Lilley-Alford double as Zeus and Queen crowned

Supplied. Photo: Stuart McCormick

Tim O'Connor

The book ends were a thing of beauty for Brent Lilley and Chris Alford who combined to win the first and the last of the night’s Breeders Crown Group 1s with Aldebaran Zeus and Queen Elida.

Both three-year-old trotters are no strangers to the winning circle but to reaffirm their talent under Tabcorp Park Melton’s bright lights was a royal moment for the pair, in particular with Aldebaran Zeus.

Having so often knocked on the door of a Group 1 triumph he blew it down with a bristling sprint lane burst to win the Woodlands Stud 3YO colts and geldings title, pipping Keayang Ninja on the line by a short half-head.

“I was just hoping the photographer was ready to take my picture when I come back,” Alford said of the photo-finish win.

“For the horse to break through in a Group 1 was the exciting part. He never seemed to have any luck in the big ones last year, like the Redwood, the (Vicbred Super Series) and races like that.

“He won all the heats but could never quite crack the final. Duncan and (Brent Lilley) will be very happy.”

Indeed Lilley was rapt when he spoke to Gareth Hall post-race on TrotsVision, with the win coming after Aldebaran Zeus sat leader’s back throughout a modestly run race and then took his opportunity late.

“They ran a good (last) quarter and I didn’t think he was going to get there but he stuck his head out. Some of the big races he’s been in he hasn’t had the best of luck, but he got his turn tonight,” Lilley said.

“Full credit to my partner Tracey, she does all the work with him and she’ll be jumping up and down and my son Jack.”

It was also a great result for breeder/owner Duncan McPherson’s Aldebaran Park and fellow owners Tracey Cullen and Danny and Mel Thackeray.

There were more happy Lilley connections after the Cobbitty Equine Farms final for three-year-old trotting fillies, with Queen Elida dominant in recording a seventh successive win.

Co-owned by the McKenzie and Barron families, Alford drove the favourite with complete confidence, happy to ease from the gates and then lay in wait in the running until it was time to strike.

He improved down the back straight and then emerged at the final turn, sweeping crisply to the front to win by three metres from Keayang Xena.

“I’ve found over the years the best way to get ones like her beat is to burn them off the gate when all the others can get off the gate really well,” Alford told TrotsVision. “Most of those would have probably let her go to the lead, but at what cost.

“I knew she would be fast enough. She probably wasn’t as good today as she was at Maryborough, but she still got the job done.”