Kentuckiana Lodge’s exciting two-year-old team started their season on the best possible note when Casino Action ran to a powerful front-running victory at Alexandra Park on Friday night.
The NZB Standardbred Yearling Sales purchase was in cruise control throughout before he said goodbye to his rivals and went on to score by two and three-quarter lengths for driver Todd Mitchell.
The win delivered instant success to Casino Action’s owners Ron Burke, Alan Galbraith QC, Hazel van Opzeeland, John Meates and Gary Pay, who race the colt with Chrissie Dalgety.
The ownership group was formed after Casino Action was knocked down to Cran Dalgety at Karaka last year.
The Kentuckiana Lodge team have known for some time they have had a classy colt in Casino Action.
But his ability was more of a mystery to Mitchell, who sat behind the pacer for the first time in his debut on Friday night.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” the reinsman said.
“I watched all of his trials during the week and he looked like a little professional.”
Mitchell was spot on about Casino Action’s professionalism.
The two-year-old knew exactly what he was doing behind the gate and began well before crossing down to take an early lead.
“He was up on the bit and he wanted to run the gate.”
Sugar Apple and Zac Butcher applied pressure to Mitchell and Casino Action in the final lap of their 1700m win.
That just brought out the Kentuckiana Lodge colt’s competitive qualities.
“He was loving it in front and he loved when Zac came up outside him and had a look at him down the back straight,” Mitchell said.
Once balanced in the straight, Casino Action cruised away from his rivals for a highly impressive victory.
“When I pulled the plugs he was away, I was very happy with him," Mitchell said.
Casino Action reeled off powerful closing splits running his last 800m in 56.6sec and last 400m in 27.8sec.
The Bettor’s Delight colt produced an impressive debut mile rate of 1-58.1.
Casino Action’s ownership group can now look forward to their smart pacer contesting the first colts and gelding heat of the Young Guns Series on February 5 at Alexandra Park.
Like Mitchell, Cran Dalgety was thrilled with Casino Action’s effort.
“We couldn’t have asked for any more from him tonight,” Cran said.
“We will go again in the first Young Guns heat.”
“He will get better because he is still a little bit gross and a little bit pretty."
Misti Gaynor and Chevrons Bypass both put in strong debut efforts in the two-year-old fillies event at Alexandra Park on Friday night.
Misti Gaynor burst out of the one-one on the home turn and rallied strongly in the straight, going down by a length to the leader and favourite Artisan.
“Todd said that if he had been in front and the winner had been in the one-one you could reverse their one-two finish,” Cran said.
“Alexandra Park is one of those tracks where if you’re sitting in the one-one and the leader does a 50m surge on you at the top of the bend they are hard to catch.”
“And that is what happened.”
Chevrons Bypass had a tough trip sitting parked throughout and only wilted late in the run home to finish fifth.
Of the Kentuckiana Lodge two-year-olds, she will benefit the most from her debut on Friday night.
“Of the three two-year-olds she had the most improvement in her,” Cran said.
“You might look at the result and think she ran an average fifth.”
“But with the work she did she only faded late and with a bit of condition still to come off her she is on song for the Young Guns heat.”
The first heat of the Young Guns fillies series is also on February 5.
Fortunia contributed to an excellent night out at Alexandra Park when running a game second in his first northern start for driver Tony Herlihy.
“He went nice because he had to do a bit of work to get around to the top,” Cran said.
“Tony said he really dug in to the line.”
“That is encouraging and I think gelding him has really helped.”
Fortunia also heads to Alexandra Park again on February 5.
by Jonny Turner