory in the 2023 Boort Trotters Cup and third place in Cup company at Ararat earlier in the season. Driver Jackie Barker should have Double Helix racing forward and saving ground on the pegs, so it would be no surprise to see the combo finish in the first four placings.
One Over All is the deserved 50m backmarker and the one they all have to beat on Sunday. The former New Zealander is bred in the purple and won four stand start distance races before crossing the ditch to contest a heat of the Victoria Trotters Derby in late October 2021.
After a spell and resuming under the care of Myrniong trainer Jess Tubbs, One Over All won five races during the 2022 season including Cups at Mildura and Geelong. This season, the rising six-year-old has won eight races from 21 starts including Cups at Horsham, Charlton, Ararat and Maryborough.
Kylie Sugars will have her first race drive aboard One Over All with her brother and regular pilot Greg up in Brisbane campaigning Better Eclipse and Just Believe in the Inter Dominion carnival.
Majestical Belle is first-up from a spell for trainer Fred Spiteri, but has the benefit of two recent trials under the belt. The mare strolled in from a 30m handicap first-up last preparation, albeit against lesser opposition.
Selections: One Over All (8), The Penny Drops (7), Majestical Belle (6), Double Helix (2)
The 2023 edition of the $30,000 Stawell Joinery Pacing Cup has attracted a capacity field of 10 runners, with the highest assessed horses drawn the second line under the preferential barrier draw conditions of the 2600m mobile contest.
Charlton-trained gelding Platinum Stride has notched up 12 wins and 25 minors from 64 starts, is proven in metropolitan company and his close-up third place in the SA Pacing Cup Final last month behind Wheres The Gold and Tango Tara was evidence enough of his liking for distance racing.
Some 12 months ago, Major Meister captured the Cranbourne and Bendigo Pacing Cups for trainer Jason Grimson. On paper his recent outings for the Alex Ashwood stable appear just average, but the six-year-old gelding should now be well settled into his new surroundings and ready to fire.
Pull The Other Leg showed he could handle staying contests under mobile conditions when racing back in New Zealand. The former Kiwi has won another seven races since crossing the ditch to join the Andy Gath camp and punters should draw a line through the sub-par performance at Melton nearly a month ago when vets ordered a post-race endoscope examination.
The run to the first turn will see a charge from the front-liners Shady Azz, Ultimate Vinnie and Arggghhh as they try to cross the pole horse Rose Noire. How much gas is burnt in that quest will either make or break their chances of finishing in the money.
Selections: Platinum Stride (10), Major Meister (11), Pull The Other Leg ( 9), Shady Azzz (4)
It's free entry at Stawell on Sunday, the Trackside Bar and Bistro will be in full swing and racegoers have the chance to win one of eight $100 cash draws in the club's QR Code competition.
Santa will visit with free showbags for the first 100 kids and there's plenty of free activities and entertainment on offer for them in the big shed.
With the ever popular punter's club and live music for the older brigade, it's a great mix of equine action and off-track enjoyment.