Promising pacer Afro Samurai stamped his ticket to the big dance next week.
The New Zealand bred gelding crushed his opposition in his Queensland debut for trainer/driver Ben Aldons at the Gold Coast last Friday night with a 1;58.3 1609m victory defeating talented filly Arkabar.
Connections have deliberately set the Julius Caesar gelding for next week's Group 1 $100,000 Knudsen's Betta Home Living Queensland Derby at Albion Park.
Bred and raced by his Brisbane based owners Dr Pat and Rhonda Aldons, Afro Samurai has already contested both the Victoria and New South Wales Derby series earlier this season but a victory in the hometown Derby would be extra special.
“He went fantastic. He trialled in a good manner the previous week and Ben has been really pleased with him since arriving at home and now we go to our home state Derby next week which is exciting.” Dr Aldons said.
Afro Samurai commenced his career in New Zealand under the watchful eye of astute Cambridge based trainer Mike Berger where he went win less in three starts against quality opposition at Alexandra Park before being transferred to the stables of Peter Manning in Victoria.
Manning produced Afro Samurai to score a dominant first-up victory at Melton where he defeated recent Premiers Cup/Gold Coast Derby winner Best Deal Yet on January 20 before looking at the Victoria Derby series.
Afro Samurai finished an eye catching fifth behind Restrepo and Scandalman in his Derby heat and was therefore deemed the emergency for the final.
“His immaturity cost him a spot in the Victoria Derby Final because driver Glen Craven had trouble steering him over the latter stages. He's very talented but he's also very green and it's cost him a few more race wins, both Peter and Matty Craven would attest to that.
Mike (Berger) always said the talent was there and he's trained some very good horses over a long period of time but we needed to be patient with him. He's just starting to put it all together now but his best days are still in front of him.
I convinced Peter to take him to Sydney for the Derby series up there after he scored a brilliant victory at Ballarat in fast time but unfortunately he became overwhelmed by the occasion and raced fiercely in his heat against Scandalman.”
Connections elected to bring their talented pacer home and set him for the Brisbane Winter Carnival features but unfortunate setbacks has cost them valuable time.
“We've had plenty of rain recently and our track at home doesn't handle the wet all that well. That's why we haven't been able to start him in the Gold Coast Derby or any other lead-up races before the Queensland Derby.
We opted for a normal race last Friday night instead of the Slipnslide, we thought that was fair for the horse and he did what was required.
Ben was quoted some pretty impressive individual splits last night but we know he can run, now we just need a little luck next week or no bad luck. You have to be in it to win it.”
Dr Aldons is no stranger to Derby success as he was a co-owner of 2001 Australian Derby winner City Rogue for New Zealand horseman Robin Butt.
Another Aldons co-owned star was brilliant Kiwi filly Hot Shoe Shuffle who was a New Zealand Derby runner-up behind Jack Cade in 2002.
“We've certainly had some luck over the years but we've had plenty of donkeys too, thoroughbreds included. You take the good with the bad but having a top flight horse is a special thrill. I appreciate the buzz my family gets watching our horses race.
City Rogue was a terrific horse who I ended up sending to Canada to race with my good friend Kevin O'Reilly and he went some big times up there before being claimed for good money. Hot Shoe Shuffle was very good and I remained involved with her in the breeding syndicate before dissolving that partnership last year.
Over the years I've built up a select group of valuable broodmares and I think we're just starting to reap the rewards. I've got some young nice stock coming through and hopefully we can have some fun, and that's important to me.”
Dr Aldons has horses in work with his son Ben, daughter Kylie plus Mike Berger, Dave McGowan and David & Catherine Butt in New Zealand presently.
Footnote; Dr Aldons is a leading thoracic physician at The Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane.
RACING Qld web news by Chris Barsby
Photo courtesy HRV